Pay attention to the words you just read. Effort. Find. Search. Work. Wrong. Do they seem very “Valentine-ish” to you? Do they fill your heart with peace, joy, and fulfillment? If your answer is no, Kathleen McIntire says that what you’re thinking of as love really isn’t love at all.
“As a culture, we fervently believe that love—and by extension, our ultimate happiness—can be found only outside of ourselves,” points out McIntire, author and creator of Guiding Signs 101 (Soaring in Light, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-615-46500-5, $19.95), a set of powerful yet fun road sign-inspired “wisdom cards” that come with a guidebook that explains the meaning of each. “Around Valentine’s Day especially, we seem to believe that love can best be found in the form of a romantic partner, but that’s just one manifestation of our need to strive for something outside of ourselves.”
McIntire explains that other manifestations of this compulsion to seek external fulfillment include the belief that we must live at the right address….or work at the right job…or wear the right dress size.
“The problem is, none of these things—from romantic partners to full bank accounts—have the power to bring us lasting joy,” she says. “Here’s the bottom line: Love, real love, is an inside job. I truly believe that we all hold the key to our own deepest happiness and to unconditional love.
“You don’t need to find anyone or do anything or get any better than you are right now,” she adds. “Single, married, divorced, straight, gay, whatever, you’re perfect the way you are right this minute. In other words, acceptance is love—simply being okay with what is!”
As February 14th approaches, there’s no better time to develop a loving relationship with yourself. Read on for six benefits McIntire says you’ll reap:
• You’ll be happier. Many of our actions and decisions are motivated by what we think we should do or by what others tell us we’re supposed to do. However, any time you listen to what others say is right for you without consulting your own desires and needs, you honor outsiders over your own inner wisdom. Of course you’ll experience feelings of dissatisfaction and resistance! When you love yourself, though, you’ll instinctively prioritize an authentic life that fulfills you and causes you to grow and glow. It is this field of positive energy that will attract happy people into your life. What a relief to finally stop pleasing others or conform to expectations, and simply be.
• You’ll be healthier. Many of our health problems stem from negative thinking, poor attitudes, and even self-loathing. In order to obtain a few fleeting moments of satisfaction and fulfillment, we eat too much, drink too much, and invest our time in unhealthy relationships. And in order to create “successful” lives, we subject ourselves to too much stress and anxiety. When we learn to love ourselves, though, we naturally want to nourish our bodies and spirits.
• You’ll feel more confident. When you don’t hold yourself in high esteem, neither will other people. And when others treat you as unimportant and disposable, you’ll feel even worse about yourself. (Plus, trying to constantly please other people is anxiety-provoking and exhausting since this behavior comes from a place of fear, not love.) It’s a vicious cycle that can be broken only when you see yourself as a worthy, valuable, and important human being, just as you are. When you view yourself with this kind of love and respect, people will be drawn to you and will want to work with you rather than against you.
• You’ll be a better partner. When you are confident and content being who you are, you’ll not only be more likely to attract someone who complements, challenges, and fulfills you, you’ll also be better equipped to love him or her. After all, you’ll be happier and more fun to be around. You won’t be needy or risk co-dependency. And because you respect yourself, you’ll naturally create the boundaries that keep you from becoming a martyr or doormat.
• Your relationships will improve. Developing a loving relationship with yourself won’t just impact your romantic relationships. All of your relationships improve: with your kids, friends, coworkers, and more. That’s partly because you won’t be allowing others’ opinions to determine your self-worth, and partly because you’ll be drawn more strongly to people with whom you can cultivate meaningful, nourishing relationships. And conversely, they will be drawn to you, too!
• Your life will flow more smoothly. When you are an authentic, self-confident person with an inner wellspring of love upon which to draw, you’ll attract more positive opportunities into your life. You’ll no longer set up roadblocks with defeatist thinking, and you’ll have an increased desire to share your talents and strengths.
“When I advocate looking inside yourself for love and happiness, I’m not trying to imply that we don’t need other people in our lives; in fact, authentic relationships can enhance our happiness and challenge us in all the right ways,” McIntire clarifies. “But the fact is, you’ll never be able to develop those relationships, romantic or otherwise, if you don’t learn to love yourself first. In a very real way, finding the love you’re looking for is first and foremost an inside job.”
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