Every Word Matters: Love

We named our daughter Love because I firmly believe that there is nothing on earth that is more powerful than love. Love is powerful because of its strength to bind us together, and it is just as powerful because of its vulnerability as it guides us to be more open and honest with one another and with ourselves. The name Love felt like the perfect fit for our baby girl, who we hope grows up to be powerful both in strength and in vulnerability and absolutely overflowing with love. Needless to say, this is one of my favorite words.

Love is the most valuable commodity on the planet, and the world is thirsty for more of it. We crave it. We need it. It keeps us alive and nourished. Love is not just a grand feeling of affection that fills you up — although it absolutely is that. It’s also a choice and a sacrifice, a noun and a verb. Love is the most valuable gift that you can give, because loving someone consistently day in and day out is a decision that you make. It’s an action. Love can be small, intimate acts as well as big, sweeping gestures. It requires patience when you feel anything but calm, kindness when you would rather be cutting, giving grace and forgiveness when you could easily stay angry and resentful. Choosing love makes your life fuller, richer, and deeper, even on the worst days.

When you choose love as your word to focus on, you are making a commitment to loving others and yourself, both in feeling and in action.

Imagine if we could actually see love as we walked through the world each day — a warm pink glow surrounding everyone and everything, brighter and bigger around those who love them- selves and others with abandon, and smaller and duller around others who hoard their love, afraid they will be hurt if they give it away.
When this is your word, you are choosing to see the world through love-colored glasses, to grow your own aura of love as big and bright as it can be, and to share it without question with those with the smallest glow. Are you ready?

All you need is love. Love is all you need. — John Lennon and Paul McCartney

LET LOVE IN

Love can feel like a dangerous word to some people. If you’ve never felt loved or have too often felt the pain of losing love, you may have closed your heart to it. You don’t want to feel the sting of heartbreak, so you don’t let love in. You like people well enough; you enjoy spending time with them, but you aren’t willing to be vulnerable and take a chance on loving people and letting them love you in return. That’s a really lonely way to go through life. If you are feeling this way, then love is a great word for you to choose.

We all need love. We need it as much as air or water or food. There is no way to live a full, powerful, wild, wonderful life without love. We can’t put down roots, grow, and blossom without the nourishment that love provides. A life without love is stunted, small, and so much less than it should be. I don’t want that for you! I want us all to be living big lives brimming with love. Don’t you?

START WITH YOU

The love that so many of us lack is a love for ourselves. When we look in the mirror, we often see only our flaws, our scars, and all the ways we aren’t enough instead of seeing all the ways we are beautiful, strong, inspiring, capable, and magical.

Close your eyes and think about yourself. Think about what you’re good at, your dreams, your habits, your thoughts. How do you feel about yourself? Warm and fuzzy? Lukewarm? Cold and ashamed? Do the same with your story. Think about your journey, your choices, where you are now, and where you want to be. How do you feel about the story you’re telling yourself? Now think about the people in your life. How do you feel about your friends, family, romantic partner, colleagues, and people in general? If you are feeling anything less than warm, fuzzy, and empathetic about any of these things, it’s definitely time to inject more love for yourself into your life.

I want you to write down everything about yourself, your story, and your relationships that leaves you feeling cold when you think about them. Why do you think each of those things feels so devoid of love? Is it because of fear? Shame? Pain? Whatever the reason, this is the time for you to explore those thoughts and how they impact your story.

I struggled for years to really love myself because of shame I carried around about my body. Years of working in entertainment, where every casting agent, director, agent, and producer feels free to make comments about all the ways you could be sexier and more appealing, coupled with feeling different because my body didn’t look how I thought it should (aka like everyone else’s!), left me with very little love for myself. I finally hit a point when I was exhausted from carrying that much shame, disgust, and pain around with me. I wanted to love myself, but I didn’t know how.

I started with being intentional. When I had the idea for Love Your Flawz, it was because I desperately needed to address my insecurities and find a way to love them. I took the time to figure out where the pain and shame were coming from, and then I began the difficult work of forgiving myself for the choices I’d made, the feelings I’d had, and all the ways I’d let myself down because of it. I also made a choice to forgive all of the people whose opinions and comments had painfully contributed to my feelings (sometimes it’s not a feeling, it’s a choice… but the feelings tend to follow), and I forgave myself for believing them. I replaced those toxic beliefs with new, lovely, custom-made ones I wrote myself. I came out the other side so much lighter. All of those loveless feelings had been taking up too much space. As I let them go, floating away like a feather, I found so much room left for that potent, tangible love for myself and for others.

