Love relationships have really been exasperating for me. No matter how hard I have tried they have ended in failure. I did not understand what it took to be in one until my early sixties when my second marriage ended in divorce. Upon reflection, I realize I contributed to their demise by believing I had to do everything in my power to keep the love in another alive, even if that meant loosing my personal boundaries. I had no idea then that my acquiescence was rooted in a belief that I was not enough and that I was not worthy of love. I have learned from my experiences that if you don’t learn how to love yourself, it is going to be impossible for someone else to do it for you. The following are four things I learned that will improve your chances for success in the future.

1) There is not a void in you that someone else needs to fill.

I have never understood why the myth about finding the “one” was ever initiated. It’s premise is that we were born deficient in some way and must find the corresponding missing half in another. Society calls them soul mate, better half, kindred spirit, true love, or second self.

But if finding that special someone is our life’s quest, how do we explain that over 50% of first marriages end up in divorce?  These statistics are even higher for second and third marriages. How can it be then that so many of us thought we had married our soul mate only to find out we had moved in with our greatest arch-rival? There can only be two explanations for these discrepancies, either there really isn’t a missing half out there waiting for us to complete the picture, or most of us are not worth a damn at finding the clues that lead us to that special person. I think it is the former. You have no missing parts; you were created unbroken and special just as you are.

2) You have to wrestle control of your life back from your ego.

Psychologists have defined the ego as that part of our mind that tries to decode what it is experiencing in the conscious world. It then stores the knowledge in the unconscious mind so we can recall it and behaves accordingly when confronted with similar situations. A simple example is what happens after one gets burned touching a hot stove. The ego stores this information and uses it to prevent getting burned again.

However, this formula does not work so well for our emotional makeup. Because the ego is constructed from our experiences, it develops beliefs about our personalities, talents and abilities. The problem with this construct is that these beliefs are developed early in life before one has matured and honed these personal attributes. If the ego created a positive self-image, it can contribute greatly to our life. If the information is faulty, it ends up creating an identity that is false and causes all kinds of drama by attracting situations and people that will reinforce these faulty beliefs. As you get older these negative beliefs become entrenched in your unconscious.

Because of my complex upbringing, my ego formed the belief I wasn’t good enough for the people in my life. This belief motivated me to try harder to earn their love and respect. But, the more I tried the more it seemed the adults in my life didn’t care. I had no way of conceiving the fact they were dealing with their own internal demons. In my ignorance I accepted responsibility for the problem and for the fix. This created a hole in me that needed the approval of others for my actions.

As I mentioned earlier, I brought to every romantic relationship incessant attempts to get my partner’s approval and love. I erased my boundaries to please. My efforts did not gain the love I wanted because my behavior exposed me to being taken advantage of and disrespected. If I was to be successful in future relationships, I knew I had to reclaim my self-value from the clutches of my ego.

3) Learn to recognize the language of the ego.

One thing is sure, our ego can cause anxiety with negative messages based on what we believe people are judging about us. The good news is that the language of your ego is easy to recognize. This is what ego based messages sound like; “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not beautiful”, “I can’t do this”, “I totally screwed up”, “I am bad at this”, “my life is meaningless”, “nobody cares for me”. I am sure you can add many other statements. The good news is that it is easy to recognize how your ego sabotages your efforts. When you notice how the ego works, you demystify it and can push it aside. It is like discovering what is behind a magic trick; once you see how it is done, it looses its magic.

If we are to become more successful in love, we have to remove our ego from our mind’s pilot seat. Choosing to love your self gets this done. I realize this sounds like some stupid platitude thrown out to make you feel good, but it is true, for it is impossible to love someone else if you have not learned to love your self.

4) Learning to love yourself takes practice.

I am an avid tennis player and I can still remember how difficult it was to learn to hit a topspin forehand. I knew I couldn’t improve my level of play until I did this, so I took a lesson. I sucked at it at first and, in times of competitive pressure, I would turn back to using my old, limited forehand. Eventually, after committing to change it and following it up with practice, I mastered the skill. The good news is that this also applies to the efforts you make to love yourself. Psychologists know that most of our beliefs are often shaped by our behavior. Your behavior is fluid, so if you can change it, you can change your belief.

I am not saying that practicing self-love is easy, it is hard because it requires one to overcome decades of parental and environmental programing. For example, the majority of my generation grew up believing God put us on this earth as flawed sinners who must spending our lives repenting for those sins before we can enter his kingdom.

Love of self defies these teachings because it encumbers the belief we were created beautiful, unique and exceptional by a divine intelligence that lives within us. With this conviction we can live with the knowledge, acceptance, and appreciation we are wonderful just as we are and we deserve to be loved. This begins with the rejection of the erroneous messages you accepted as coping mechanisms from your ego.

Isn’t it good to realize you are the “one” you have been looking for all these years? Become your true love and the rest will follow.

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