I recently experienced a quantum shift: I learned to love myself. As a result, I now feel that every issue I have had in my life, and painfully work on one at a time, was a symptom of low self-worth. In talking with loved ones since this shift has taken place, I also feel that every one of their issues is probably tied in with low self-worth.
Even though this new development has led me to end a relationship with the most amazing man ever to cross my path, I feel happier now than I ever have. It isn’t a feeling of exhilaration or excitement (though I definitely have moments of that) but a feeling of peace, pure love and clarity. As soon as I made that shift everything in my life fell into place. I found a house that I love (which I didn’t believe was possible considering the limited amount that I was able to spend) at a lower price than what I was willing to pay. An opportunity to train for the career I have always wanted manifested. I achieved clarity about my love life. I finally achieved clarity about love relationships. I released all financial insecurities. I am now able to truly be available to the people in my life.
In talking to loved ones, I now repeatedly experience the frustrating feeling of wishing that I could just zap them with the feeling that I have, that I could help them see how truly lovable they are, and how much they have to offer the world if they could only release the limitations which are covering up the beautiful essence that they are.
For many years I have known that my greatest satisfaction in life comes from helping others lead happier, more effective lives. I found tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment being involved in La Leche League. I had been telling myself that I wanted to find something that I felt as passionate about now as I then felt about the subject of parenting and focus on it as a career. A recent realization is that my attitude when involved in the League was that I had found something that felt so good to me, that worked so well for my family that I could not NOT pass it along. I now feel the same kind of drive to help people achieve the level of self-love that I have, so that they too can experience the bliss of a happy life, where everything flows to them effortlessly because they finally let it in.
Beginning the journey
The beginning point of this journey occurred when a dear friend, seeing the despair that I was experiencing relative to my love life, diagnosed me as a love addict. For four months, I had been involved with a delightful man who felt like a perfect match, was even more than what I had determined I wanted in a partner, but was totally emotionally unavailable. I was an emotional wreck. In reading all the literature I could find on love addiction and on relationships, it became obvious that I wanted to feel loved by a man to make up for the fact that as a child I hadn’t felt unconditionally loved by my parents, and consequently didn’t love myself. I had experienced glimpses of that throughout the relationship, when I sometimes felt that even if he were to give me all the love that he could, I still probably wouldn’t feel fulfilled. That feeling was too scary for me to face.
The reason I never felt loved in a relationship, and attracted men who couldn’t love me, was because I didn’t love myself. I was married to an awesome man who most probably genuinely loved me, yet passed the first few blissful months I didn’t feel loved by him. I also remember that in my teenage years I have had two special men who genuinely loved me and gave me all that I wanted, and I couldn’t be happy with them. I instead generally found myself attracted to men who weren’t kind to me and who weren’t even as smart or as attractive as the ones I had rejected.
Once I realized I was addicted to love, my focus shifted from working to achieve a happy relationship with my boyfriend to working on achieving a happy relationship with me. I did a lot of reading, journaling, thinking and discussing. I came to many realizations about my relationship with my parents, and uncovered the causes of my low self-worth. I realized how that feeling affected every area of my life. I realized how I didn’t even truly feel loved by the person who loves me the most and the best, who would without a thought give up her life for me and has admitted that she doesn’t think she could survive my death. That realization made me realize the extent to which I was unable to accept love, feel loved.
A few days later I had a conversation about self-love with the dear friend I mentioned earlier. She shared with me that she came to the realization that she truly was lovable when she realized that God loved us all so much that he gave his only son to us. Being a mother and deeply religious, this idea resonated with her and gave her the awareness that she indeed is lovable. Though my religious beliefs are different from hers, I realized that the key for me to come to this awareness also was within that realm. The following day, reaching within my own spiritual beliefs, the thought that could take me from an intellectual belief to a knowing came to me: the Universe is perfect, and everything on this earth is just an extension of that pure energy. Therefore I am perfect in all of my imperfections.
Everything started shifting
From that point on, everything started shifting in my life. I experienced the world totally differently. I realized how much I have to give to others, to the world. I went from trying to obtain love and approval from others to wanting to give love. I now know and see that I have so much to offer. I now can also see it in others. I was walking around that day in my favorite park, silently telling everyone who would cross my path: "You are a gift to the world."
