Love, MS and Letting go: a Discourse on the Heart (with a List to Match!)

By Guest Blogger   |  37Comments|

Love …
Gorgeous love.

We all crave it.
We’re all terrified of losing it.
We all struggle through the moments when we feel we don’t deserve it.
We’re all capable of giving it … and receiving it.

At times, it seems to vanish. We wonder why love has left us.

But it never does …

Love is expansive and complex.

I grew up in a tough household. Out of some misguided belief that too many “I love you”s or hugs would make us weak, my parents offered few words of affirmation and even fewer comforting touches. Only when I was given gifts, things — jewelry, clothes, fancy dinners — was I allowed to feel cherished.

So many of us share stories of childhoods spent feeling unloved, unappreciated and inferior.


It’s my belief that we decide what love is at very young age, based on our interaction with our parents and siblings, and the stories we absorb along the way. As a child, I clung to those moments when I was finally standing in the hard-earned spotlight, or opening a gift with all eyes on me.

So naturally, I determined: Attention = LOVE.

And let me tell you — kicking that stubborn belief has been one of the greatest, most rewarding challenges of my life.

Childhood equations like these imprint deeply within us — so deeply that they carry into adulthood unnoticed. They manifest as a voice in your head, a story running the show that tells you where to go for love, what to do to avoid pain, or how to make someone love you.

If you weren’t getting enough attention as a kid, you probably developed creative ways to grab it. Maybe you threw tantrums or got into trouble. Maybe you made people laugh.

Have any of these qualities translated into your grown-up life? Think about it.

It’s real, and there’s nothing wrong with you. But that little voice inside isn’t leading you toward progress anymore.

Awareness is the first step in the right direction. Check in with yourself and see if that lonely five-year-old is still in there, trying to get you noticed — a.k.a. loved.

Love is a currency.

In my early 20s, I slammed the door on that sad little girl inside of me and set off to seek my fame and fortune in New York City. I found love in beauty — fashion, to be exact. When I landed a PR job with Prada, I thought, “Finally!” I’d made it. The prestige and clothes would cover up my pain forever, and make me easier to love. I would be free.

Crazy cakes, right? I know, but it’s what I believed.

It all came crashing down in the winter of 1996.

A tiny tingle in my left shoulder spread a numbness down my body and into my legs and feet. As I began to realize something was seriously wrong in me, I grew steadily more terrified. Love disappeared again, and this time I worried fear had kicked it out forever. I would be lost.

In that moment, I realized I hadn’t left that lonesome child behind at all. I had been carrying her with me the entire time.

How a Diagnosis Opened Love’s Door

I remember sitting in cold doctor’s office and hearing, “You have multiple sclerosis.” I felt like I was falling through the floor.

Insert: hate, blame, shame, terror, guilt, certainty I would lose my job and my boyfriend would leave me…

But I was wrong.

He loved me even more, and led me through those first dark days with deep courage, love and complete support. I began to experience a love I had never known. For the first time, I was met by a heart that offered a hand to the scared little kid within me. A heart that said, “I’m here by your side. We’ll do whatever we can.” And that’s exactly what happened.

I had to move past my thoughts of shame, blame or unworthiness… and slowly, I began to let go.

What Are You Not Loving About Yourself?

The path to loving yourself has no end point — it’s a lifelong process.

So what’s in your way?

What are you trying to wish away so you can begin to love yourself, truly? Have a look around inside yourself — that one thing you don’t love is most likely the portal you’ve been waiting for.

If you’re not sure what steps to take, here are a few exercises that have helped me on my journey.

The Loving-You List

1. Take 10 minutes each day to be quiet, and listen to the sound of your heartbeat. Focus. Hear your soul in your breath.

2. Write a love letter to yourself. Mail it.

3. Look into your eyes in the mirror and say out loud, “I love you. You are perfect because the Universe created you.”

4. List your challenges, fears and tribulations on a sheet of paper. Then read each one aloud, ending every item with “I love you (your name).”

5. Give at least three hugs a day. Real hugs.

Whenever you’re feeling afraid or unloved, close your eyes, feel your breath and know that the universe is literally loving you into life. On your exhale, say, “Thank you, I love you, too!”

Leave me a note below, and let me know what you’re loving about YOU!

May you love yourself as much as the universe does, and walk forward with heightened awareness and strength.

Hillary Rubin  is a Spiritual Life Design Coach, wellness pioneer and yogi who has been featured on Fit TV, and “The Los Angeles Times.” Hillary is also writing her first book to help women alchemize adversity into action.

