I read my 7,326th inspirational quote on social media today. It was asking you to keep looking for yourself; to love yourself and to know your worth before looking for anyone else in life. “Oh, that’s ni…” my Avoidant Voice hastily interrupted my thoughts and chimed in with, “But if you don’t know how to love yourself…nobody else will know how to love you, either.”
My Analytical Voice Took Over with This Analogy:
You walk into a dining establishment and approach the counter. The employee greets you with a cheerful, “What can we make for you today? What sets your taste-buds on fire?” You feel a waive of quiet embarrassment because you’ve never had chef-made food (love without stipulations) before and you realize you don’t know where to begin. With a nervous smile you answer, “Oh, I don’t know. Surprise me!” Minutes later you sit down and your mystery lunch is brought out to your table.
You take a big bite because you’re excited and hungry. Your mouth is, at once, met with a bitterness you’re unable to describe. Initially, you recoil as you cough and reach for a drink to wash down your disgust. But because you have NO IDEA what good food (healthy Love) looks like, or how delicious it should taste, or how comforting it feels as it fills you up from the inside out, you keep eating.
A few bites in and you’re now glaring around at employees and thinking to yourself, ‘Why did they serve this to me? What is wrong with this place?’ Unable to swallow another bite, you cover your food and signal for assistance. As staff arrive you ask, “What, exactly, is this? What did you make me eat here?” The staffer points back to the menu and asks you to read the very first statement at the top of the listings. In unison, you both mumble, “You Get What You Came For!” And he reminds you that you came in today without any specifics for your order.
He informs you that when a customer comes in with no preferences, employees are instructed to use the cheapest ingredients on hand. And that most of those ingredients are items that are spoiled, misshapen, mishandled and kept in filthy containers (broken people). He reveals that some items even come without any labeling and, therefore, cannot be verified as actual food (con-artists)! “You wouldn’t believe how much mystery we sell here!” he boasts. “You also wouldn’t believe how many people order this over and over again.” He continued, “Now, had you been more specific, or better yet, new EXACTLY what you wanted, I would’ve taken you to our upstairs establishment! Only the finest ingredients up there. Farm-to-Table. Organic. And the chef personally calls every customer to ask about their dining experience (Unconditional Love).” You’re gobsmacked. And ask how you, too, can find your next seat, and better meal, at this preferred spot. The employee sits with you for the next few hours and shares everything he knows.
This is what it’s like to navigate romantic relationships, work relationships and even some friendships when you, yourself, were raised in a broken, loveless, joyless environment. You end up eating crap, taking crap and/or putting up with too much crap and learning life the very hard way-if you get to learn anything at all. So if you don’t know how to love yourself, treat yourself with respect and keep healthy boundaries, how the hell is anyone else supposed to know how to do so as well? Learning new Love boundaries takes WORK! Reading, engaging in therapy (if you can afford it), talking with people who’s personal and professional relationships you admire. Educating yourself and then putting that new knowledge into practice! It is NOT a cake walk. Some days you will feel confused; like you’re pretending to be someone you’re not. But keep going! I mean, unless you want to continue to have spoiled scraps for the rest of your life. You get what you came for. You get what you demand for yourself. You get what you KNOW makes you happy and fulfilled.
So…what is that, exactly?