In the weeks following that day, numerous beautiful writings and recordings resonated with me and assisted me in reaching ever more clarity. But one person stands out in my mind and had more impact than any other: Marianne Williamson. Her recordings, her beautiful voice, speaks to the heart of the issue of self-love.
As a result of her message, I came to a profound realization that I wish I could pass along to everybody. Who are we to cover ourselves with negativity and not allow ourselves to be the true gift that we are to all around us? When we love ourselves, we are the pure being that we were intended to be and love flows out of us; we are of benefit to everyone and everything that crosses our paths. As soon as we have negative thoughts about ourselves, we stop the outflow of love.
For us parents, let’s consider the following idea: How can we unconditionally love our children, offer them the knowing of self-worth, when we can’t even experience it for ourselves?
I had an experience that illustrates how our negative feelings about ourselves stop us from giving all that we can to others. I recently decided to start a spirituality discussion group. I was exhilarated at that idea, having so enjoyed leading meetings in the different groups that I have been involved with in the past 10 years. As the meeting approached, I started experiencing self-doubt. What if people don’t agree with what I say? What if I don’t have the right answers? What if I look foolish? What if the meeting format feels too contrived to others and myself, if it doesn’t flow naturally? What if my boyfriend doesn’t think I’m good at leading meetings?
I am now planning another meeting, and my attitude is totally different. I am exhilarated at the idea of facilitating this incredible group of people in coming together. I am exhilarated at the prospect of all the ideas that will emerge from a discussion between these special people. I am exhilarated at the idea that these people I love may leave the meeting that night feeling a little clearer, a little more peaceful, loving, happy, and may be able to allow a little more of who they are to shine through. I am excited at the idea of passing along what I have learned and experienced. I am eager to start the meeting instead of dreading how I will make the transition and worrying that it might feel contrived. I am eager to share with my friends instead of being worried about their opinion. But more than all that, I am thrilled to have the gifts that I possess, to be who I am, and to be able to flow it to others.
The pure atttitude
In noticing the difference in my attitude relative to those two meetings, I realized how the pure attitude I now have will allow all that I am to flow to others, that it allows me to be all that I can be, to myself and others. I realized how much my negative self-talk had blocked the flow of all that I have to give to others. Who was I to think so negatively of myself that I didn’t allow myself to pass along the gifts that have been given to me? What right did I have to deny the world all that I have to give? What right do YOU have not to allow yourself to be the best that you can be?
It is not righteous to be critical of yourself. It is actually selfish, because in doing so you are withholding from others all that you could give them. What do you think of yourself when you are negatively focused on others? Do you see any value in believing that your loved ones (think specifically of your children) are not worthy, or do you see it as totally wrong? It is just as wrong to think of yourself as unworthy.
In talking to a friend recently it appeared to me that all his issues were tied in to the issue of self-worth. I told him that once he got to a place of loving himself, everything would fall into place, that the clarity he is reaching for would come to him. I then felt discouraged when I realized how long and arduous my own journey has been. I have been very actively focused on my self-growth for 10 years. For the past two years, I have probably devoted an average of four hours a day to that process, in the form of reading, journaling, thinking and discussing with friends. At that point in the conversation I asked myself, who in the world other than me has the time and drive to do that? That thought was followed by a determination to help others achieve what I have and to find the most efficient way to get there, so that their journey can be quicker than mine.
A dear friend had repeatedly told me that I kept working on issues "out there" and that the answer was within me. As I usually do with him, I argued that he didn’t understand the work that I was doing, and that I was indeed looking within myself. He also repeatedly told me that I had to learn to love myself, to which I always argued that I really did. I had worked very hard at becoming a person who I would love. In both cases, as I usually experience with him, he was absolutely right and I was fooling myself.
Path to true happiness
What happened to me the day I was diagnosed as a love addict is that I finally took the path that would lead me directly to true happiness. As Rich had been recommending all along, I started looking within myself, working at finding the love for myself, instead of one-by-one dealing with all the symptoms of not loving myself. Once I got on that right path, the progress was swift, and the result is that all the other issues in my life automatically fell into place without having to work through them. I believe that anybody who decides to focus on loving themselves will have similar results. I hope that you choose that path so that you too can experience the love of life that I am now experiencing.
My passion in life is now to pass on what I have learned along the way, in the hopes of helping others achieve what I have.