Day 91 (16 June): Acceptance and self love
What follows is very personal. It is my own experience and not at all science based. I thought it might resonate with some of you and possibly motivate you to read what wiser heads have to say on the subject.
We spend a lot of time and emotion pursuing love. Then, all too frequently, when we are ‘officially’ in a relationship, we start taking things for granted. We have relied on the initial erotic charge to set up our couple and we think the work is done. Partner acquired. Throughout a lifetime we might have many partners or but one. The more we take things for granted and the less we really invest in our relationships the more likely we are to bounce from parner to partner. We proceed to make our partners responsible for so many of our needs, desires, and hopes. We place a great weight of responsibility on the bent shoulders of our romantic other halves. They are to provide us with sexual satisfaction and possibly children, but beyond that we also look for and expect recognition, approbation, acceptance, tenderness, respect, admiration, comfort, and absolution.
Somehow we uncritically imagine that ‘the other’ has the power to bestow these gifts. But we are also ‘the other’ to those with whom we we are in a relationship. How can we be confident in our ability to tend our partner’s wounds and fill our partner’s empty spaces if we do not face and repair our own?
As I look back on previous marriages and relationships I can hear myself criticising partners during arguments. I was capable of reciting all their faults and failings and could be relied on to provide recommendations for their improvement. So many arguments which could have been discussions and so many discussions which were not discussions but occasions for me to prove by force of logic that I was right. I was right, you were wrong.
Over the last two and a half years, I have rejected that approach completely. I cannot change another being and it is not my responsibility to do so. I can only change me. This does not mean that I suppose that all fault for the break up of my relationships lies at my door. In general terms, I do not even think that “fault” lies at the heart of many breakups. Often it is ignorance; a lack of self knowledge, a failure on the part of both partners to learn who their lover really is as opposed to the role one would wish them to play, and a lack of honest, open and vulnerable discussion. Then again, sometimes the relationship has simply run its course and is coming to a natural end.
However, the only aspects that I can change for the sake of myself and a future relationship are the ones relating to me. This requires a thorough knowledge of myself, my strengths, my weaknesses, my hopes and my fears. Because fear is present in every relationship. The fear of not being enough, the fear of being abandoned, the fear of being smothered. And fear can make us nasty.
So gradually and painfully, through therapy, reading, meditation, deep loneliness and sorrow, both of which are powerful teachers, I have come to a greater degree of awareness. I have become acutely aware of my need for acceptance and approbation, my great fear of rejection and an ensuing neediness verging on clinginess. Not attractive.
But awareness is only one step in the right direction. It is not the destination.
I think that the next step must be to work with awareness on a path to acceptance and self love. The day when I can be confident in showing myself recognition, approbation, acceptance, tenderness, respect, admiration, comfort, and absolution will be the day when I can claim to be the best possible partner I can be. I am my own partner first and foremost.
It seems to me, thinking about it now, very unfair to expect another to accept and love me if I cannot first walk down that path myself.
In the meantime, I accept that a fear of rejection and a need for approbation resulting in neediness are aspects of my self which are damaging my prospects for love and happiness. But I must practice accepting this with understanding and without anger towards myself. For too long I have berated myself. Most recently my refrain has been ‘Fool, idiot, you did it again! You hesitated and you lost!'
I can accept there were reasons for that behaviour. Now I must begin to change the negative behaviour patterns; build up the muscles of self-worth. For example, if I think it critical to reply to a message instantly, for fear of losing the person who has contacted me, I should wait an hour. A small step. A superficially silly step. But an important step on the path to a level of self respect which I need in order to be able to love myself. It is similar to working out at the gym; I didn’t bench press on my first day the weight I managed a year later. Small progress, steady and constant progress.
Does it all have to be done by me and me alone? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
I believe that if there is trusting and open communication in a relationship it is only sensible to show the other person your weaknesses and your vulnerabilities and say ‘I would grateful for your help in gaining the strength I need in these areas. And of course, I will be there to help you where you hurt'.
I have begun repairing the vessel which is myself, which in turn will better permit me to pour love out if it to fill another. And the vessel is, on the whole, strong and beautiful. It is a vessel which I can accept and love.
That is where all work begins. Here. Now. With me.
I accept that I am as I really am. And I love that I can now be in contact with my fears, my failings, my hopes, my strengths and my desires as they are in the full light of day.
Two first steps. There will surely be more. And the final destination? Whether alone or with a lover and partner to walk with full courage towards light, beauty and love.
Accept and love yourselves to better love others.