Exploring love as an internal dialogue.
Have you ever sat and observed the things we tell ourselves about love, being loved, and giving love? What would the cadence of the conversation be for you? What is the tone of the story you tell yourself?
These are the results of a morning page exercise I did off of a love prompt. One part inspired by this fantastic post by Zen Habits on the stories we tell ourselves, another part inspired by a morning exercise by Julia Cameron.
Now, telling ourselves stories is natural — we all do it, all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it. But if we’re not aware of the stories we tell ourselves, we can’t understand how they shape our happiness, relationships, moods, and more.–Leo Babauta
What is the story I tell myself about love? I’m not still entirely sure, but there is an awareness now that I didn’t have before. I set a timer for 10 minutes, opened up my notebook and wrote as fast as I could. Here’s what came out in all its rawness (with only spelling mistakes edited).
I mean, I’m just learning to love myself. You don’t have to love me.
You don’t have to love me; I’m just as flawed as you are.
You don’t have to love me, at least not the way that I love myself.
You don’t have to love me; I don’t even love me.
You don’t have to love me, I’ve hurt people before.
You don’t have to love me; I’m pretty broken from those before you.
You don’t have to love me; I’m not a morning person.
You don’t have to love me; I’m not exactly like you are.
You don’t have to love me; I have dreams of my own.
You don’t have to love me, I think about things differently.
You don’t have to love me; I might not love you back.
You don’t have to love me; it’s easier to hate.
You don’t have to love me; I look different.
You don’t have to love me, I believe in different things.
You don’t have to love me, I’ve seen the way the story ends.
You don’t have to love me; I can do things on my own.
You don’t have to love me; I’m not needy enough to need you.
You don’t have to love me; I carry some scars.
You don’t have to love me; I’m a little broken inside.
I have to love me, it’s just me and I stuck in here.
I have to love me, just in case no one else will.
I have to love me, when I need a thrill.
I have to love me; I’m my only guaranteed company.
I have to love me; it’s better when I do.
I have to love me; I understand the best what I’ve been through.
I have to love me; it’s how I’m going to heal.
I have to love me; I know how much strength it’s taken to carry on.
I have to love me; I know what I’m worth.
I have to love me; I get me.
I have to love me; it’s where I find my strength.
I have to love me; it’s how I sleep at night.
I have to love me; I know my story too well.
I have to love me, so that I can love you.
I love you, just the way you are.
I love you; I see the way you struggle.
I love you; you carry so many burdens.
I love you, for all that you’ve been through.
I love you, even when you can’t.
I love you, because it brings me peace.
I love you, because you have a story worth telling.
I love you, and the gentle soul within.
I love you, when you think I’m not looking.
I love you, when there’s nothing else to say.
I love you, even when you hurt me.
I love you, while the anger rages on.
I love you, while you hide behind your walls.
I love you, when you are weak.
I love you, when you are strong.
I love you, for the stories that you tell.
I love you, for the stories you keep hidden.
I love you, for the fears you try to hide.
I love you, for the kindness in your eyes.
I love you, because of your flaws.
I love you, as I love me.
What was learned from the exercise?
The narrative was really fluid. At first, the sticking points and all the un-worthy thoughts flowed into the page. In this fast, free-flowing state, it’s difficult to sit in judgment of the thoughts. There isn’t really time to observe or wonder about them; they just appear outside of the mind for a change. This is perhaps one of the main benefits of getting it out as fast as possible. When I return to examine, I can’t mutate what the thoughts originally were, they have to be taken as they really came.
After many “you don’t have to love me” statements, there was a different kind of resistance. You don’t have to – I have to – became the prevailing thought. But why? We all know that we must love ourselves and accept who we are. We know that sometimes the act of loving ourselves feels a bit radical. Maybe it was the recent reading of Rising Strong that had the drumbeat of courage and acceptance changing the rhythm of my thoughts.
The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity.-Brené Brown, Rising Strong
There had been a quick moment of realizing that everything was being forfeited as I was writing “you don’t have to love me” it wasn’t released, it was more of a defeat. Sure, some was letting go of the need to be loved – but surely there is more to uncover in this conversation with the self? Why don’t you need to love me?
I have to love me because it’s the only choice worth making. I felt determined.
And then, another rapid shift to externalizing. Almost like a loving-kindness meditation, projecting the thoughts outward. When I re-read it, the dichotomy between the ideas easily projected onto others, and the wish to hold those same thoughts as truths when pointed inwards fascinates me. Both the wish to hold them for myself, and realizing that I do, in fact, hold them to be inwardly true as well.
Each time I look at the results of this one, it feels as though I come to understand a little bit more about my dialogue around love. For the last few weeks, I’ve been returning to the exercise and exploring ways to amplify the dialogue I want to have with my self, by adding some positive statements as affirmations, and as part of the tools I use to manage my pain.
Want to discover your dialogue about love? – Try it for yourself
- Grab something you enjoy writing with and a notebook or a few sheets of paper.
- Take a moment to think about love. Close your eyes and pull up all the images you can about what it means to you.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes.
- Write, as fast as you can, anything and everything that comes up. Don’t pause to judge or ask questions (the questions are for later)
- When the timer is done, take a few minutes to pat yourself on the back.
It’s not easy at first, examining the stories we tell ourselves. Take a moment to congratulate yourself for having even attempted.
Now explore what you see on the page. Try not to hold judgments – just observe openly and wholeheartedly. See what is really there.
What is the story you tell yourself about love?