Love: Unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another (Merriam-webster.com)
How do I even begin to write on this ginormous topic that is the essence of my very being and purpose in life? I’m a crazy, quirky, passionate “Love Girl,” that is for sure! I always sign my name with a heart, am an avid collector of heart-shaped rocks, wear shirts with love phrases on them, am a sucker for (and believe in) great love stories, and I wear my heart on my sleeve! However, aside from my affinity for all things heart-shaped and love-related accoutrement, I do take this love thing pretty seriously.
So seriously in fact, that my first (numerous!) attempts at writing a post on this topic just weren’t working – my writing felt disjointed, incongruent with my spirit, and reminded me of a half-assed grad school paper written under too much pressure with too much caffeine. Regardless, my writing on love just wasn’t coming together neatly (hmmm, how funny and appropriate for love, right?) So, I did what I needed to do, (and sometimes we need to do the same thing with love), I decided to start over.
Being a “Helper”
One of my highest aspirations is to make people in my life feel loved, cared for and important. I am a Helper (a “Two”) on the Enneagram (if you aren’t familiar with this personality assessment tool, I strongly encourage you to check it out – www.enneagraminstitute.com). Helpers or “Twos” are “a feeling-based type with a focus on relationship. They excel at making connections and empathizing with the needs and feelings of other people. They are warm-hearted, friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing.” Sounds pretty wonderful, right? Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by the love of a Helper?
Well, the not so fun part about being wired this way is that “Helpers” can be over-focused on others’ needs so much that they have trouble expressing or honoring their own. I (and my fellow Helpers) naturally want (and sometimes expect!) the same kind of care and love in return. Additionally, Helpers often believe they must always put others first and be loving and unselfish in order to receive love. There’s nothing overly wonderful about that! And whether you are a Helper or not, none of us needs to DO anything to be worthy of receiving love.
Here’s an example. Years ago, I used to hand-make all of my Valentines. I loved this annual tradition and would put so much love, joy and effort into making them. As I stuffed my mailbox with red, pink, and heart-adorned love notes, I would envision the surprised looks on the recipient’s faces, and I would feel so warm and happy inside! And yes, a tiny (really? there I go minimizing my needs again), ok, a big part of me would secretly wish for someone to do something special like that for me, and surprise me with a Valentine! When it didn’t happen (and usually it didn’t), I then sometimes felt that I must not be worth the effort to someone else, and therefore, also unloved (For the record, I have received Valentines in the past, so I apologize for generalizing and making this sound a bit dramatic!). I’m merely trying to better explain the sometimes-unhelpful ways a Helper’s (i.e. MY) brain functions. In reality, this isn’t about the number of Valentines or love messages I receive at all, this is much more about being known, seen, and understood – all of which translate to many of us feeling loved.
Valentine’s Day ~ Schmalentine’s Day
So, yes, I’ve historically been a pretty big fan of Valentine’s Day. Not the commercial aspects, but rather, just a day to celebrate LOVE — a day to show those that you love that you do. A day I can be louder about love than I normally am (which can be obnoxious at times!) But this Valentine’s Day I’m not experiencing the same level of love and excitement, and I want to be honest about that here. Many of my relationships feel “off,” and I’m trying to do some self-exploration around this. Some family relationships are struggling, some friendships are struggling and frankly, I am struggling. When things are “off” with the people I love, everything in my spirit feels off.
I’m wondering if part of this relationship angst is because I’m trying to take better care of myself and my own needs (not a natural or easy thing for Helpers, but necessary for good mental health!). Perhaps this is feeling uncomfortable for people close to me that are used to me generally putting their needs first, acquiescing and compromising my own needs too often. Let me tell you – it makes ME uncomfortable too. But I’ve realized that I’d rather be a Helper from a healthy place, which is my truest place, and it’s going to be ok if not everyone likes it, or me. Because I’m confident that the people that really do care for and love me will honor, respect and support what I need.
Speaking Your Truth
A lovely realization came over me as I started re-writing on this love topic for what felt like the 100th time. I discovered that I was trying to write about happy love stuff, but inside I wasn’t feeling happy love stuff at all. I really wanted to write about feel-good, lovely love, but love just isn’t always that way. In fact, most of the time, it’s probably not. Isn’t true and honest love NOT putting on a happy face if you’re not feeling it? Isn’t it about speaking your truth, sharing your needs and hoping and praying you have people in your life that will meet you in that place? Isn’t it about staying when you want to leave, loving when you want to hate, having the tough conversations that need to be had, and offering grace and forgiveness to accommodate one another’s imperfections?
So this Valentine’s Day – and every other day of the year for that matter – whether your heart is full, empty, happy, broken, giddy, hurt, grateful, sad, at peace, worried, or any combination of those; will you take a deep breath, rise up, and join me in a love challenge?
- Please soften your heart and find room for forgiveness if it’s needed.
- Please be honest with yourself and your loved ones about what you need in your relationships and communicate them.
- Please don’t shut people out, even if you’re hurt. Be courageous and have the tough conversations.
- Please treat people kindly, gently and with love. We all deserve this. And we are all worthy of being loved.
- And lastly, PLEASE let those people that you love know that you love them – regularly, not just today.
Being a “Love Girl,” a “Helper” a “Two” or just me has a lot of pluses and minuses. The more you love, the more you are susceptible to getting hurt or disappointed. But I’m going to continue to land in the place of being true to me and loving with all I have. Honestly, I don’t know any other way.