Recently someone asked me the question “is it better to love or to loved?” . I don’t think I ever really gave this much thought before. Then it got me thinking about what would I feel more regret about when I reflect on my life sometime in the future? And I came to the conclusion that for me it is far more meaningful to give real deep love than it is to receive it. I would feel a real sense of emptiness if I never experienced what it is to feel deeply for someone else. At the same time I came to the conclusion that this does not have to be one “special” person or even someone you make a commitment to be with for the rest of your life.
How to Measure Love
I guess measuring love is a little bit difficult but for me the words that come to mind are, needing, wanting, expectations, warmth, attachment, connection and pain.
To really know what it is to feel a deep sense of love for someone you must be able to continue loving them even if they do not meet your expectations. The more the expectations, the more volatile the relationship becomes. So if say you would rather be loved than to love, then there it is already an expectation in place. There is nothing wrong with wanting a special person to share your life with, what causes the problems are the preconceived notions that you take into this relationship.
For me I guess the only love I can see that can be selfless and unshakable is that of a mother towards her child.
A Mother’s Love
I am fortunate enough to be a mother, three times over. To me being a mother is the deepest relationship I have in my life. It is giving without needing or wanting anything in return. There are no expectations, it is the only real selfless love. I’m not saying it is always the case, of course there are plenty of women who’s role as a mother is not loving.
I’m also privileged to be a grandmother, another level of mothering love but without the daily responsibilities that can add a little stress to the mother child relationship. Being a grandmother is a true gift.
Of course not everyone has the chance to experience being a parent or grandparent, not everyone wants to. It’s a personal choice and often not even a choice. I am only using my own experience here.
I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble about this notion of “romantic love” with the one and only but I have to say that this is probably the least fulfilling loving relationship. I’ll take a step back here and try to elaborate without me coming across as a non believer. Of course finding romantic love in life, that special person you can connect with, get close to and share “special” moments with is absolutely fundamental in life.
To go through life never experiencing this type of connection is sad. What is sadder however is watching people lose themselves in these romantic love relationships. Watching people searching with a sense of desperation for that “special one” And then watching people tear each other apart in dysfunctional relationships that long lost their magic and romance. This sense of clinging and attachment is clearly at the heart of so much pain in our lives, yet it is so much easier for some to just let it become their life than it is to let it go and move on.
And the proof for me that romantic love is less fulfilling than other types of love is that it all rests on what we get from it and the other person fulfilling our expectations. This is what makes it so difficult to maintain, we change, our needs change and our expectations change. How can one person be the giver of all that?
Is Romantic Love Dead?
It may sound like I’m saying there’s not such thing as romantic love. Actually I am saying the opposite. I’m saying it does exist but like most things in life it doesn’t last forever.
We have to be willing to see that love comes and goes. You find it in the most unexpected places, it can last days, weeks, months and years but it will change and it will end. Let’s not confuse real deep romantic, intimate love with long lasting relationships, they are rarely based on the love that perhaps was there at the beginning. These long lasting relationships are about evolving as a couple. Something for another discussion.
The Two Most Powerful Love’s
In order to live a life based on love, to give without an expectation of receiving anything in return is to realise that self love and love for humanity are the two most purest forms of love, yet we struggle with them the most.
Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first
Going back to the original question “is it better to love or to be loved?” and looking at it in the way I’ve been discussing here, it is clear that finding a way to share your love is far more rewarding,than searching for someone to give you what you need.
In order to give pure love without expectations you must first love yourself
And this is where the problem lies. We struggle to give ourselves the love we expect from others. Instead we search for that special person to give us what we think we do not deserve to give ourselves.
And finally we must find love for humanity. We must feel compassion for the human race, for the other living beings that share this planet with us and we must find peace for this planet we live on. We can not restrict our love to one special person and neglect this amazing universe we live in. It is a fruitless pursuit this search for one person to share our love with when there is a whole world that needs our complete devotion.
The definition of selfish is “lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure” Such a negative connotation, not many words hurt as much as being called selfish.
The most recent topic we’ve been discussing in my group practice has been self love, self compassion, taking care of our own needs, being our own best friend and being kind to ourselves. Often people will respond with reactions such as “It sounds so selfish”
How can looking after your own needs be selfish? Why is it that we have lost our connection with ourselves and become totally focused on fulfilling everyone else’s needs?