Photo credit: Gemma Morgan

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37 responses to Love, MS and Letting go: a Discourse on the Heart (with a List to Match!)
  1. Ani said on June 12, 2012

    Hi Hillary,

    Thanks so much for this gorgeous post, reading it feels like a big hug. For me as a child I believed I only got attention and love if I was over-achieving and being ‘the good girl’. I worked and worked at school and then jobs, I got the best grades and I was exhausted. I over-achieved and over-gave so much that I forgot that I even existed!….fast forward a bit….and I too was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, lupus. My life is so changed. I am in the process of setting up a new business to support women diagnosed with auto-immune conditions and have just written my first e-book – a 21 day commitment to loving yourself, which is available on my website now. I have fallen in love with ‘what is’ with life, with myself and mySelf. This current time is a journey, I still sometimes get overwhelmed with my ‘to-do’ list but I am so, so much better at loving myself and taking time out and breaks.

    Thank you so much for you post and ideas, so helpful, just the reminder I needed this morning.

    Much love
    Ani x

  2. Thank you, Hillary — I look forward to your book. I was diagnosed with MS in 1996 too — January. I’m doing well. My childhood was very different from what I gather is the average experience. I won the lottery of parents. I never felt unloved or anything less than special. But I’m learning we cannot get through this life unchallenged. I lost my sweet mother unexpectedly a couple of months ago at a relatively young age. With her went my best friend and a large part of the core of me. I can see now that, at the age of 46, I need to do the hard work that the rest of the world accomplished during childhood challenges. I need to discover how to be loved and safe without my wonderful mother. I am putting one foot in front of the other and walking into this, because the only thing worse would be staying stuck out of fear. I’m ready to “alchemize adversity”!

  3. Such a beautiful, thoughtful, needed post.
    Thank you for sharing your vision and journey with us.

  4. Today I am loving my childlike enthusiasm! I am going to Disneyland!

  5. Just what I needed today! I realize I am very conditional with self love and joy- “When I finally go down a size, I’ll deserve to love my body, I’ll deserve happiness, I’ll truly love myself.” Instead of that negative thought process, today I am loving my gentleness and compassion that I can have for myself and others!

  6. Awesome An1, you are sooo welcome. Love how you also took a diagnosis to bring more love into the world. Keep up the amazing work sister. xxoo Hillary

  7. Cheryl Allen you are so welcome. Sorry to hear of your loss. What a warrior you are to take the steps and see your blessings. Beautiful! You said this, “I need to do the hard work that the rest of the world accomplished during childhood challenges. I need to discover how to be loved and safe without my wonderful mother. ” what if you don’t have to do the hard work that others accomplished and are just in the perfect place for healing and love. You are in my heart! xo Hillary

  8. Melissa you are welcome. It’s my honor to share it with you. Lots of love, Hillary

  9. Hillary – thank you so much for this post. I also grew up in one of those “chilly” households. It has been a challenge for me to work through those love-attention-commitment issues. While I have come out on the other side, stronger, more empowered and more loving towards others, I sometimes still struggle with truly loving myself – talking the talk without really walking the walk. I needed this insight.

  10. Awesome Brooke! That sounds like soooo much fun. xo Hillary

  11. Inspiring. Thought proving. A message we all need to hear. No matter how much love surrounds us, there comes a time we have to do the work to let it in and feel it’s magic. I am moved by your journey and message, thank you.

  12. Katie I am so happy this was what was needed for your day. You deserve to be loved just as you. Keep it up for today and then go for it tomorrow. Lots of love, Hillary

  13. Great piece, Hillary! So true that sometimes it is the “bad news” or diagnosis that opens up so much goodness inside of us.

  14. Terra you are SOOO welcome. Yes loving ourselves is so easy yet we take it for granted. First step is awareness then it can change and be what we deserve it to be. Give yourself to let go of the struggle… Lots of love, Hillary

  15. Hilary, what a lovely, lovely post. Perfect timing for me to hear this today. Another B-Schooler helped me with some self-confidence, esteem issues today and this confirms it. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Amazing article. I’m sure it resonates with everyone on the planet. Can’t wait to read your book. You are completely insightful and a sure fire rescue for the ails of humanity. Love is the vital essence and your article bypassed the over-thinking mind and really touched my heart. Thank you. For speaking up.

