February – a month that, stereotypically, we turn towards greeting cards with red and pink hearts, roses, chocolates, and are inundated with commercials about diamond jewelry. Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and whether it’s something you relish or are repulsed by, it’s here in our western culture.
I tend to avoid writing about this topic, but this year some new insights flowed in. Many of my clients and students struggle with the feeling of being lovable. This time of year can be triggering, causing some to feel lonely and lacking in romance. Others are disgusted at the commercial aspects, the commodification of love. And many of us continue to explore what is love, and what is the nature of our lovableness?
Valentine’s Day causes us to ask – who loves me and who do I love? How can I get love, have my needs for it met? I want to feel special, noticed, attended to, romanced, made love to, nurtured, and cared for. Naturally, we all want to be loved.
Spiritually, the question – as you probably know – is to ask: who can I love? How can I love others more? What is Unconditional Love? But to be frank, most people aren’t thinking about that on Valentine’s Day. They’re looking at their love life either with hopefulness and gratitude, or wistful longing.
It is a very basic psychological and emotional need to be loved. Scientific studies have shown that primates do not thrive unless they are held, loved, and nurtured as infants. We humans are no exception and in fact clearly need love and attention. However, if we are to truly feel loved and lovable, we must find the source of what love and lovableness is, whether we’re in a relationship or not. And we must find the blocks within us to feeling lovable as we are.
M. Scott Peck, author of the classic personal growth book, The Road Less Travelled, describes love in as clear and honest a way as I have found:
“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”
Here, he asserts that love is not a feeling, happening to us, but rather an intention and an action that we choose. We often feel that love comes upon us passively; it is out of our control, given to us from another. But this is not correct. We experience the feeling that we call love because we have allowed ourselves to receive and experience it flowing through us. In essence, we open to and become love.
Those moments when we feel head over heels in love? When we receive a meaningful gift, a passionate kiss, a warm hug, an expression of appreciation or gratitude? Those are the result of releasing our inner blocks to the love that is there all the time, within us. We feel it within us, not outside of us.
By giving, we become the action of love. By receiving, we open to that love. By making ourselves vulnerable with someone we trust, we feel love. By offering an act of kindness, we become love in action.
When we see and feel love in this way, we come to understand that we have always been loved and lovable. It is the truth of who we are. We realize this when we release whatever is in the way of being that Love, the Love with a capital L that transcends the need to have someone to love or to love us, that transcends having a “reason” to love someone, that transcends whether we are “getting” what we want or not. This is Unconditional Love, the love without any conditions, reasons, or agendas.
Our task, then, is not to get the love we want, it’s to become that Love. When we are Love, there’s no question of whether we’re lovable or not. When someone is loving towards you, in a sincere and unconditional way, do you have any doubt that they are lovable? Don’t they just ooze lovableness by the fact that they are embodying what it is to be loving? We know we are lovable when we are loving towards others.
However, one of the blocks to becoming that Love is our difficulty with loving ourselves, yes? We have so many judgments about ourselves that it’s hard to let the love in from others. We have difficulty loving ourselves because those labels and judgments distort our self-image, making us unable to perceive the Love that is the source of Who We Are. Similarly, we hinder our ability to love others due to those same judgments and comparisons. Judgment and comparison create separation: between us and them, between the fragmented parts of ourselves, locking what we perceive as undesirable in the basement.
Love doesn’t judge or compare. Love embraces what is whole-heartedly, sees right through to the essence, accepts completely. Love doesn’t analyze. In contrast, Unconditional Love transcends thought. It is Being in the purest form, which gives rise to delight in All That Is.
Not so easy to transcend those thoughts, you say? It’s not as simple as thinking “I am lovable. I am Love.” Although that is helpful, we all know that plenty of other thoughts come in to the contrary.
Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith says that if we want to be beautiful, it’s not enough to say “I’m beautiful.” We must think beautiful thoughts, and then we become the essence of beauty. We focus our attention on all that is beautiful around us, appreciating the beauty of kindness, immersing in the majesty of snow-capped mountains. Filled with attention on beauty, we radiate with more beauty ourselves.
To feel and experience being lovable, our thoughts, words, and actions need to similarly be immersed in love. As Scott Peck asserts, this is love as a choice, an intent, an act of will that counteracts that which would impede it.
If we are either withdrawing from those we love, on the defense, or constantly demanding their attention, we are not letting love flow freely through us. We need to let go of our expectations, especially of perfection, and forgive ourselves and others. Our lovableness, though it is inherent in who we are, won’t be experienced unless we are attuned to Love by our thoughts, words, and actions. Otherwise, we see and experience more of whatever we think, speak, and do – and if that is judgment, it won’t be an experience of Love.
This Valentine’s Day, recognize the Love that is who you are. Acknowledge that, deep down, you are already loved and lovable. Then, do your best to attune yourself to the energy of Love. When you get down on yourself, what would you want someone who loved you to say? Practice thinking those thoughts. When you feel critical towards another, consider how you can be authentically more loving and accepting. If you see harm being done to another, how would Love guide you to help heal the situation? It will take some time to overcome the old thoughts and ways of being, but you can do it. You can become Love.