Today is Valentine’s Day, a day for celebrating love. But what is love? We may certainly have an idea of what it looks like or feels like from movies, novels, lessons from our parents and our own experiences, but trying putting it into words and it becomes very difficult.
A few years ago, I was just as clueless as I feel most people are about love. I am certainly not an expert now, but I have learned much in recent years that I feel compelled to share. This post is not about any seduction tips or special sexual maneuvers, or anything for that mater focused on being loved. What am I sharing is three things I have done that have enriched my life and helped me become a more loving person.
It is not about being loved, it’s about being loving.
Which brings me to the first thing…
1. Read The Art of Loving
Written by Erich Fromm over 50 years ago, its lessons are as timeless as the subject it covers. The gist of the Art of Loving is that love is an art, a skill to practiced every day and mastered. Throughout the book, Fromm describes why humans love, the different ways humans love, how love can disintegrate and how one should go about practicing love.
I don’t want to spoil Fromm’s work, but one of the biggest things I got from reading the Art of Loving was that loving is not about projecting love towards an object of affection. Rather, it is a light that emanates from you that shines on everyone and manifests itself in different ways with different people.
So loving takes practice. So what can you do to master the art of loving? Which leads me to the next thing…
2. Love Yourself
For the longest time, I could not love myself. I would beat myself up for making the smallest mistakes, for not being good enough. Maybe it was a conversation I made up to make me stronger and better so I wouldn’t bullied like I was in elementary school. In any case, I was making myself feel miserable and sucking the joy out of any accomplishment. Not loving myself also made it hard to love others; I hadn’t been in a serious relationship at that point.
I read Kamal Ravikant’s Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It, and I tried the exercises he recommended, but part of my mind just could not accept the idea of loving myself. At one of the low points in my life, I realized I had to do something about this. So I started an exercise with sole goal of loving myself unconditionally and feeling unconditionally loved. Here’s how it works:
i) Take something you don’t like about yourself. For example, I was upset at myself for being lazy.
ii) Tell yourself that you love yourself for that very thing you don’t like. It goes like this:
- I fully love myself for being lazy
- I fully accept myself for being lazy
- I fully allow myself to be lazy
iii) Tell yourself that you are loved for that you don’t like about yourself.
- I am fully loved by myself for being lazy
- I am fully accepted by myself for being lazy
- I am fully allowed by myself to be lazy
The reason I add in the ‘acceptance’ and ‘allowing to be’ is that is what love really is at its core. As soon as I tried this, I felt a clearing in my head. I then tried other things I didn’t like about myself, and then things I did like. I started doing this everyday in the shower and gradually things began to move. I began to feel lighter, happier and unexpectedly more confident and willing to take on risks. Now I know no matter happens in life, I will always have my own unconditional love.
Now what about unconditionally loving others…
3. Push Judgment Aside and Love Unconditionally
As a kid, I was very shallow, liking or disliking people for superficial reasons and always judging them. I stopped being friends with a kid next door neighbour because he destroyed his toys and I didn’t like that.
I’ll admit part of this judging mindset lingers inside me to this day, but I have chosen to move past it. This kind of judgment can make you feel better, but you can’t have love with it.
To create unconditional love, you need to create the space for it to emerge. The way to create this space is to actively discard what gets in the way of that space, which is superficial judgment. I do this by reminding myself “so what? Doesn’t matter.” It works like this:
(Upon meeting someone)
Brain: Wow this guy has a really big nose…
Me: So what? Doesn’t matter!
The great thing about this practice is it works great in the moment. As soon as I start getting these thoughts, I start telling myself “So what? Doesn’t matter!” After doing this, I started connecting much better with people and really started to see and appreciate their great qualities.
You may be wondering what the point of all this is. What is the point of unconditionally loving people, especially those you don’t know? I once asked a friend this very question. She replied:
Happy Valentines Day!