When I was young I thought love was something that would be given to me by others, and looking back now, I have been on a very long journey searching for love outside of myself. It had never occurred to me that my ability to self-love may be the foundation to true love.
I remember how I used to listen to a song called ‘The Winner takes it All’ by Abba, after a break-up with a boy. Phil Collins and Lionel Richie would also do the trick in times like these, as long as the song would make me feel even more emotional than I already felt. Love songs are great to drown yourself in sorrow and to highlight the feeling that nobody loves you.
Love equals doing and giving?
Love for me has always been a verb, a doing; and that’s what the women around me mainly reflected to me as a child. Love was a synonym for doing and about what you give. Love for me was being nice, polite, helpful, being good and being there for others. It meant saying ‘yes’ while I actually felt like saying ‘no’… and going along with a conversation, even if I wanted to say something different. This showed itself in a constant pleasing, showing sympathy, making time for others and definitely not expressing my truth because this might rock a boat or two. Love for me was about not having arguments or conflicts and keeping the peace, even though a bomb may be lying under the carpet, ready to explode. Most of my life, I have been on a big quest for people to like me.
Love for me, in a relationship, came with quite a lot of expectations. I thought I needed the other person to complete me, as I believed something was missing inside me and I needed a partner to feel better about myself. For a while I was ‘an easy catch’; anything, so long as I wasn’t alone. I was very needy and quite a handful for my partners back then. I had a wild time where I mixed up love and having sex, thinking that the two would go hand in hand.
Love for me was feeling drained after a day at work because I was always helping out colleagues and trying to keep everything in harmony. I hardly ever said no and I was feeling responsible not only for my colleagues but in a way, for the whole of Holland. Love for me was saying yes if someone asked for help, literally dropping everything out of my hands and doing what I perceived was needed.
Love equals ‘being nice’, ‘being liked’?
In my expression I would never speak my truth because I felt it could be perceived as not nice and people might not like me anymore – and I was craving for people to like me. I had this idea that nobody would want to hear my truth, so why make them feel uncomfortable? I felt special and loved because people always liked me and with all the different jobs I have had, I always left with a warm goodbye and I loved the fact that I would be missed.
I have taken pride in the fact that I have rarely had conflicts or arguments in my life and I felt that this was very special. If a situation got ugly I would hold back, not expressing what I actually wanted to say and I would start pleasing and/or pandering. As a family we were always great at hiding issues under the carpet and ignoring what was truly going on: I have played a glorious part in this.
At some point I had this crazy idea that I would find love abroad; so I started travelling, looking around for something, but in fact I was running away from the things I didn’t want to address and deal with. I have tried and done many things, but in the end I was still missing something.
What about Self-Love first?
So then… could it be that love has nothing to do with doing, helping or giving something, but that it all lies in my being and how I self-love…? Could it be that there is nowhere to go and nothing to search for, but that love is inside me and has been for all of my life…? Could it be that I AM love and I will always be, no matter what I do? I have to admit, it does feel quite new to me and at times, I can still feel insecure about it, as in – am I enough…? Shouldn’t I be doing something?
Over the last three years I have become aware that self-love has to do with me being all of me, no matter what. I have come to learn and I am still learning – big time – that love is about expressing my truth, regardless of how many boats I will rock. I have come to understand that love can be very firm and direct and that people might not like me for it. Ouch…
Self-love for me now is saying ‘no’ when my body says no; to really honour myself and the signals my body gives me. It’s a tough one for me, but I have also learned that I am in fact NOT responsible for the whole of Holland but only for myself, my choices, my life and how I live my life, in every single moment. Quite a bummer I can tell you, to realise that I don’t have to save anybody… Love has nothing to do with sympathy, doing good in the world, or being emotional.
Love starts with me, and how I self-love. It’s no longer about searching for love outside of myself. It’s about the relationship I have with myself and knowing that there is absolutely nothing outside of myself that will give me what I feel is missing. In fact, there is nothing to miss and if that feeling comes up, it means I have left myself and I only have to come back to me and the love that I am. From that place, I can be love and reflect love. I am and will be a forever student of love…
I am deeply inspired by the work of Universal Medicine, all the students and all those amazing people around me who reflect to me that I am enough, that I am love.
By Mariette Reineke, Amsterdam, Holland