When we think of love, especially on Valentine's Day, we think of romantic love. Romantic love is great and we all want it! It's necessary to keep the species going and so it is hard-wired into us.
Dr. Helen Fisher, a top biological anthropologist, says romantic love is "one of the most addictive substances on earth". When we fall in love our brains serve up a cocktail of feel-good chemicals and regions of the brain light up that are the same as a person feeling the high of cocaine. The problem is that we keep looking outside of ourselves to find the feeling of love and so we're dependent upon another person or situation to create that feeling for us. Our media and entertainment world bombard us with the idea that we are not complete until that special person shows up to make us whole. That gives away our power and distracts us from the real source of love, which is within.
When we live from the place of higher love, we are able to be open to unconditional self-love which allows us to radiate out love to others. As Marci Shimoff says in her book, Love for No Reason, you "stop being a love beggar and become a love philanthropist, dispensing love, kindness and goodwill wherever you go." When you aren't loving to yourself you actually block the flow of love to the rest of the world and you block yourself from receiving love from others.
What is unconditional love?
Loving unconditionally means we place no conditions on love. It isn't dependent on anyone, including ourselves, to act, think or speak in any particular way in order to earn it. It is given, no matter what. When you love yourself unconditionally you treat yourself like your own best friend.
So how do we connect to that higher, unconditional love within us?
Our very essence is love. We simply haven't been taught to tap into our own essence and how to love ourselves. Love is about letting go of fear. The opposite of love is fear. Every negative emotion we have comes from a state of fear--hate, anger, worry, jealousy. As it says in the Bible, "There is no fear where love exists."
Here are some steps to move into a state of love:
1. Get into the mindset that you deserve unconditional love.
If you think others deserve it, why would you be any different? Remember that you can't give to someone else what you won't give to yourself. Give yourself permission to focus first on yourself.
2. Consider your self-talk.
How much of it is loving? Chances are, you spend a lot of your internal chatter in blame, recrimination and negativity. This is fear speaking to you. What do you secretly believe about yourself or what outcomes do you fear? A common belief is "I'm not worthy." When you catch yourself in negative self talk, simply challenge those thoughts and turn them around. Are they really true? Speak to yourself as you would a dear friend or a small child.
3. Celebrate Yourself
Notice when you shift a negative thought into a loving one and celebrate it! Give yourself credit for all the wonderful things you do. Are you taking yourself for granted?
What are the skills, talents and gifts you bring to the world? Take a quiet moment and write down a list of your abilities and accomplishments. If you feel stuck, ask your family and friends. You may be surprised at what they see in you that you don't. Then return the favor--have a love fest! Review the list often and bask in joy of having so much going for you!
4. Accept All of Yourself
We all make mistakes. This is part of life and growth. Appreciate the lessons and gifts from the times you made a choice that didn't go as you wanted it to. Love the shadow part of yourself as much as the light and you will find it transforming.
5. Make Time
Make time for yourself to just have fun, exercise or to rest without allowing guilt about wasting time. The time you take for yourself is not wasted--it is vital!
6. Allow Yourself to Say No
How often do you take on a responsibility or agree to a get-together when you are already feeling overwhelmed? Put yourself first and carefully consider if this is what you truly want to do. If not, politely decline.
7. Live Your Passions and Purpose
This is your life and no one else can live it for you. Get in touch with what lights your fire and take the steps to follow your heart's desire. No one knows better than you what your path is. You are not here to please whatever plans your parents, spouse or friends have for you. You are here for your own path and purpose.
When you give yourself the gift of unconditional love you are equipped to offer that same gift to others. Be a generator of love from the inside out and you will always be in the feeling of love!