I am not always the easiest person to love. I too have my rough days and moments where I am not my best self. I can get cranky and stressed. I can be snarky and rude. But I try not to be. I do the important work every day to let go of negative self-talk and judgmental thoughts about myself and others.
My husband, Jeffrey, must be able to see that I am honestly trying to be my best Self, or he would have thrown up his hands and walked away years ago. He too, is not perfect, but he has always loved me even at my worst. He, long ago, decided I was worth the effort, and has demonstrated his unconditional love for me over and over again.
That, and the love my parents have given me through the years, has made it very clear to me what real love feels like. In a world where you can decide to unfriend someone with a click of a button, I find this a very useful tool – to know love.
Unconditional love is just that – it has no bounds, it has no conditions. It never ends. It holds steady and waits for the storm to blow through. This kind of love can never be taken away or diminished in size. It can only grow. It breathes forgiveness. It is gentle and generous. It is patient.
Conditional love is the exact opposite. It has conditions. You must do certain things or act a certain way to obtain it. If you don’t do certain things, it is taken away. It is hard and harsh. Forgiveness doesn’t reside here. It condemns and judges and when I think about it, is not love at all, but something else entirely. It fears real love at every level.
I know conditional love well. I practiced it on myself for years. I had to look a certain way, dress a certain way, weigh the perfect weight, have the perfect highlights running through my hair, and always appear my best to others in order for me to look in a mirror and smile back at what I saw. I wasn’t smiling too often back then. You can’t be perfect all of the time. And who wants to be friends with “perfect” anyway? It’s too hard to relate or break down “perfect’s” walls.
Unconditional love arrived in my life not with the arrival of my husband, but years later – probably over a decade. I finally decided enough was enough. I was sick of the limits that conditional love placed on my life. I finally, probably in year two or three of my regular yoga practice looked in the mirror and saw every flaw – the thighs that always seemed too big, the skin that never seemed to even out, and the hair that would never be considered thick or lustrous – and decided everything I saw was pretty darn great. I forgave myself for being so cruel towards my body and my Self. My self-talk became gentle instead of harsh and demanding. And I realized I had been missing the point all along.
If I could accept myself and love my Self as is, then maybe there was a reason why others thought I was great too? I no longer wondered if I was worthy of a friendship, my marriage, or my family because I knew I was.
So, on this Valentine’s Day, whether you love this holiday or detest it for all its sappy sweetness, I hope you find some time to sit with your Self and say something good to your Self about your Self because you deserve it. And as the unconditional love you have for you grows – and it will because that is what it is meant to do – you will find yourself surrounded by people that will also love you and appreciate your worth. It’s the best Valentine’s Day gift you could give yourself. Amidst this celebration of love – don’t forget your most important relationship. The one you have with your Self.
And remember, have a little chocolate and take time to smell the roses today. It’s the small things, the memories you make and the joy you find in every moment, that come together to create one incredible life.