Learning to love

What has love got to do with it? Yes, my blog is about health and fitness – but with this coincides love. Self love. Accepting love of others. Recognizing love. Feeling as though you are deserving of love – and more. Many of our unhealthy eating and other behaviors are cheap substitutes for love (to learn more, visit Geneen Roth‘s site). And with this, I open my heart.

It was not until I was almost 22 when I decided that I needed to learn what love was, and in turn how to love. Born into a loveless home, I had been raised with no idea what love was. It was something I saw in movies – but I literally believed that it only existed in movies (to the likeness of unicorns and fairies).

We have all heard, you must love yourself before you can expect anyone else to. But it is kind of like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Self-help books and therapists will advise you to draw support from others when you are working on loving yourself. Okay – so what if you do not have others whom you trust and know love you? For those who have never lived it – you may think that I am imagining and exaggerating that no one loved me during that time of my life. You might say that it was only in my delusioned mind. When in fact, it was my perception and very much my reality.

Therapists often guide you to accept that your parents or others loved you the best they knew how. That may be true. Did and do my parents love me? I suppose in their own way. If either of them chose today as the first day to physically say the words to me, I doubt I would believe them.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

NOTE: Nothing about this post is related to a godly or otherwise religious love. This is strictly referencing familial and romantic love between and among humans.

What I thought love was

Having never heard the words. Having never felt the physical components (e.g., hugs and kisses). I thought love was respect and obedience. I thought that love was to submit to another’s demands. When I was 20, I became engaged to a man who made me feel exactly how my mother made me feel – invaluable. This is all I had known. At that time, having been told by ‘professionals’ that my mother had loved me the only way she knew how, I just assumed that this is how he knew how to love me. I in turn generalized it to be how everyone loves.

I did not end up marrying this man – thank goodness! I cannot describe a particular ah-ha moment or epiphany. I just knew that ‘love’ could not possibly make one feel badly about herself.

And so the journey goes

Ten years later, and I am still not sure that I know what love is. I know there are different dimensions of love. I am not sure that I know HOW to love.

Years of therapy taught me that I needed to increase my vulnerability in order to build deep, meaningful (loving) relationships with others (romantic and platonic alike). During my childhood I built up walls. I can remember once telling a brother that he hurt my feelings. His response, “Put your feelings in a Ziploc bag and stick them in the dresser next to your bed because no one cares.” I have no idea how old I was, but I do know that it stuck with me all these years.

Learning to love

Learning to love has not been an easy journey for me. I have loved with all of my heart – and then hurt. I have done it again – and then been hurt. I have loved with patience, obedience, and respect – simply to be abandoned overnight.

And yet I continue to chose love over anger and hate. I could hate the one(s) who abandoned me, but I do not. I choose love.

The bottomline

I have been spending a great deal of time in introspection – asking myself what love is to me. What do I want it to be and what does it look like in my life? I am seeing love in places that I perhaps never saw them before. I am expecting different results. My eyes and heart are more wide open and willing to accept the love that is already there — and love that has never failed —

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Finding more on a weight loss journey

A dear friend shares her journey and her heart.

To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. 
If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now. – Alan Cohen

Often times, when we discuss love, it is in relation to our connections with others.  We give love anthropomorphic tendencies, describing its ability to create harmony, whether through our own personal connections or a universal exchange (that links all persons in a global community).  Discussions regarding self-love are relegated to conversations relating its pertinence in the face of limited self-worth.  The implicit necessity of loving one’s self is paramount in establishing worthwhile connections with others. 

Since this blog is about health & fitness, I will tailor this entry, relating self-love to my weight loss journey.   

Last summer I began a journey towards health & fitness, though my immediate goal revolved around losing a tremendous amount of excess weight, my exigent goal was to learn to love myself.  My excess weight was a reflection of my inner turmoil, my struggle to find acceptance (a struggle I presumed to be externally founded…. thereby, extrinsically resolved).  I assumed that loving myself would be a natural effect of changing the way I looked physically.  By changing my appearance, I would become more acceptable to others, allowing me to become more acceptable to myself.  This change would provide an avenue for me to establish connections with others (at that point I was socially isolated, spending tremendous amounts of time alone with limited social interactions) and increase my self-efficacy (believing I could accomplish the many goals I had set for myself).  To a degree these presumptions were accurate.  I have changed the way I look, I am more appealing to others and have a greater sense of comfort in my physique, but that has not translated itself into increased self-worth. 

There is still a sense of lacking and deficiency.  As I strive towards attaining what I believe to be the “perfect body” (for myself), I constantly have to face the impact of my limited self-worth. I am faced with the unhealthy habits I’ve developed, as I strive to love myself . . .. having formerly “loved” myself with food.  I developed a reliance on food to cope.  In the absence of self-acceptance and social relationships, food became an ally.  In losing weight, the foods I formerly relied on for comfort have become an enemy.  They no longer provide me with the same semblance of peace or “happiness”.  I have come to realize that my perception of myself is highly correlated to all of my struggles, I have to resolve my intrinsic feelings of worth, so that I may find the acceptance I long for.  The lack of connectedness I feel with others is greatly attributed to the lack of connection I feel with myself.  Changing my physiognomy has not changed the pertinence of answering these issues. 

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I have to learn to love myself, to be comfortable in my own skin, to appreciate who I am.  I have to become whole.  I have to learn to live, because I’m tired of feeling dead to myself . . .. not knowing or appreciating the characteristics that make me a worthwhile individual.  It’s exciting, this concept of self-discovery.  But this undertaking is by no means easy.  This process has been laden with valleys and peaks.  It requires changing my mind, literally.  Reframing thoughts, addressing hurts, and examining fears.  Exchanging unhealthy behaviors that were once associated with loving myself for behaviors that truly reflect love for myself.  In doing so, I am hoping to experience the tranquility that comes with loving one’s self.  Partaking in the ubiquity of love, as it connects me to those I care for. 

I am grateful for those who are willing to love me along the way, as I learn to love myself.

What has your journey shown you that you did not expect?