  17. Megan thanks so much. Glad you got insight into how the “bad” opens us up so much goodness inside of us. xxoo Hillary

  18. Diane thanks so much for taking the time to read. Glad you could find your self-confidence today and this helped you. xxoo Hillary

  19. Inspiring. Thought provoking. Such an important message. Regardless of how much love surrounds us, at some point in our lives we need to do the work to let it in and experience the magic. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  20. Julie thanks so much for your comment about speaking up. Glad you got the part of love being the vital essence and how it bypasses the over-thinking mind and touched your heart. So sweet. xxoo Hillary

  21. Lovely post. You are such a shining example of your own wisdom, Hillary! Can’t wait to see your book!! xoxo Tanya

  22. Thanks Tanya! Can’t’ wait for you to have the book… soon love soon. xxoo Hillary

  23. Beautiful, beautiful post Hilary. Even though so many of us realize how we’ve carried our ‘stuff’ from childhood, I believe it is something we need to regularly assess: “What old story am I living out right now?” Our path of personal evolution is lifelong… we’re not done growing until we’re done living (and even then, who I think our energy continues to expand who-know-where!). Luckily our path in this life gets sweeter with each new realization! :)

  24. So appreciative of you opening up and sharing your journey with us. Going through a divorce has left me open – I am in the process of healing and find those parts of myself that I love. I put a note on my bathroom mirror that says ‘I love you. I really love you.” – I look at myself and say this a couple of times a day. In the beginning it was difficult but now as time is passing I am getting better at it. Ah self-love. Thanks for your insightful post, Hillary! Sending loving-kindness to you.

  25. Hillary – thank you for a beautiful article. Big hugs to you for your bravery and commitment to LOVE.

  26. Beautiful. Thank you so much.

  27. Liz said on June 12, 2012

    It is so good to hear inspiring words from others who suffer from MS. I was diagnosed with MS a year ago and I am still trying to find my way through fear and anger. Your words have helped to uplift me and I am grateful.
    Good luck on your journey!

  28. Sending a hug your way, Hillary!

    You made me think: Growing up, what did I translate into love? Physical affection. There’s really no true intimacy in my family, but as the only girl I got a lot of hugs and kisses and compliments about how “cute” I was. I realize now as an adult that those things are nice, but if they are the only things making up a relationship with a man, then I’m missing out on a lot.

  29. Wow! Beautiful post!! My heart felt yours with similarities in our childhood learning and the desperate search for love that followed. I always felt deprived of love, and always when I thought I had found it, it would slip through my hands. In the end I found my best love by GIVING love first. I fell in love with a man who needed my love more than he could return at the time but on the other side of it (recovery from addiction) I have the most AMAZING love I could ever imagine. I can’t explain why but I knew to love him without expectation and I found my own ways to provide the love I needed for myself. I am so blessed to have my ‘investment’ returned ten-fold : ) Love is always the answer.

  30. I love this article.

    I don’t love my defensiveness. I loathe being wrong. I don’t love how I put others needs in front of my own just so they won’t think less of me. I hate to disappoint others, yet I find myself disappointed in me regularly.

    But every day I work really hard to be more self accepting. And honor my needs above others. And accept no one can ever possibly be right all the time. It’s a process.

  31. Love is all we need

  32. thanks you Helen! love your comment especially this –> “Luckily our path in this life gets sweeter with each new realization!” perfect. xo Hillary

  33. This is such a wonderful article! I was dxd with MS at 19, in 2001. The horror, anger, fear I felt. I had no idea how to handle it. Now at the ripe ol’age of 30 I am understanding how to be me..and not characterize myself as someone with MS.
    I’m a photographer..a fine artist. I love my creativity. Also I learned to laugh more, and not take anything too seriously.

    Thank you again for this post! I will practice the list you shared!!

  34. Wow Hilary! This brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written and shared- LOVE the practicing love list. Wonderful thoughts.

  35. Hilary, you are a treasure. You’ve put into words what thousands of us – ok, let’s get real, probably millions of us – have felt. Love & light to you *always*.

  36. Hi Hillary,
    It’s your old friend Ali. Can’t believe I am reading all about you on kris carr ‘s web site. She is a hero to me and I am amazed at how far you have come in your life. Being a life coach and writing a book!!!! Wow! Your words are so inspiring. Glad to hear all about you. I recently finished a yoga teacher training in connecticut where I live now and living a yogin life. Would love to reconnect. You have my email from this. Contact me and we can reconnect in private. Much love… Ali

  37. Hi
    I found your article quite helpful, especially during this time in my life where I found out that my husband of 12 years was cheating on me for most of our marriage despite us having children – and , oh yeah, I have MS. Thankfully my case is mild but it’s daunting thinking that I’ll be raising these kids pretty much alone with MS.
    I’m learning that I need to take care of myself and focus on my needs now so that I can be there for my children. Stress doesn’t make things better with MS.
    I need to love myself to attract love, and that’s what I’m working toward now. Ahhhh