When Love Doesn’t Feel Like It

I know we just wrapped up Valentine’s Day. But the holiday really does get me thinking about love. And this year I thought a lot about loving ourselves. I know that sound cheezy but please keep reading. I actually think learning excellent self-love takes a lot of work. And I also think it can be quite confusing because really loving ourselves sometimes means doing things that might not feel great in the moment. Sometimes, love just doesn’t feel like it!
I think children are the best example of what I hope to describe. Think about the kind of melting down and tantrum throwing that happens when they are over-tired. Clearly, what they need most in that moment is sleep. But when Mom or Dad initiate the bed time ritual, most kids don’t acquiesce by saying “you’re right, I’m throwing these crazy tantrums because I’m over tired, it’s probably for the best that I head to bed now.” No! They kick and scream in the hopes of staying up later.

As adults, we often revert back to our child-like selves. We say yes to things we really ought to be saying no to. And say no when what we truly mean is yes! Here are some examples that might sound familiar:

  • I’m not hungry but I need a break from this project. Time for a cookie!
  • I’m starving but according to my diet I don’t have any more points left so I guess I won’t eat.
  • I’m exhausted and sleep-deprived but don’t have time for more sleep, I’ll just have an extra snack to boost my energy levels.
  • My neighbor asked me for help on this fundraiser and I agreed even though I’m already feeling overwhelmed with my PTA commitment.
  • I really love going out for a walk and getting some fresh air but find myself distracted on Facebook every evening instead.

Hey, it happens! As Tara Brach puts it, it’s easy to fall victim to “false refuges” such as overeating, compulsive shopping, or drinking too much. ”..They only provide temporary relief. Because [the relief] doesn’t last, we have to do these things again and again. Not only that, most of us end up feeling bad about ourselves for taking false refuge, so we end up getting a secondary layer of shame added to it.”

But as adults, part of REALLY taking care of ourselves is refining our ability to find “true refuge.” I believe that requires learning to say yes or no when we need to most…and then sitting with the discomfort that might follow. If you’re not used to identifying and meeting your true needs this may feel tough and uncomfortable at first. But I promise that it starts to feel really empowering! Not only do you feel better because your actual needs are getting met but you also don’t have to deal with the residual feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment that comes up when you hide in your “false refuge.”
Have you had an experience about self-love you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it!