Ah, the family! Well, I could tell you many stories on both family love and family feud. Likewise, I’m sure you could tell me your own stories. And this is just talking about family, not even about family and self-love. How would this go together? Here’s a little seek peek.
- Family members are either related to each other through the same bloodline or connected through marriage (could also be de-facto of course) BUT they are still individual people 🤷
- If individuals don’t love themselves, they can experience a lack of boundaries, loss of self and eventually the capacity to love others 😮
- Relationships gain depths and fulfillment when they consist of individuals who can both love themselves and others 💯
If you want to delve into the topic further keep on reading.
Let me explain. The first point talks about the individuality of family members. Yes, family members can be extremely close, especially dyads (i.e. two people), such as husband and wife, mum and daughter, twins, siblings, grandparent and grandchild. The bond can be intense and there can be a lot of love. However, there can also be co-dependency. When this happens, it’s very likely that at least one of the members of the dyad has a self-love issue. It could also be that the other member of the dyad is self-absorbed, which has nothing to do with self-love. I cannot stress this enough self-love is not narcissism or some other form of deformation of love.
Sense of self
As individual people, every person has their own personality, character, sense of self, aims, and goals in life. Life experiences that include close relationships with other individuals enrich their lives through the reciprocal contribution of each member of the relationship bringing their own facets into it. This concept only works, if both members of the relationship have a healthy sense of self and a decent amount of love towards themselves and they are not dependent on the other’s love. They experience the other person’s love as an added, pleasant experience of their own love. When this happens, the two people can enjoy the connection and cherish the offerings of love.
Sadly, this rarely happens. All too often, people mistake their dependence on family members as love and get terribly upset, if they feel their love is not returned to them in equal measures. Although most people try to make their significant other happy, it’s not the right path to being happy themselves. Happiness comes from the inside and is independent from the so-called love family members display to best of their ability. In the book, ‘The five love languages’, the author, Gary Chapman, talks in length about the fact that when your spouse doesn’t talk your love language your cup gets empty. Whilst your cup may be empty, it’s not because of your spouse’s inability to properly talk your love language. Your cup is empty because you forgot to fill it.
Fill your cup
Think about it. What makes you happy? What makes you feel loved? Is this the same as your mum’s desires, your sister’s, or your partner’s desires? In my coaching sessions with clients, I sometimes task them to come up with a list of things they really like. It helps them to get in touch with themselves. Only when this is clear and my clients start to fill their own cups, then they can find out what their partner loves. It’s so much easier to do something nice for your partner or family member, when your own cup is full. This means, you need to fill your own cup first. It’s such a cliché but there’s also truth in it.
Standing confidently with your own cup filled, it’s also a lot easier to stick to your boundaries. You’ll know when you need to say ‘no’. There will be occasions where you can gladly say ‘yes’ too. Don’t think because you have boundaries, you’ll always say ‘no’ to your loved ones. On the contrary, you’ll be able to weigh it up and decide depending on your feelings. Feelings that are true to yourself and don’t come out of fear you won’t be loved anymore. Self-love is intricately connected with knowing yourself and knowing what you want. Once you have developed a strong sense of self, it’s easy to keep your cup filled.
Women and infants
Women who care for their small children are in greater danger to lose themselves in the demanding care for an infant. Nature plays a role here, hormones on the mother’s side and adorable cuteness on the baby’s side. This phenomenon has a good reason as it helps small children to survive. However, whilst this is natural to a certain extent, taken to the extreme is neither good for the mother nor for the child. Before you know it, the son is 40 and still lives at home getting his clothes washed by his mum. Yes, I know, that’s an outrageous example, I just wanted to get my point across. It can start a lot earlier, when a mother loses all interest except living through her children. Usually, other relationships start to suffer, namely with her spouse, but also with friends and other relatives. Often, these mothers don’t see how damaging this behaviour is for themselves and their children until much later when they experience the empty nest syndrome. Suddenly, they feel extremely lonely and unloved. Don’t wait that long, tackle the problem now if you find yourself identifying with this scenario even only slightly.
Family of origin
Family is not only the family that we start when we have children and try to make things work with partner and kids. Family is also what’s called the family of origin. Some adults recall a happy childhood, full of adventure and a loving family. However, many adults felt utterly unloved as children. They are convinced their mum or dad loved their siblings more. Some experienced domestic violence, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Some felt their parents were either completely absent or emotionally withdrawn. These are sad and scary experiences. Often, they get deeply buried and not dealt with emotionally. Once these fester deep down in someone’s soul without being addressed, it’s very hard to become a loving adult with a healthy self-esteem and capable of self-love.
As kids, we are very dependent on our parents or caregivers, not only for physical survival, but for emotional development and mental health. During development from baby to teenager and beyond, we go through various stages that when successfully completed allow us to become increasingly independent. Luckily, kids are resilient and minor issues usually don’t impact their development negatively. The saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ reflects a culture that doesn’t only rely on two people to bring up children. The odds to have good role models, emotional support and loads of love from adults are significantly greater in a more group orientated society. In our modern Western society, we follow the model mother, father, child. And when the parents divorce, it’s only one parent and child. There’s a lot more pressure on parents to get it right. When the parents themselves had unresolved, adverse childhood experiences, it’s even harder to get it right.
Why it’s important to dig deep
I’m a great advocate to go and unearth hidden stuff, not only because that’s my profession, but also because of my own experiences. I had my fair share of physical and emotional abuse as a child and I used to push it all down. I was ashamed for my family and didn’t want to talk about it nor remember it. However, an incident with one of my own children, where I immediately thought to seek help, brought my own painful childhood trauma into light. At the time, I was convinced that nothing was wrong with me and that I had dealt with everything. I realised quickly though, that my self-image wasn’t quite right and that I had some work to do. Although not easy and challenging at times, I’m grateful that I tackled my childhood memories and freed myself from the emotional damage. I believe that without this inner work, I would not be capable of loving myself in a healthy way and loving others in a free and independent sense.
I must admit that self-development is not an easy feat. At many turns and corners of my path I wanted to stop and go back. Fortunately, that’s not how this works. It felt like there was a battle going on between the part of my mind that wanted to be safe and go back to old ways, knowing that this would still be painful. However, there was another part of me that saw the potential and wanted to continue to work through and let the old habits and patterns go. The freedom that awaits is well worth it.
Personally, I find it a lot better to be able to really ‘see’ family members as their own personalities, recognising patterns of behaviour that stem from their own family upbringing. Instead of me reacting to this behaviour (that may not bring out the most loving traits in them and in me) I can choose to be independent from them, love myself first and from there show them a lot more love than I would if I just reacted automatically. It’s certainly more compassionate and forgiving, but still knowing my own needs and sticking to my boundaries. This way, relationships truly gain depths and fulfillment, because they consist of individuals who can both love themselves and others 💯
Sending you virtual love,