People have a multi-faceted view of love and most of the definitions we give love have nothing at all to do with the choice or the feeling. Some connect love to giving while others attach it to receiving. Still others think of love in terms of security, empathy, fireflies and sunsets. And then many others view love as the outgrowth of some grand material possession.
In its time and place, love can be all of these things but what real love really is, is unconditional. It is unrestricted and wholehearted. It doesn’t ask for you to be perfect. It doesn’t fix every broken part of you until you’re completely whole. It doesn’t even ask questions or set up conditions or circumstances. It is free-wheeling and out-and-out love.
Love is not really the brown teddy bear with the pink nose or the large box of chocolate or the flowers or the dinner dates. It can be all of these things. But real love is the permission slip, we choose to give ourselves and others instead of looking for it to come from someone else. We don’t wait for love; we are love. Love is not just around us; it is in us.
Many people are looking for love, expecting to find it in the heart and arms of someone else. They get stuck when dates go wrong or feel a foreboding sense of shame when all their friends from college get married. It is natural to want love, but you cannot fully live by putting all your love eggs in the basket of someone else. Love isn’t up to someone else. It is really up to you.
Self-love is not selfish; it is necessary. You have to allow the affection of your soul to spill out from you to you. And every single person in the world has to do this same thing. For when we each choose to love ourselves, we develop deeper and deeper capacity to love others. How we see ourselves is how we will see others. If you love you, you can love me. If I love me, I can love you. We don’t have to tear ourselves or others down or seek to always get, get, get. Katherine Hepburn said, “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get–only with what you are expecting to give–which is everything.”
Love is accepting yourself as you are — flaws and all. Love is also accepting others as they are — flaws and all. Love is To stand side by side, hand in hand, heart to heart with those who may be different from us but who are just like us in every other way. We cease judging ourselves and practice empathy and compassion for who we are and for who they are, for our successes, improvements, and struggles … and theirs.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the Swiss-American psychiatrist who wrote the popular book On Death and Dying said, “The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.” It’s strange how something so simple as loving one’s self can be one of the hardest lessons of life? Love on the surface is easy and temporary. What we have to learn is how to love deep down on the inside, giving ourselves permission to be free.
We are required to love ourselves. We are commanded to love others. But no one is required to love us back. Because when we love, it should not be an obligation. When it becomes that, it ceases to carry meaning, show acceptance, and bear light. The fire and feeling that we call love is incomprehensible to our minds, but perfect for our hearts and souls. After all, love is love is love, someone said. And unconditional love for ourselves and for others just makes sense.