"I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me, 'I love you.' ... There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt."
~ Maya Angelou
You can’t give something you don’t have! In order for any parent to be able to extend love unconditionally that parent must first love themselves. It is not possible for someone to love another fully without loving themselves. You can only really love your children if you love yourself.
At one of my recent talks on Unconditional Love, a mother told me that her young daughter had asked her “Mommy, who do you love the most – me or you?”. That mother had a difficult time answering her. She said “I love you to the moon and back, but if I didn’t love myself I wouldn’t be able to love you, so I love me just as much!”. That’s such a beautiful, but uncommon sentiment.
In order for me to learn to love myself I had to see myself not as the small self I thought I was – the self that thinks “I’m stupid”, “I’m an embarrassment”, “I’m a bad parent” or “I’m unlovable”, but I learned to see myself as Inherently Worthy. It is not logical to believe that we are Inherently Worthy while at the same time believing that we are unlovable, stupid or that we don’t belong – all common beliefs. Those ideas are mutually exclusive. When we are able to absorb the truth of our Inherent Worth, our world view and parenting style shifts from fear to love.
This is a challenging idea, but there are now tools that you can use to find and fix negative beliefs. One of these is the Choose Again Six-Step Process, which uses every day upsets that generate feelings that can be linked to early childhood memories, which can then be examined to find the judgements that you made about yourself, and replace those judgements (which can become negative beliefs) with the sure knowledge of your Inherent Worth.
When I began to work to disable my negative beliefs, I noticed that I became much happier. My mood improved in such a way that I was even experiencing euphoria – a feeling completely unknown to me before and very welcome given that I had been on anti-depressants for years. I was quickly able to get off those meds and have not needed them since.
Here are a few reasons why being a happy parent actually helps a child:
If we don’t fix our negative beliefs, we’ll continue to believe, subconsciously that we are not good enough and that therefore the love we are offering is not good enough and this acts as a barrier to unconditional love. If I have a subconscious belief that I am not worthy, then I may need my child to establish my own worth by getting good grades or achieving in sports or other activities – that’s not loving. In fact, when my newborn daughter had her first bath, she enjoyed it so much that I had a fleeting image of her as an Olympic swimmer! That should have been a big red flag indicating troubled waters ahead and could have alerted me to the work I needed to do to reclaim my Inherent Worth. I don’t need her to make me look good.
How Can We Love our Children Unconditionally?
You have to love yourself before you can love your children. In order to do this, you must:
In the last installment - Part Six, I will give some strategies for helping your child to own his/her Inherent Worth in order to be able to receive fully the love that you give.
I’m passionate about prevention of substance abuse, depression, bullying, and suicide in teens, and I’ve chosen to spend my time helping parents to raise resilient, bully-proof, addiction-free kids. I know firsthand the emotional and financial costs of having a troubled teenager and I don’t want that to happen to you.