Many of us are plagued with being up against a feeling of “not enough” no matter what we accomplish. It’s easy to become envious of others while feeling you’re falling short, wondering if we don’t deserve success or happiness. Love for ourselves and others can alleviate that deeply rooted worry of enough-ness, and that takes being vulnerable. We seem to have mixed, seemingly conflicting perceptions of what vulnerability truly means. Vulnerability feels weak and powerless, opening ourselves up to potential pain. That is true. There’s a certain power in embracing vulnerability, though. Brene Brown, a phenomenal researcher and speaker that I aspire to be, describes vulnerability as “the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
Love at its core in all forms is a truly vulnerable act. Love paradoxically seems overused, and at the same time, stigmatized and not expressed enough. Of course there’s romantic love – I’m a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, however, love has been commercialized. Love doesn’t come in a shiny red, heart-shaped box full of chocolates. This is too easy. At the same time, in modern dating-culture, there’s hesitancy to express any feelings at all. People fear being seen as desperate or “too into” someone. Unwritten rules about how long one should wait before texting back are intended to achieve the delicate balance of being somewhat interested and not too available. It’s a game that so many are playing, whether intentional or not. This is guarded, safe, secure, and even though it seems confusing and tough, it’s ultimately pretty easy. This game lowers the bar for standards. Games ultimately create a winner and a loser – someone always has an upper-hand. This is far from love – scary, deep, sharing yourself with another who is your equal kind of love. Absolutely terrifying.
If this is the expectation, it’s hard to know what genuine love actually looks like. Love isn’t found hiding behind emojis and 2 AM text messages. Love is found only after you love yourself enough to raise your standards for what you deserve. Your capacity to love someone else is only as deep as your capacity to love yourself. That’s where self-love comes in – this isn’t easy to accomplish, but it’s certainly possible.
To love yourself means to let go of your desire to fit in. This comes in many forms, one of which is gossip. Gossip is an easy, substance-less, hollow substitute for authentic belonging, and it shows where we’re weak – we seek validation that at least we’re better off than that person. We tend to judge others in our own areas of insecurity, whether consciously or subconsciously. This gives us an opportunity for introspection to work on our hidden insecurities, allowing us to embrace and improve what we consider to be our shortcomings, and accept our unique-ness in all its glory, understanding that success is different for everyone. We then begin to feel that we are enough, feeling worthy of the love that we’ve previously denied ourselves and seeing our value so clearly that nothing can make us feel unworthy. We’re able to let go of the need to fit in, breaking the chains of what others feel we should be, do, dress, act. When we love ourselves so much that we can extend love, we open ourselves up and share a piece of ourselves with each of those people. We shine light into their lives and we allow them to affect ours. We have to love ourselves enough to let go of any hatred in our hearts, both for our past mistakes and the mistakes of others. Doing that requires heightening our self-awareness, actually owning our mistakes, acknowledging our insecurities, and making peace with what we try so hard to disconnect from.
To love ourselves means to open all of the boxes we’ve tied up in nice, neat bows and hidden away, unpacking the pain of our shame we’ve suppressed. It’s the hard thing; it makes us vulnerable. Only then can we truly love someone else…someone else who has their own pile of emotional boxes hidden away for later unpacking. Love means stepping out of the game, and being brave enough to show yourself openly. There is strength in owning every part of yourself…in doing the scary thing. Never feel shame for doing so – allowing yourself to be vulnerable is one of the bravest things you can do.
References and Further Reading:
Brown, B. (2012) The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage [Audiobook].