For most of my life I believed that love was something you had to earn. In order to be loved you had to work hard, behave, be generous (with time, money, energy), do the right thing even if it conflicted with your own wants and needs, sacrifice even if it hurt and give until you don’t have any more to give. I realize when I write it out that this sounds exhausting and not at all what love should be.
I’m still unsure where this notion came from. Did I learn this from my family, friends, the media or a combination of them all?
I was discussing love with a friend recently who shared a powerful insight. She said said, “Love isn’t earned, it’s freely given.” This was an ‘aha’ moment for me. I think on some subconscious level I always knew this to be the case, but my beliefs and actions were not at all aligned with this belief.
I was struck by the notion that my self-worth had gotten wrapped up in this warped belief of conditional love. When I had this jarring revelation recently, I became for the first time fully aware of how affected I’d been by this belief. For instance: any physical deficiency I had (real or imagined) I felt I had to overcompensate for in order to be liked and loved. Sad, I know, pathetic even. As a teenager and young adult I would get uncomfortable whenever someone showed me any affection. I can think of so many dates I went on where I got just plain freaked out if the person liked me and wanted to go out with me again. How could they be sure they liked me? They hadn’t even seen my flaws yet, what was wrong with them? In reality, nothing was wrong with them, and nothing was wrong with me other than my warped point of view. I wish I had been perceptive enough to realize how askew my thinking was at the time. I wonder sometimes what I might have missed out on because of my fears.
Thankfully I continue to learn more about myself every day and I’m so grateful to have had this revelation and to have found a way to allow myself to be truly and deeply loved.
After all, my husband didn’t marry me because he felt sorry for me and I don’t have caring friends because they pity me. Just as I married my husband because I love who he is, and I love my closest friends for who they are. There are no strings attached, no money needed, no conditions they have to adhere to. I love them freely and they love me back in return.
Love is sometimes easier to give than to receive, at least to those of us that are just figuring it out it’s for free.