One thing I know for certain is that love starts from within.
I’ve tried pouring from an empty cup for many years of my life and have only ever come up dry.
BY MINDFULLY LOVED
There were times I looked back on some of my role models for inspiration. Particularly, my mother and grandmother who are the two most giving people I know. I grew up asking and they raised me giving in any way they could. I’m fortunate enough to still have the both of them in my life and am still witness to the incessant giving. It’s a bit harder for Mum these days after her recent major back surgery, as it is for my Grandmother and her arthritis. No matter how much the surgeon and I pleaded, Mum was never going to stop leaning over to pick up her grandchildren. It’s a beautiful thing. But boy is it difficult to watch someone you love continue to grind off the already sparse cartilage that exists in the fear that missing another hug or gift or meal will leave them void of love from their family.
It’s a common theme my wife and I often discuss regarding our extended families. It was difficult for our parents/grandparents who were migrants. Moving about their own countries through times of war, leaving family to move for a better life. It wasn’t easy to focus on yourself at a time when your family were in danger and poverty was everywhere. But they started a new life, worked themselves into the ground and paved the way for us to grow. Naturally, they carried some of these self-limiting beliefs that go hand in hand with a tough upbringing. I know they wanted us to live a better life and we most certainly do. But it’s difficult not to observe their own self-love and care from young and carry some traits and characteristics with us.
How could I go about living up to the benchmark that is my forever sacrificing grandparents and parents?
I had expectations of how I should live my life and treat others. But I never really learnt the value of loving myself, first and foremost.
I grew up a chronic asthmatic, in and out of hospital for the first 10 or so years of my life. If I had so much as a cold I was dragged straight to the doctors. Not my parents though. “Doesn’t matter. We’ll be alright”. Self-care wasn’t something I was over exposed to. Realistically that would seemingly come at the expense of care for someone else and they weren’t going to have any of that.
Unsurprisingly, I found it quite difficult to do what they did. There was no life threatening war or poverty when I grew up. I had support and a close family. But I struggled with happiness. I wanted everyone else to be happy, but didn’t really feel that was necessary for me. That took me down a dark path. We love a bit of humility, but self-worth is something else. Guess how often I would take myself to the doctors when needed?
Rock bottom is lonely, you’ve only got yourself there. You can have partners, friends and family around you all the time, but when you’re stuck in a hole the only way out is a ladder. That ladder can only be made by your hands and the materials must be a good dose of self-love and self-worth. That kind of discovery can really only be found within, but when it takes hold it has the power to change the world.
When you truly understand and believe in love and can openly proclaim love for yourself, your limits become endless. Loving another becomes easy. Sharing love and growth is a drug like no other.
When you are truly happy, your partner feels it. Your child feels it. It’s infectious. When you accept yourself, you allow others to do the same. It won’t resolve the variables in your life, because life is just that. It’s unpredictable. That’s what makes life so beautiful. But with self-love, you can allow yourself to feel what you need to feel. All of your emotions are acceptable and useful. Ups and downs are acceptable.
This ultimately won’t resolve your fatigue from lack of sleep, but it will empower you to make a positive change. It will rid you of the guilt of not scraping from the bottom of your internal barrel for others. It will only allow you to step-aside, breathe, be mindful, replenish and love. Then you can be what you need to be for others. You can pour away.
It most certainly won’t take time away from caring for your loved ones to achieve this. There are everyday changes you can help yourself to get there. Here are a few basic ones:
- Be insightful and self-aware
Take note of how you feel day to day / minute to minute. Reflect on what made you angry/sad/happy and try to understand why you felt that way and reacted in a particular manner. Be non-judgemental with this, you are allowed to feel how you feel. Be open to feedback and gain awareness.
- Be accountable
You can’t help the variables. But it is important to categorize the things that matter and the things you can control. Only the existing overlap between those two things is where your point of focus should be. Don’t make excuses, be present and be accountable. You have more choice and control to resolve your issues than you think.
- Be mindful
There is only one moment, and it is right now. Be present, listen first, think second and speak third. 3 deep breaths is all it takes to slow your mind and put you back in the moment. Look around and be surprised. Smelling the roses isn’t just a lovely metaphor, life is beautiful and if you take the chance to look around you may just notice that.
- Be grateful
A short story I love is told of the young blind boy on the side of the road with a sign next to a hat saying “I am blind, please help”. There were only a few coins in his hat. A gentlemen walked by, took a few coins from his pocket, dropped it in the hat and took the sign. On it he wrote a new message and placed it back for people to see. The boys hat filled with money. Later that day, the gentlemen returned. The boy recognizing his steps and asked “are you the one who changed my sign? What did you write”. The gentleman replied, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way”. The man wrote “The world around you is so beautiful, you can see it, but I can’t”.
Take note of what’s around you, be grateful and change your perspective.
There is no magic pill or healer that’s going to evoke the necessary change to be happy. The power is within you and starts with self-awareness.
Ultimately, be the change that you want to see in the world. If you want to share love without, then you must feel love within.