Someone once asked me, “What makes you feel loved?”
I took a beat and started wondering to myself, what, in fact, did make me feel loved?
What is that feeling everyone is searching for, reading about, trying to put into action and words? Was love presents under the tree? Or is love presence? Is love the undivided attention of another? Or is it just something that defies words? Is it the opposite of hate? And the more powerful of the two?
The question gave me pause because I was not raised in the language of love. As a young girl I read a lot about love and I’m a sucker for a great love story played out in film, but what actually made me feel loved? Not feel good, not feel happy — but loved? It got me thinking.
[Mindful Listening: Learn to Communicate Without Words With Your Loved Ones]
There is no doubt that love is a powerful emotion. It can come to you in words and in actions. At this time of year when we are all surrounded by stories of violence, terror and fear it’s important, I think, to take a moment and focus on the Power of Love.
Love of another. Love of a child. Love of friends and family.
Love is the antidote to the hate we hear so much about. Love isn’t weak it’s incredibly strong. It requires great strength to love. Love is what our world needs now more than ever. Love is also what we each need.
This week millions of people will be rushing around buying presents to express their love. I admit I love a good present and I love giving presents as well, but deep love doesn’t come in a box. It comes from a feeling deep in your soul.
[Finding Joy In Discovering Who You Want to Be]
Back when that question was posed to me I realize now that my answer at the time was a lot about being dependent on someone else to make me feel loved. Over time I have come to understand and to realize that the love one has for one’s self is actually the source of one’s power.
I didn’t grow up being taught the message to love myself. I grew up being taught the message: Go out and change the world. Do something to make the world better. I do believe that we can all do something to make the world better and I try to do my part as best I can, but I’ve also come to know deep in my heart that you will come up empty if you are only focused on the world without first loving and valuing yourself.
The world will never love you the way you can love you.
Fame can never fill the hole inside you, nor will money, a gift or another person. There is tremendous power in the love you have for yourself. I have come to learn that loving yourself, caring for yourself, nurturing yourself is not selfish, it’s kind, it’s healthy, it’s compassionate, it’s nurturing and above all, its healing.
[5 Ideas for Holiday Presents from Women Entrepreneurs: A Gift Guide]
Loving yourself calms your anxiety, calms your fears. If you love and value yourself, you won’t tolerate people who don’t do the same. If you love and value yourself, you won’t look to another for your worth. If you build a foundation of love within yourself, that love can actually change the world.
The truth is, I would never have written this had my parents been alive. I know they both loved me dearly and I loved them deeply, but my mother, a tough advocate for social justice, would have thought that talk of loving one’s self was weak, needy or selfish. In fact, I remember sitting with both of my parents one day telling them about a friend who had just bought himself a loft and that he’d described his life in his first apartment like “being on a honeymoon with himself.”
I remarked to my parents how sweet that was. Before I could finish my story both my parents were all over me. “Who was this friend?” they asked. “What a ridiculous thing to say,” they said. “What kind of person would say such a thing?” they wondered out loud. “He must be so selfish,” they reasoned.
Needless to say I have never told this story again until now, and I do wish I could repeat that moment with them. I’d love to ask them, what makes them feel loved. I’d love to ask them whether anybody talked to them about loving themselves. Because I do think the feeling of being in sync with yourself can make your heart feel full. And it can give you the foundation and strength you need to walk out into this rapidly-changing world that at times can feel pretty scary and brutal.
[Watch Maria in an Architect of Change Conversation with author Katherine Woodward Thomas]
This holiday season, I want my children to know that they are deeply loved, but I also want them to know it’s important for them to love, value and care for themselves as well, because what the world really needs is more people who go out into it from a place of abundance and not scarcity, who go out into the world with self-esteem as opposed to looking for the world to externally validate them. I know, because I’ve done both.
If you truly understood what loving yourself felt like and meant, if you truly understood the power of that act, you would want to share that with the world and you would see firsthand how healing that message is.
So this holiday I hope you spend some time nurturing, caring and being kind to you. If you want to envision it as a honeymoon with yourself, even for a moment, go for it. If you know what love feels like, you can give it to someone else with strength and conviction. It doesn’t cost a dime. Love is free and it’s the most precious gift in the world.
I hope this holiday you feel loved and I hope you give the gift of love to family and to friends with your time and your presence. There is nothing more priceless, nothing more powerful.
[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays here]
PS: I love myself enough to give myself a digital detox. So I’m going to take a break from our Sunday Paper for the Soul so that I can focus my love on my family this holiday. See you next year.