Selfishness is the very nature of our human existence, without our instinct to look after ourselves we would not have survived.
The Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying “if we wish to be truly selfish, then we should be wisely selfish rather than foolishly selfish”
When is being Selfish Not A Good Thing?
When we commonly talk about selfish people it’s usually in a way that is hurtful. In other words their behaviour has hurt us or others. But I’d argue that this is more to do with them being deeply unconscious of their place in the world or in their relationships.They have no regard for others.
This is very different from being selfish, it is much more to do with self awareness or more like lack of self awareness and how it impacts on others.
Selfish in this sense is:
Ego Centered – Only looking to protect or satisfy one’s own ego
Self Protection – People who have been hurt and close themselves off to protect being hurt again
Skewed interpretation of Strength – yes usually people act in a selfish way because they think this makes them appear strong, when in fact it is exactly the opposite.
When is being Selfish A Good Thing?
So now we come to why being selfish is a necessity. Simply put because if you do not look after number one, you are neglecting the one reason you are living. Your life is precious, it’s priceless and you owe it to yourself to value it as such.
The difference is that being selfish does not mean you step over others, treat them badly or disrespect them for your own gain. Actually it’s the complete opposite; to really love yourself means you will go out of your way to do good for others because it makes you feel good. That is selfish compassion, it’s not the only reason you do something good but ultimately it is what makes us all be kind towards others.
Selfish in this sense is:
Looking after yourself because you want to be happy, being happy has a positive impact on those you love.
You love yourself because if you can’t love yourself how can you expect anyone else to?
You put yourself first because when you are meeting your own needs, you do not need others to meet them for you. This liberates both you and your loved ones. You release those close to you from obligation, feeling they have to do something. But when they do, it’s because of their own desire to make you happy.
We look after our own needs so we don’t become resentful. When we expect others to fulfill our needs and they fail to do that, we become resentful. Or if all we do is do things for others, sooner or later we will resent it.
It is ultimately your responsibility to be “consciously” selfish – To be a fulfilled and Happy Individual
If you are anything like me I bet you are always pushing aside your own needs for the sake of others. Today I had a lazy day, not much writing, not great with my mindfulness practice, no exercise and think I may even have over done the food thing.
Normally I would be feeling guilty right now, be having a very negative conversation with myself and being very harsh. But not anymore, fortunately mindfulness has taught me how to be kind to myself and how to give myself what I need.
Being aware of your feelings and moods helps you to connect with yourself and give yourself what you need. Only you can really know what you need on a specific day or at a specific time, what is the point of waiting for your needs to be filled by external things or other people?
Connecting with yourself – Being aware of your thoughts and feelings.
If you’ve been through a tough patch or going through one right now, then putting yourself first is essential for survival. There can be a tendency after a while to just think you are ok, the worst is over and everything is just normal. Then out of the blue you’ll have a day that makes you feel like your back to square one. There is nothing wrong with that, don’t dwell on it just accept it for what it is, a down day; who doesn’t have those?
I know that people who have lost a loved one often say that after a while people assume that everything is forgotten, you know that somehow your loss is over because time has healed it. But that’s never the case, people don’t just get over losing someone close, they just learn how to live with it until it becomes who they are.
A divorce, breakup or separation is a bit different in that you have a whole different line of thoughts to deal with and yes over time they start to go away but sometimes you will be reminded of things, then bang here we go again. For me it’s usually to do with all the hard work I have to put in to recreate my life, as I want it. Sometimes I just want the easy way out and then I get a little resentful. You know the “why me?” story.
So when you have one of those days when you just feel like you can’t do very much, then give yourself a break, be lazy if you want to, do nothing if you want to. If you need it then it’s what you need and that’s perfect for you right now.
Do I feel bad that I had an unproductive day? No because I just spent a bit of a lazy day with my family, enjoyed their company and got a lot out of it. That’s what I needed today and I gave myself permission to do it!
We have all had our share of pain over the years and I’m sure all been hurt in one way or another. Unfortunately that’s life. After all if life had no pain, it would be perfect, right?