DON’T HOLD BACK

I want you to do the same thing. Identify what has been holding you back from loving yourself, and then begin to inspect it, question it, and forgive it. I’m not suggesting you call up the ex who made you believe horrible things about yourself and tell him you forgive him. No, this forgiveness is for you. This is looking at a belief you were given by someone else, deciding it no longer belongs in your story, replacing it with a new belief motivated by love, and then letting the old one go like dust in the wind. Self-love, at its core, is holding that tension between knowing you were created with unique imperfections, and also coming to accept that you are in charge of your story, that you can write it to be anything you want, and then choosing to write something beautiful. It’s embracing you as you are, while forgiving the past and leaving room for you to grow and change in the future.

You may be able to do this on your own, or you may need help—I know I did! Talking with a therapist or counselor can be so beneficial as you do this work. Helping others achieve self-love and good mental health is a therapist’s life work, her passion and purpose. Don’t hold back from seeking that help. There are no awards in life for healing your wounds all by yourself.

LOVE IN ACTION

Learning to love ourselves and give ourselves grace will allow us to love others in their perfectly imperfect humanity. Even if your social circle is small, your impact on others in the world doesn’t have to be. Think of everyone you interact with every day, from your partner to your coworkers to the barista at your favorite coffee shop to the produce manager at the grocery store. It can be all too easy to float through life and forget how our interactions can make or ruin someone else’s day. We’re all awfully fragile, if you think about it.

We all need one another, and our actions and words affect one another deeply. We all need to be reminded of grace, to forgive ourselves and others. It’s the only way we can have loving, healthy relationships. Let’s all soften our hearts toward one another, and try to remember that everyone is fighting their own battles. When you treat others with love and empathy, they notice and feel that energy and impact. Some people are even starved for it. Your love helps nourish their souls so they can nourish others in turn. Think how many loving chain reactions you could start by freely pouring out love to everyone you come into contact with!

Loving and serving go hand in hand, because serving others is really the physical manifestation of the feeling. It’s love in action. Whether you are serving your family, your friends, or your community, you are demonstrating love each time you do something for someone else without expecting anything in return. And — bonus! — when you serve others, the love in your own heart grows and multiplies. (That is, if your motives are clean and you’re not over-giving out of an empty tank.) When it comes from a pure heart, for the sake of love itself and not for an ulterior motive, seeing how our service helps others can give us a love high. That’s why it’s important to fill up our tanks with self-care and self-love first, because as they say, you need to put on your oxygen mask first before you can put on anyone else’s. Experiment with this one. Whether you’ve mastered self-love or not, you can be tired and grouchy when you walk through the door, but choosing to serve someone else will oftentimes help some of your dreary feelings drop away, and love will rush in to take their place.

There is no straight line to Goodness, to Love, or to God. And thank God, Grace is always retroactive. ~ Richard Rohr

Just as a reminder, serving others doesn’t have to be onerous or difficult. Here are a few ideas for ways you can serve:

    • Start with something you already love doing. Ask yourself how
      you can use that thing to serve someone else.
    • If you love cooking, take yourself down to the local soup kitchen and get to work!
    • If you love reading, volunteer to read at your local nursing home.
    • If you love knitting, why not knit scarves and donate them to an organization that could use them?
    • If you love shopping, why not offer to go grocery shopping for your elderly neighbor or for a friend who just had a baby?

There is no act of service too small. If you serve even one person, you are making a rosy pink mark for love. Over time, those little love marks add up to paint a more beautiful, loving world. Let’s all keep working until those love-colored glasses show the truth — a world where everyone is wrapped up safely in love!

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WAYS TO BOOST SELF-LOVE

  • Make you a priority and do things that nurture you, make you stronger, and make you proud of who you are and how you live your life. If you don’t feel the love for yourself yet, start acting like you do.
  • Serve others with a generous heart. Serving others who are either strong or struggling will help you find a new perspective on your feelings about yourself.
  • See a therapist or a counselor. Talking through your issues can help you get to the root of why you struggle to love yourself. Tip: Don’t get stuck on the why. You can take time to explore and to understand, but then fight through those issues to move on and get to the solutions and resolutions.
  • Remind yourself that you are not alone in your feelings. There is a reason so many books and songs have been written about this topic. Everyone struggles with love!
  • When people pay you a compliment or say they love you, don’t look for reasons why they weren’t sincere. Let their words sink in and believe them.
  • Ask your people why they love you. Jot down their answers, and carry them with you. When you are feeling unlovable, pull them out to remind yourself of why you are lovable!

Excerpted with permission from Every Word Matters by Caitlin Crosby, copyright Caitlin Crosby Benward.

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Your Turn

I want to leave you with questions to journal about, discuss with a trusted friend, or reflect on. These are the same questions I ask myself when I am thirsty for love.

What does the word love mean to you? When do you feel the most loved? Why? How can you make someone else feel loved in the same way? In what ways can you open up more love in your life?

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