Throughout the past week, I have engaged in several conversations about love.
Not the accepting and non-judgmental forms of love, but the love that is about proving itself through adherence to rules and doing as expected. The love that is about being what another wants over being who we are. The love that is about perfection – and not being loved as the imperfect people we are. The love that is about not failing; not risking; and insecurities.
These are difficult subjects in that it seems easier to believe that we are lovable and will be loved if… we do as we are told; if we meet expectations; if we succeed; if we follow the rules; if we make a person happy…. It is very straight forward – this is how to be loved.
How to explain to someone that love starts within. That we are each wonderfully imperfect?
How to explain that love is acceptance of a person as is – not expecting them to behave a certain way or follow any rules or change so that they are aligned with our desires?
That we are love – we receive love – and we can choose to deny the love of another but we can’t determine whether or not they love us, that choice is theirs.
Love is about accepting the shadows and the brilliance and the colors of a person as they are, as they grow, and as they choose to be.
Davina wrote about puzzle pieces of ourselves. It is a delightful and thought provoking post. One of the comments caught my attention as it mentioned highlighting the dark aspects of ourselves over the shiny bits. I have observed this idea too – if someone can love our shadows then they might love the rest of us too. Or perhaps it is that we focus on the shadows to the point that we don’t believe we are lovable at all? How can I be loved unless I follow the rules and be who I am expected to be?
My conversations were with adults – Adults feeling unloved (unworthy of love) because others aren’t meeting their expectations. Adults believing that they are only loved if they follow the rules and do as expected. Adults afraid to trust that they are loved when they are true to themselves; adults that may not see themselves, as themselves, as lovable.
The idea of being lovable and how to be lovable isn’t singular to adults. It is one that I have seen in kids of all ages as they establish rules and expectations surrounding friendships…”If you are my friend you will…” And once those kids get older….
Last night I finished reading Winter Girls by Laurie Anderson. I celebrated the end of the book with a sigh and the knowledge that my perception has changed. The book, written for high school and adult readers, is centered around the lives of two girls with eating disorders. Leah and Cassie lived across the street from one another and became friends early in their lives. There senior year, Cassie dies as a result of her eating disorder; Leah must then find her way and determine whether she is living or dead or happy living somewhere in between.
The book is beyond powerful with strong pros and voice. Anderson researched the issues involved and presented the information in such a way that I felt connected to Leah. My heart hurt for her and for all the kids and young adults who are experiencing similar challenges.
And then I read What a Girl Wants by Chasing Ray.
And I feel frustrated.
Why are these young people making the choices to do this to themselves?
Do we pressure our kids to be perfect? Do we give them permission to not succeed?
What can we, as adults, do to help?
What can we, as parents, do??
How did society get this way?
Fortunately, I had a childhood that revolved around love and respect. The eldest of two kids, and definitely not perfect, I was encouraged to be myself with my own dreams, opinions, and voice. Image was a part of high school life, but the community did not emphasize it as much as it could have.
I am raising my daughter in the same way; but, rather than a strong community that doesn’t focus on appearance and goals, she is in Northern Virginia where socioeconomics and success (and their accompanying pressures) will play a role. Ever mindful, I have done what I can to ensure that she understands that she is love. That her being love and lovable is dependent upon nothing nor is it bound by condition or expectation… but… We don’t live in a bubble.
In the end, it is for each of us to determine that we are love, to choose to be true to ourselves.
I do wonder, what can we do to support this process? How can we make changes in our own lives and in the communities to promote acceptance and our children?