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