What advice would you give your (hypothetical) daughter about love? Think about this for a second. Most of us who aren’t parents, cannot remotely imagine what it’s like to be a parent. The one thing that can come close, is if we have younger siblings we can say we’ve “watched grow up” rather than with whom we’ve “grown up with.” Either way, when we love someone who looks up to us, and they ask for advice, we’re inclined to always want them to treat themselves with kindness, love, patience, and respect.
My mother, for example, is very old school. She very much believes that a man must pursue a woman and she raised me to believe it too. There’s a running half-true, half-serious joke in my family that my father proposed to my mother multiple times before she finally agreed. That is the tradition that she was raised in and almost thirty-four years into their marriage, it’s kind of difficult to tell my mother that she’s wrong. But she’s also open-minded enough to know that men and women of her time and my time are different. So her most important advice has little to do with how people meet or the gender roles they must perform. No, my mother’s love advice has always been hallmarked by the stance that what one deserves is more important than what one wants.
When I think about it, it’s the kind of advice I want for all my siblings but especially for my baby girl – my little sister – who is my only sibling left in her teen years. In addition to my mother’s words, I tell my sister the things that I would tell a daughter: Don’t let anyone who is supposed to love you make you feel less than; never let important things be left unsaid; don’t chase someone who doesn’t want to be caught; don’t lead people on who you don’t want to be chased by; and of course that clichéd piece of advice every girl has heard at least once – a person who will make you cry is usually not worth your tears.
The sad truth, however, is that it’s hard to practice what we preach. Probably because when we love someone such as a sister or a child, we would take their pain away in a heartbeat. Watching them hurt especially hurting in romance – which can be quite cruel at times – makes us want them to get over their pains as quickly as possible, if not avoid it altogether. Yet sometimes when we find ourselves in the same position, we are less willing to take the advice we are so quick to give.
It always strikes me as true that most people are hardest on themselves. We are our loudest critics, our worst enemies; our very own nemesis is staring back at us in the mirror. And this is especially true in moments where we need to be a friend to ourselves. How many nights have we spent thinking, “What is wrong with me?” when someone doesn’t return the affection we tried to give? How many times have we harmed our emotional and psychological well-being by holding desperately onto something long after it has been over? How many times have we felt less than, simply because someone couldn’t see us the way those who love us do? The answer, I think, is far too often.
But what if you heard someone you loved crying at night because the person they wanted didn’t want them back? What if they told you they feel like no one is going to ever love them? What if they told you they just can’t seem to get anything right with this whole love thing? You’d probably tell them they’re beautiful, wouldn’t you? You’d probably tell them that sometimes disappointments are a blessing in disguise. You’d probably tell them that if they keep on keeping on and being the best they can be, and having a heart that is full of life and open to love, things somehow will work out.
All of this is what you should be telling yourself too. Because you are worthy of all the kindness, love, patience, and respect you give your loved ones; in any and all moments, but especially in the moments when love has made you feel less than.