That thought in it self is one reason we feel so much pain and get hurt so often. By hoping for a without pain we are strive for something that is impossible to achieve. The more we battle with life in order to avoid pain, the more we feel pain when something we didn’t want to happen actually happens. Then we are hurt because our expectations are not met. And so it goes, on and on.
Can we avoid pain so we never hurt again?
Obviously NOT, sorry to let you down. I bet you were hoping that I had found some kind of miracle?
You can’t avoid pain, even if you shut down all your feelings to self protect. By shutting yourself down you are in constant pain, avoidance is just avoidance, it doesn’t remove pain nor stop you from getting hurt.
When my marriage broke down I could have chosen to put up walls so I was no longer vulnerable, become negative about life and in particular about men but I knew that the only one that would get hurt by doing that would be me. So I made a very conscious decision to open myself up to the world, take it step by step knowing that I had the strength to get through whatever challenges presented themselves without killing my spirit and love for life.
People around me comment about the way I have been able to turn my life around. On the outside it may actually appear to have been very easy. I can assure you it was not easy and I still struggle at times, less and less now but I am human and do have my “down” days.
So I wanted to share some of the strategies I have used to help me through, how I deal with the hurt and pain.
For me the time I spent learning the Buddhist teachings helped tremendously. I am not a Buddhist, I haven’t explored this enough to be able to go down that path. But the teachings are powerful if incorporated into life.
Of course Mindfulness has been extremely important to me through my journey. It has taught me to focus only on myself, to not look outside for blame, solutions and remedies. All the work has been done inside and continues to be.
And because of these fundamental foundations, I have learnt to let go. I don’t hang onto very much in my life anymore.
Self Compassion – learning to let yourself of the hook, to fully accept and love yourself so important.
Compassion for others – try to put yourself in the place of the other person, even the ones that hurt you. Hard but so powerful.
And of course, the less you expect from others the less you can be hurt.
The biggest problem with most of us is our inability to stop and listen to our inner voice. What does that mean? What is our inner voice?
We go about our lives in a constant sleep most of the time, until something happens to shock us and wake us up. But through the course of our lives there’s this feeling that sometimes arises. For all of us it will be different, it will feel different but it’s there and mostly we ignore it.
The thing is that this inner voice is what guides us to what is our purpose, to the things that will really make us happy. The more we ignore it, the more uncomfortable we feel about our lives. The more we ignore our inner voice, the more life will throw up lessons for us to learn from, until we actually listen deeply.
We ignore our inner voice because of our conditioning, the way society has worked it’s magic on us and taken away our ability to stay with our true feelings. We have become accustomed to being in autopilot, doing things that we are supposed to do because that’s how we fit in.
Listening to your inner voice can also cause you a certain amount of turmoil because it will challenge you to make changes that can be completely out of your comfort zone. But because something is challenging doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be followed through, quite the opposite I would say. Here’s a few tips to help you start listening to your inner voice:
Remember that your inner voice is authentic, it’s the one voice that really knows you. Ignoring it won’t make it go away, it will only make you feel more uncomfortable. You know that feeling that something is not quite right? That’s your inner voice talking.
Does your inner voice scare you? Mine certainly does, it’s pushed me to do things that were at times very uncomfortable but the end result is so worth it.
The greatest rewards in life come through the greatest challenges. Your inner voice might be pushing you to do things that you prefer to ignore but for how long can you really ignore this without losing yourself on the way?
Remember that the more you listen to your inner voice the more you will become best friends with it. Over time you will have hard evidence that actually your inner voice was right all along.
Meditate every day. In meditation we get to connect directly with our inner voice.
Don’t ignore your inner voice – it’s your most dearly trusted friend.
The Most Dangerous Animal of The World – The Mirror
After a breakup, especially if you were badly treated by your ex-partner, your self image may not be at its best. After many years of marriage to the same person, you tend to relax into life and not think much about what you look like.
A common problem in many marriages is that you tend to just let go of yourself after a while. I know I did in the last few years of my marriage, I guess that should have been a sign in it’s self. We kid ourselves by saying it’s because we are comfortable with each other so we don’t really need to try anymore, that’s just a cope out. Self love should never stop, we only have one real duty in life and that’s to look after ourselves.
