Many many years ago, my then business partner, Wynne Miller, wrote her one (and to my knowledge) only song, and the lyrics seem very current and relevant as I ponder the subject of receiving love. Wynne wrote, "Love is there, if you can let it in. If you're bare enough to let it through your skin." And, "When it's there, we're afraid to let it touch us. We want to run and hide...Though we all need love as much, we fear it will be denied."
If all of us need love, and if love is truly the most important thing in life, why are we so hesitant or afraid to let love in? Author Kim Anami, in an article entitled, "How To Receive Love," suggests that we have a hard time letting love in because we don't feel worth of love. Our culture gives more negative feedback about what is wrong than positive feedback about what is right. Self-love is an important skill, yet some religions interpret self-love and self-care as selfish rather than healthy and essential. As a result, many of us develop guilt about taking care of ourselves and loving ourselves.
Yet, it is hard to have a loving relationship with another person if we don't first have a loving relationship with ourselves. If we are uncomfortable with parts of ourselves, then we are likely going to be uncomfortable with those parts of others. And if others seek to give us love and attention for or focus on the parts we are not comfortable with, we are likely to reject or deflect the energy and attention.
How can we give ourselves permission to develop our capacity for self-love, both as an end in itself and also so we can receive more love from others? Kim Anami suggests one key ingredient is to forgive ourselves. "We can carry guilt around like a penance, one that prevents us from fully receiving love and pleasure." Denial of love and pleasure is a form of self-punishment.
We need to give ourselves more permission to be human, and recognize that life is a journey of learning and growing. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has things to learn. Everyone has a bad day. Or a bad month. Or a bad year. Or a bad chapter. That does not make us bad.
There may be core parts of us that are essential to who we are that may be perceived as "different," that don't easily fit into the mainstream or mesh with society's images of who we "should" be. Yet our unique qualities may be our greatest gifts and our points of power. What is "different" or "unique" about us may be the very points of power that both allow us to make a positive difference in the world, and serve as pathways to self-expression and happiness.
Giving yourself permission to be authentic, to move, act, speak, express and make choices from who you truly are reinforces self-love. Learning to meditate and focus inward, helps us connect with that authentic self. Journal. Draw. Take a walk. Sing a song. Dance. Learn to follow your own natural rhythms. Define and embrace what you truly feel and believe. And let these things be the ground of your life, the ground of your being.
The more self-defined you are, and the more you validate your authentic self, gifts and foibles, the more space you have to love others and receive their love. When another person shines their love light in your direction, it will resonate with the light you already feel, rather than illuminate a dark shadow you would rather keep under wraps. And you will shine your love light on others too.