Unconditional Love: A Parent’s Guide Part Five: Love Yourself to be Able to Love Your Children
"I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me, 'I love you.' ... There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt."
~ Maya Angelou
You can’t give something you don’t have! In order for any parent to be able to extend love unconditionally that parent must first love themselves. It is not possible for someone to love another fully without loving themselves. You can only really love your children if you love yourself.
At one of my recent talks on Unconditional Love, a mother told me that her young daughter had asked her “Mommy, who do you love the most – me or you?”. That mother had a difficult time answering her. She said “I love you to the moon and back, but if I didn’t love myself I wouldn’t be able to love you, so I love me just as much!”. That’s such a beautiful, but uncommon sentiment.
In order for me to learn to love myself I had to see myself not as the small self I thought I was – the self that thinks “I’m stupid”, “I’m an embarrassment”, “I’m a bad parent” or “I’m unlovable”, but I learned to see myself as Inherently Worthy. It is not logical to believe that we are Inherently Worthy while at the same time believing that we are essentially unlovable, stupid or that we don’t belong – all common beliefs. Those ideas are mutually exclusive. When we are able to absorb the truth of our Inherent Worth, our world view and parenting style shifts from fear to love.
This is a challenging idea, but the Choose Again Six-Step Process (described in last week’s blog), is a helpful tool that you can use to find and begin to heal negative beliefs. It uses every day upsets so that the familiar feelings you experience regularly can be linked to early childhood memories, which can then be examined to find the judgements that you made about yourself – these are your negative beliefs. The last step reminds you that these are not true and asks you to reaffirm the truth of your being – that you are Inherently Worthy and an integral part of the universe.
When I began to work to disable my negative beliefs, I noticed that I became much happier. My mood improved in such a way that I was even experiencing euphoria – a feeling completely unknown to me before and very welcome given that I had been on anti-depressants for years. I was quickly able to get off those meds and have not needed them since.
Here are a few reasons why being a happy parent actually helps a child:
My daughter was so relieved when I finally stopped being dragged down by her behavior– we were able to release our co-dependencies and she began to improve even before she chose to do her own work because of the results she had seen in me.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, if we don’t fix our negative beliefs, we’ll continue to have barriers to unconditional love. If I have a subconscious belief that I am not good enough, then I may need my child to excel for me by getting good grades or achieving in sports or other activities – that’s not loving. In fact, when my newborn daughter had her first bath, she enjoyed it so much that I had a fleeting image of her as an Olympic swimmer! That should have been a big red flag indicating troubled waters ahead and could have alerted me to the work I needed to do to reclaim my Inherent Worth. It’s not her job to make me look good!
How Can We Love our Children Unconditionally?
You have to love yourself before you can love your children. In order to do this, you must:
1) Own your Inherent Worth
Know without a shadow of a doubt that your worth is intrinsic – it doesn’t depend on what you do or don’t do – it just is!
2) Remove the barriers you have to unconditional love
Use the Choose Again Six-Step Process to find and fix your negative beliefs as described in Part Four. This will allow you to offer love in a way that it can be received – by knowing who you truly are and seeing the truth of who your children are.
And in order to help our children to receive our love:
3) Help your child to experience his/her Inherent Worth
In the last installment - Part Six, I will give some strategies for helping your child to discover his/her Inherent Worth in order to be able to receive fully the love that you give
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