A few weeks ago, I was struck by the most amazing thought that sunk into the very core of my being. I have had a warped understanding of self-love.
The negative voice in my head that has persisted since childhood finally began to unravel. It is no longer a matter of accepting the voice and shifting to a positive voice. Now I can accept that voice and understand it on the deepest level and let it go with ease.
No one is born with that negative voice. It is planted at an early age, often by the very people who most love and protect us. I know my mother loved me, yet she was often mean in words and deeds. Through the amazing transformational work of Debbie Ford, The Shadow Process and my training with The Ford Institute as an integrative coach, I learned that what my mother couldn’t love in herself, more to the point, what she hated and could NEVER be, she couldn’t stand in me.
The result of the “love” as expressed by the woman who gave me life has caused me to harbor this confused notion of “self-love”. If my mom loved me and she was often a bitch so that I would relent and do things HER way [I, of course, would then act out behind her back], that must be what love is! Sometimes nasty, sometimes nice and on rare occasion, kind. What a mix!
Despite all the “work” I’ve done to break the spell of negative self-talk and the amazing inroads I’ve made in healing my inner critic, it’s still there. After all, if my mother could love me and bitch at me… that must be MY job now! Tough love, right?
Back to my “ah-ha” moment. As I listened to part of an interview by Joe Donahue on WAMC Northeast Public Radio [interviewing Carrie Wilkens, PhD, co-author of Beyond Addiction: Science and Kindness Help People Change] I almost had to pull over as all the neurons in my brain went bonkers and my heart expanded to fill the car. I realized that the missing piece for me to heal my confused concept of self-love is kindness. Self-KIND-ness.
Let me clear something up before I go on. Let’s not confuse NICE with KIND. They are not equal. Nice is polite, sometimes coy, expecting some reward in return. When I am nice, I expect some acknowledgment or love in return. I don’t do it for you. I do it mostly for me. You’ll like me or even love me for being nice to you. Kind is respectful, honoring, that we are equal and worthy. I expect nothing in return. Kindness comes from a place of love, deep, heartfelt, not attached to your response. If I apply this to when I’m NICE to myself, having treats I don’t really want or need, I expect that I’ll experience this as love. WRONG. Doesn’t work for me. Also doesn’t work for me when I’m nasty and don’t allow myself pleasure or treats, withholding love and nurturing until I do something right to “deserve” it, to earn a reward.
I’ve been sitting with these thoughts and reflecting on the interview. If kindness [from a place of clean, clear boundaries and respect] rather than “tough love” [from a place of hyper-vigilant, bitchy boundaries and making wrong] is a positive influence on change for loved ones with addictions, this could work for me in every choice that I make! With this new tool I’m able to ask, “Is this an act of self-KIND-ness?” rather than “self-love” and avoid the rat hole of recrimination and harshness that has been my habit for way too long. I easily shift my behavior and feel loved from the one person that most needs to love me, ME!