Loving Your-SELF-esteem

Today I want to talk about love in relation to self-esteem. I know this is a run-off from the last post, but I really do believe that is important for pagans to both understand the craft and themselves.  Without an intimate understanding of ourselves, we miss out on growth opportunities. Without looking at our own past, we make the same mistakes. Without understanding the craft, we take the risk of harming ourselves or others (a big no no) and finally, without understanding the history of the craft, we are doomed to make the same mistakes as our predecessors.

First, I want to ask you two questions:

One, is there really such a thing as unconditional love?

Two, is there a right or good way to practice conditional love?

Love is the word of the day. It’s important to us all, but is there really such a thing as unconditional love or should we be using another word.  Every religion says something about love, from love thy neighbor to, technically, do no harm, which is love for your fellow man.   The idea is that either we should love ourselves or we should love our children unconditionally, but that’s a lot harder than it sounds.

So unconditional love was big in the sixties, but what is it really? Well it started in the post war era amidst an air of rigidity in our culture.  Unfortunately our society went too far and we became a society that showered love despite the consequences of negative actions.  Which begs the question: Does unconditional love exist?

The answer?  Theoretically yes, in working theory, no.  Yes, we love our children and should love ourselves no matter what, but the plain truth is that there are moments that we withdraw our love due to anger, frustration, sadness, or any other range of emotions. These are temporary situations, or at least they should be if you are a mature adult.  In reality, we constantly use love or its withholding to punish and reward the behaviors of others.

Think of it this way. Have you ever withheld sex from a partner because you were mad? You’ve shown conditional love. Have you ever refused to hold or talk to someone (your child or otherwise)? You’ve participated in conditional love. There are a million unintentional ways to do it, but many of us do, even temporarily, put conditions on our love. Some would call this a matter of semantics; I call it a harsh truth.

There are even those who claim that this has caused a moral deficit in our society (See Positive Pushing). I hate to admit it, but conditional love was a way that parents could control their children. Now, by conditional love, I’m not saying that we’re ignoring our children or others in our lives; I’m merely referring to those moments of extreme emotion in which we withdraw to either intentionally or unintentionally harm others in our lives. The restriction of sex is intentional, whereas saying something in haste and then kicking yourself for it later, often isn’t.

However, conditional love isn’t a walk in the park, or a perfect solution either.  There are conditions on love that are damaging. Some so serious that they could be considered abuse. The ever popular flavor since the eighties has been achievement, which caused self-esteem to be related to what we accomplished, instead of who we are as individuals.

This causes us to become disconnected from who we are, which is not a good thing for a pagan.  One of the many, for lack of a better term, doctrines, of paganism is to know, to dare, to will, and to keep silent. While we will discuss the meaning of this in a future post, I will explain one aspect of it. To know is not only to understand or to hold knowledge. It is also to know yourself. There are many who consider this a pillar of our faith.  Knowing ourselves is as important as understanding the components of a spell, or knowing our history.

The problem has never been unconditional love (as there really is no such thing), but the wrong conditions on love.  We should never use achievement as a condition for love because it teaches our children and those around us, that success and failure dictate the love they will receive.  No one in our lives should be afraid that their achievements will dictate our love from them.

For example, how many times have you heard of someone who feels that they have failed their family if they don’t keep this job or don’t maintain their family’s lifestyle?  Many of these people may be afraid that they love they receive from their family is conditional on the success of that endeavor, whether or not that is the reality.

On the other hand, to teach social morals, it is more acceptable to momentarily show conditional love when a child misbehaves.  There has to be that moment of realizing that they have done something wrong, or the feeling of momentarily losing love, to teach them that their actions are inappropriate.  This moment is one way in which society internalizes social norms.  Without this feeling of shame or fear of loss, we would never learn moral or social codes and rules.

How to Avoid Negative Conditional Love

1. Don’t get too involved in your achievements or the achievements of others. That isn’t the whole of any of us, just a part. This is particularly true in regards to our children; we never want them to feel that their achievement is what invokes our love. When we do this, we create a perception of conditional love, whether intentional or not. We should never withdraw emotional support, physical contact, and encouragement when someone faces failure. Instead we should encourage them to grow and try again.

2. Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Achievement is good, but it should not define our lives or how we perceive others. We have to give ourselves the same encouragement and love that we should be giving others when they fail. Failure is a part of life and a tool for growth. Use it.

3. Love yourself. This goes back to the last post. Now is the time to work on it. Do some soul searching and even seek professional help if you need to. You have to find satisfaction in what you do achieve. Don’t keep dangling the carrot.  No one is perfect. Not you. Not your lover. Not your child. No one is perfect.

4. Don’t be a human doing. Look at your self-esteem and make sure that is has connection to other parts of your life. Are you a good person? Not just how much have you achieved. This is a hard one in our society, which is so driven by achievement. I suffer with this one every day because the school I went to stressed success over nearly everything else. If you or someone you know is a human doing, you most likely have a list and your day is not complete or successful until you’ve checked off every single thing on it. With a human doing, failure is not acceptable and causes you great pain.

5. Unhealthy expectations. These can come from within yourself, as with a human doing, or from outside of yourself. This can harm our self-esteem or make us feel unloved. We have to realize that goals are not absolutes to be happy.  Expectations are the assumptions that something will be achieved and are sometimes not feasible. We have to evaluate our goals and make sure that they are reasonable, and possible. I’m not saying don’t reach for the stars, but realize that you may never touch the star itself.

Expectations are all or nothing.  While it is all right to hold yourself up to the expectation that you will be kind, considerate, responsible, hard working, etc., we can’t be too harsh on ourselves when we fail. On the other hand, it is unhealthy for me to expect that I will get so many thousands of hits on my blog today or that I will become rich. Those are nice aspirations, but we cannot expect them to happen. The point is to realize the difference between goals and expectations and then evaluate our own and to help others do the same.  If you want to learn more about unhealthy expectations, read Positive Pushing. It may be a parent’s book, but its spot on.

6. Accept the things that you cannot control. Yes, it’s an AA phrase, but it’s really true of anyone. There are things that we cannot control that drive us mad, but we still have to accept them. If we don’t, we take the risk of creating unrealistic expectations of ourselves or others.

7. Think about what your expectations, goals and conditions relate to in terms of your values and what is important to you. You might find that an expectation is not as important as a moral or standard you have for yourself as a human being.

Take a moment and think about what is important to you? Are you a human doing or a human being? Is achievement what you base your self-worth on or on what do you place that worth? Do you have unrealistic expectations?

Think about these things as you go about your day. Maybe you’ll find that some of the stress and distress you place on yourself and others is unnecessary.

Blessed Be.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow Lessons From the Goddess on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8 other followers

Keeper of the Home

Learn, Let Live, and Love. Blessed Be.

Posts – Wellness Mama®

Learn, Let Live, and Love. Blessed Be.

Go Green Blog - Sustainable Baby Steps

Learn, Let Live, and Love. Blessed Be.

%d bloggers like this: