This blog was first published on Huffington Post, February 13, 2013
I remember the days of waiting for the Valentine card that never arrived. I had not learned the secret that loving myself unconditionally was the most attractive way to find a lover! If you live with conditional love of yourself do not obsess about waiting for a Valentine charm to arrive. Instead jilt that conditional lover who lives inside you.
My Buddhist friends remind me that the near enemy of love is conditional love. That’s because conditional love is a transactional relationship – I will “love” you if you do what I want, demand or expect. Our lives are filled with transactional relationships that are necessary for navigating everyday work and life. Confusing these with love is toxic to your well-being and your health.
Many of us have learned to equate love with “making nice.” So we make excuses by saying that a lover or friend “means well” or has your welfare at heart. It is a formula for frustration, anger, disappointment and becoming a bystander to your own life.
Conditional love should never be confused with the real thing. In the love compromises we make – consciously or not – it is all too easy to assume that conditional love is “normal.” You may choose to endure it but there is another choice. The lover inside of you who thinks this is normal must be jilted to make room for unconditional love.
My life coach once gave me a homework assignment that at first I thought was trite. I stood in front of a full size mirror every day and looked at myself while verbalizing out loud something magnificent, lovely, generous, kind, loving, lively, spirited or funny about myself. At first I was terrified. It brought back memories of being teased as an adolescent for being chunky and my dislike of my self-image of being fat.
This simple exercise was far from trite! With each utterance I began to develop new empathy, compassion and love towards myself. Unless I knew what the mirror reflected back to me about the magnificent qualities of my own life I would always be looking into someone else’s mirror for love, approval and acceptance. I was moving from conditional to unconditional love.
As a result of this discovery I began to surround myself with those who love unconditionally. This is not the same as selecting people in our lives who will be uncritical. Instead it is choosing a path on which the fullness of your magnificence and shadow side are acknowledged, creating new tenderness toward your own self. When you do that you intuitively connect with those who have no desire to spend their lives living conditionally because they have also done the work that allows them to love others in their fullness.
In jilting the conditional lover inside I’ve discovered that the arc of our stories reveal wisdom and truth. The stories that shape and form us are a reminder that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. It is the consciousness that loving with abandonment is the marker of how fully alive you choose to be.
It starts within each of us. Your story and mine each contain elements of wonder, shame, regret, joy and more. Many of us have learned to compartmentalize these elements resulting in living with a half-script about ourselves. When you embrace the many elements of your story into one integrated narrative several things happen. You develop compassion toward yourself. You identify those in your story who have been wisdom, truth and love bearers. You develop gratitude for the love in which you hold your story. When you embrace your story, it complements what the mirror exercise reveals.
This is crucial to your ability to jilt the conditional lover who desperately tries to avoid eviction from your heart and head spaces. In owning and claiming your story you cease to search for the “dream lover” who will fulfill your needs. You are no longer a conditional person willing to accept the crumbs of conditional love as “normalcy.” Your energy and being start to radiate the unconditional love that grounds who you are.
In this new consciousness of loving with abandonment you no longer hope for that Valentine card that never arrives. Instead Valentine’s Day is everyday – it is the energy that draws you to the lover who loves unconditionally as you do. It is a way of being fully alive. A way of loving love!
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