Top 5: Ways to find, form and foster unconditional love in your life

This post goes out to Jane, whose struggle – and courage – inspired me to write it.

Unconditional love is the holy grail of human existence. We all long to belong.

When we buy pretty trinkets, we’re trying to prove to ourselves that we are appreciated. When we buy status symbols, we’re trying to prove to others that we are valued. When we seek meaning in religion and spirituality; hurl ourselves into unsuitable relationships; behave in destructive, obsessive ways, or are overcome by addictions – we are desperately flailing to drown out the thunderous roar of our self-hatred. To be forgiven for our failings, and loved despite them.

We’re eating, drinking, snorting, shagging and shopping ourselves senseless in a vain attempt to find acceptance, thereby validating our own self-worth.

It’s like filling up on week’s worth of calorie-laden snack foods and then finding yourself hungry an hour after the euphoric sugar-coma wears off. We awaken from our destructive self-indulgence feeling guilty, ashamed and unfulfilled.

So, if unconditional love is what we’re all searching for, where do we find it?

1. Relationships
Seeking unconditional love from those who mean the most to us (family, friends, lovers) seems obvious, but can be littered with pitfalls when relationships turn sour, or when our identity becomes so intertwined with how others see us, that we lose our sense-of-self.

When it works:

  • when our life is filled with meaningful connections with a broad range of people (both similar to and different from) ourselves
  • when our loved ones nurture and nourish our growth and well-being outside of what we mean to them
  • when we have a strong sense of independence

When it doesn’t:

  • when we become co-dependent (seeking others to ‘complete’ us)
  • when relationships turn toxic, manipulative or abusive
  • when we have a disagreement with (or grow apart from) our loved-ones

2. At work
We often look to those in authority in our life for unconditional, unwavering support and loyalty. seems obvious, but can be littered with pitfalls when relationships turn sour, or when our identity becomes so intertwined with how others see us, that we lose our sense-of-self.

When it works:

  • when we recognise that we can derive satisfaction from our work without it defining us
  • when we acknowledge that each project and role is a transient experience from which we learn, grow and move on
  • when we engage with the risk that not every project, colleague or experience in the workplace will be as we’d like it

When it doesn’t:

  • when we entwine our sense of self in our choice of career (this is of particular risk to professionals “ I AM a doctor/lawyer/police officer/teacher”). Long after your current role has come and gone, you can still have a successful career in your chosen field (or a related field, or a completely new field!) without it compromising who you ARE
  • when we are over-looked for promotion, become retrenched, or face disciplinary action
  • when we are disappointed by (or disengaged from) our current role or environment

3. At play
Our recreational time is a precious commodity that is all-too-soon consumed by errands, chores and commitments.

When it works:

  • we we are able to balance household, family and social obligations with finding adequate time for enjoyable and nourishing activities for ourselves

When it doesn’t:

  • when we allow ourselves to become so overcommitted that play becomes work, as we struggle to fulfil our burdensome schedule

4. In spirit
Whatever our individual belief system, having a positive spiritual life can immensely enrich our life experience, increase resilience and expand our capacity to forgive and to love.

When it works:

  • when we abandon ourselves to experiencing the full richness of life’s ups and downs
  • when we recognise that having faith is about love and trust
  • when we allow our faith to flow through us and into the world as an expression of God’s love and compassion

When it doesn’t:

  • when we use faith as an excuse not to take personal responsibility for our actions
  • when we look to God to solve all our problems
  • when we allow small-minded, cold-hearted people to use religious dogma as a weapon of discrimination or oppression

5. Within
Seeking unconditional love from within ourselves can be a wondrously transformational experience. The source is infinite, no-one can take it away from us and how we feel about ourselves impacts on everything we do. Often though, seeking external validation seems much easier (albeit more transient and hazardous) than putting in the hard-work required to truly love ourselves. It’s not easy to stop self-flagellating and permit yourself to let go of past hurts, mistakes and disappointments, but the rewards are tremendous.

When it works:

  • when we truly learn to hold ourselves with compassion, and appreciate our mistakes as processes of learning and growth
  • when we acknowledge our disappointments as opportunities that helped direct us down the path that was right for us, when it wasn’t what we wanted at the time
  • when we recognise the power that our thoughts have to influence the shape of our life experience

When it doesn’t:

  • when we become mired in issues from the past
  • when we become paralysed by fear and insecurity
  • when we refuse to let go and move forward

How to foster unconditional love in your life:

  • Be nurtured. Every day we make a choice about how to spend the limited resources in out life. We decide how to spend our time, money, attention and energy. Be sure not to give away too much of yourself to negative interactions and draining obligations. Set aside a little time to nurture yourself. It doesn’t have to be much. There are 168 hours in a week. Take 1 of them out to do something you LOVE to do. Read, write letters, take a sewing/coking/yoga class, go for a run. Whatever you do, make sure that each week, you have something that you’re really looking forward to. Grow. Flourish. Dare to enjoy life.
  • Be upbeat. Eleanor Roosevelt taught us that no one can make us feel inferior without our consent. Do not allowing negative people any space in your life. Negative people drain you of energy and optimism, and hamper your ability to create and enjoy your own life. Respect yourself enough to only surround yourself with loving, generous, support, happy people. After all, birds of a feather right?
  • Be still. Before we can love ourselves, we must know ourselves. Make time in your life to take time out from your life. Reflect. Heal. Let go. Allow the beauty and simplicity of quiet meditation (or walking, or a long, hot bath) to work it’s restorative magic on your soul. When the mindless chatter in your brain starts to intrude on your serenity, gently return to the task of calming the storm in your spirit by chanting a mantra. (I find the word “love” works wonders.) It won’t be long before you feel rejuvenated and much more resilient and able to cope with the complexity and competing demands of your life.
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About Lyn Campbell

Lyn likes to be thought of as insightful, articulate and achingly clever, but she's just a bit of a nerd, really. _____________________________________________________ All written content copyright © Lyn Campbell 2008-2012. All rights reserved. No written content may be used, in part or in full, without the author's express written permission. (Pictures available from Google - copyright unknown unless otherwise credited).
This entry was posted in Break-ups, Dating, Depression, Feminism, Food, Happiness, Life, love, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Spirituality and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Top 5: Ways to find, form and foster unconditional love in your life

  1. jac says:

    Great words to reflect upon – Thank you

  2. zmanowner says:

    In my heart, I just think that you cannot truly love someone or receive true love unless you are comfortable in your own skin. I have known a few people that proclaimed love for someone but had hate in their heart for others….to me everyone needs to be loved…but everyone does not want to open themselves up for real love…..guess thats an ongoing human condition type problem…great post though…zman sends

  3. Michelle says:

    As I begrudgingly sit down to spend this public holiday writing reports I am particularly grateful for the reminder that we are not the job we do! I am SURROUNDED by colleagues who could not even begin to conceive of this notion.
    So – survive report season: coffee with Lyn 🙂
    Reward!

  4. Ivy Blaise says:

    Love needs to start within oneself. How else can we ever learn to find the people that complement us? Others should never complete us, we need to be complete as we are.

    “Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?”
    — Mary Oliver

  5. Andy says:

    Good job Lyn. My hopes. Perhaps readers can understand the benefit of reviewing one section a month-learning to reflect on the content a little at a time.

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