Last weekend I was out with a group of ladies. One of the young ladies, who was absolutely beautiful, just could not bare the thought of her photo being taken. It surprised me that she could not see how pretty she was and it reminded me of the sign I saw when visiting a monastery in Nepal (photo above),
“The Most Dangerous Animal of The World – The Mirror or Camera”
I had some photos taken over the weekend so I could share them on my blog, to be honest I really felt uncomfortable sharing them. But then I got a grip, I am who I am and that’s good enough. Self acceptance is vital to living a healthy, happy life.
Next time you are being hard on yourself or unhappy with your appearance, think about this:
Beauty is within. Just because someone appears to be beautiful on the outside does not make them a beautiful person. Appearances are just that, appearances.
Work on self acceptance, start with where you are now and learn to look in the mirror at who you really are.
Self love is vital. You can not love anyone else is you don’t first love yourself. That goes with all relationships, even that of a mother. You owe it to your loved ones to really love who you are, not what you look like but who you are at the core.
It is not a reflection on you if someone treated you badly. When someone treats another person badly, they do so because it makes them feel better. They fail to see the problem is within themselves and it won’t go away by blaming others. So stop beating yourself up and start feeling sorry for the person that hurt you because they are in a worse place than you.
If you judge yourself only from what you look like, then so will everybody else. You are more than just this body, way more.
Isn’t it strange that however much you work on yourself, somehow you never quite feel good enough?
The self development, self improvement industry has a lot to answer for. Everywhere you look people are selling you things to make you feel better, everywhere you look you are being told there is a better you out there, if only you would lose weight, put on some make up, dress up like the latest pop idol.
But wait a minute, does that mean you are not good enough now? Does that mean that you have to wait until you achieve all these ideal states before you can be truly happy? I say drop all that and start to just be who you are, with pride!
It is time for us to stop beating ourselves up for the sake of some make believe better person we will become. Every minute we waste on trying to achieve this future perfect person or state we miss the beauty that is now.
Perhaps if we keep the following in our minds as we go about our day, then we can start to feel better about ourselves:
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are you, full stop. Honor your individuality in whatever form it comes. After all that is all you have.
Start to see the good things in you, the unique things you have that only you know about. And if you don’t know yourself well enough then get learning.
Let go of trying to control your future, live in the now and start to accept that now is the only moment that is worth focusing on.
Practice self compassion all the time. You can not be kind to others if you can’t be kind to yourself.
Practice self acceptance because you are who you are for a reason. Accept it and explore it, you never know what you might discover.
Give yourself a break. I bet you would never treat another the way you treat yourself? Get off your own case for a while and see what happens.
Have no expectations of others, that way you will feel less disappointment. Often that feeling of not being good enough is a reflection of the disappointment we feel towards others.
If someone treats you bad it causes you pain, of course that’s normal. But remember pain is part of life, suffering however is an option. People’s behavior is a reflection of their own insecurities, don’t let them play on you, let them go.
I know it’s easier said than done. But you can make an effort to change your thoughts to help you start feeling better about yourself today, one step at a time.
It’s been one of those days today, you know the one that starts out well and spirals into a day of mixed up feelings and emotions.
No point me asking you if you’ve ever had a day like that because if you are human, you will have “good” days and “bad” days. It’s just life and it’s all just thoughts spiraling out of control, creating your new reality. However, I’m supposed to know better right? (more…)
So here’s the thing, in life we end up hurting others, there’s no real escaping this. If we believe in Karma then we need to be aware of the following. Oh and if you don’t believe in Karma, surely you must believe in the fact that in life there is always a consequence to an action, same thing as Karma! (more…)
One Day You Wake Up and Realize You Have Lost Yourself
A man writes a letter after finding out that his wife was having an affair for over ten years. He shows no anger but realises how much of his life he has wasted and how much of his real self he has lost over the years.
Mindfulness – Is the practice of “being imperfect”
This weekend I start the next part of my mindfulness journey. Two days of focused mindfulness practice and I’m feeling nervous. Why would you be nervous when practicing mindfulness? Because I guess like everything in life we set standards for ourselves, expectations that what you do must be perfect.
Then I read the course preparation material and this is what got me excited: (more…)