What Love Looks Like
Acknowledge the breadth of love. Love isn’t simply about romance — to define it so narrowly is to deprive yourself of the beauty and full extent of love. Love is a feeling, drive, or emotion that we experience usually with people, but also with pursuits, other animals, and nature in general. If you’re looking for it, love can be found in many places, situations and relationships.
Love is shared between people — our parents and children, siblings, spouses and partners, dates, friends, neighbors, community members and humanity.
It’s found in the passion for the things you do in your life, including work, hobbies, volunteering and the like; it can be found when you’re at your most creative, or «in the flow.»
Love happens when you embrace the wonderful awesomeness of life, as you acknowledge how incredible this world really is, how intricate and complex life is.
Love is found in observing nature, in spending time with companion animals, and in learning about other living beings in the world.
Love is at its most giving when it is altruistic, shown to a stranger we may never meet again.
Love cannot be pigeonholed — it’s never just or only one thing; it happens whenever your heart is open to receiving beauty and wonder of people, things and events around you.
Begin to recognize what love isn’t. Because love can’t be pigeonholed, it’s sometimes hard to say it is one things and it isn’t another. But in general, people agree that love is selfless, lasting, and larger than yourself. In general, people also agree that love isn’t the same as:
Feelings of lust (e.g., purely sexual interest)
Ownership or control (co-dependency or manipulation)
Obsessive worrying (over-involved parenting or a spouse always checking up)
Neediness (insecurity or low self-esteem) and so forth.
Love isn’t a tool for using people or binding them to your side; if you find yourself calling these actions «love,» it may be a good idea to investigate what other people mean by love.
Learning to Love Yourself
Begin by loving yourself. You can only truly love another being when you love yourself properly. Otherwise, you risk spending a lot of your life projecting insecurities, pain and other negative emotions onto other people. People who do this tend to see the worst in other people so as to avoid facing it that insecurity, pain, or negativity in themselves.
Loving yourself is not about putting yourself before others — that’s another form of confusion. Loving yourself is about having self-respect, discovering what really makes you tick, and spending your life being true to your real talents.
Forgive yourself and give yourself license to make mistakes. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Life is short, and it’s about learning. You won’t learn unless you make mistakes. Give yourself license to make mistakes, and then love who you are for all your imperfections.
If you love yourself only for being perfect, you’re probably making two mistakes:
Thinking that you are perfect when it’s probably not the case. Unless you’re a new super-breed of human, you’re probably deluding yourself a little bit.
Holding yourself at a double-standard. You don’t expect everyone else to be perfect, so why do you expect perfection from yourself? Treat everyone, yourself included, by the same standards.
Know what loving yourself feels like. Once you learn to love yourself, you won’t feel threatened by others’ success (real or apparent). You won’t constantly compare yourself to others. You’ll be able to share your love freely with other people. You’ll feel good about yourself even when you’re feeling down. You’ll feel proud without being cocky; optimistic without being oblivious; and free without being paralyzed by freedom. You’ll feel unafraid to cry.
To love truly is not only having a capacity to give love, but also to gracefully open your heart to receive love. Know that you deserve love. You are worthy of love. The more you feel love in your heart, the more you are able to give love to others.
Starting to Love Others
Actively show love in your words. Ultimately, you are the one who must take action in order to discover love. Because actions can sometimes be misinterpreted, or have unclear motivations, it’s often important to communicate what you’re doing or feeling in words. Often, people do this by saying «I love you.»
Tell people you love that you love them whenever you feel love. Regularly say «I love you» to your child, your parents, your lover, your spouse, or your friend.
When you say the words «I Love You», say them with real conviction. You’re not telling a person that you love them just because you want to feel good––you’re saying it because you want the other person to feel good!
Know, too, that there are other ways to express love when «I love you» doesn’t seem appropriate. «You mean a great deal to me,» «You inspire me,» «You are the most amazing person I’ve ever known,» and «I am a better person for having known you» are just a few of the ways that people say «I love you» without.
Love unconditionally. Love is something from which you shouldn’t expect anything in return. Sometimes, ye shall give without receiving. If you cannot love another person without attaching stipulations or requests to your love — this is often called «emotional bribery,» or just bribery — then you’re not talking about love at all; you’re talking about a transaction.
If your love for someone isn’t wanting them to be happy, but rather in asking how that person can enhance your life, or ensure your well-being, you’re mistaking love for something else.
Expecting nothing in return doesn’t mean you should allow someone to mistreat or undervalue you. It means that giving love does not guarantee receiving love. Although it’s helpful to realize that people have different ways of showing their love, if someone abuses your love, be aware of what’s happening.
Be tolerant. You cannot say in one breath that you’re a loving and caring person and in the other breath say that you hate a particular person or type of person. To do so is to contradict love, which is accepting of even the things you find hard to love in another person.
Allow other people to be themselves. Accept them as they are, not as you want them to be. Healthy love is a steady understanding of who other people are.
Love does not compartmentalize — it sees a person as a whole, rather than focusing on a part you dislike and turning that disliked part into the person’s whole. Love doesn’t judge; it tolerates the differences, accepting the choices people make for themselves in life.
You may have heard someone say that they love a person but do not like them. In this case, the speaker is likely telling you that they accept the person and respect the dignity of that person as a whole but that they couldn’t get along with that person. Love doesn’t ask you to befriend a person; it asks you to tolerate, to think beyond your own notions of how the world should be, and to accept differences without judging.
Have an imagination. Imagine the different options out there, waiting to be seized. Don’t just find out who you are. Create who you want to be.
Love those who don’t love you. When hate is directed toward you, repel it with love and use their hatred as motivation to show that tolerance, kindness, and acceptance are better ways to get along in our communities.
Love teaches you that hateful people are often driven by a lack of self-respect and that they’re agitated about all the things they don’t like about themselves. This causes them to project this hate onto others. Of all people, people who hate probably need your compassion most.
Accept risk. You cannot love without accepting that there is always a chance of loss or hurt. This is exactly what makes love so powerful: the stakes are high, so the reward is higher. In losing love at times in life, you learn to appreciate the love you do have even more.
Don’t let the loss of love ruin you, becoming like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, embittered all her life, emotionally stuck at the time of the loss. Instead, make the choice to learn from hurtful experiences, however difficult the lesson, and move on to discover the many other people who won’t reject your love and who will give freely of theirs.
Think how lucky you are to have people in your life to love, and who in turn love you. Even the love of a single person is a wonderful feeling.
Never seek to make an idol out of any person you love. This is liable to lose the person in the long run, as they’ll feel pressured to live up to something you’ve imposed upon them.
Empathize with other people. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Rather than imposing your own expectations or attempting to control another person’s viewpoints or lifestyle, seek to understand how they feel, where they come from, and who they are. Realize how they could also love you back just as well if you open the way. If you’re having trouble being empathetic, try these suggestions out for size:
Be curious about the world, and about strangers. Curiosity is wanting to know what something is like; empathy isn’t too much different.
Become another person. Not literally, but metaphorically. Try on another person’s shoes for a while; see what it’s like to be them. This empathy will give you a new appreciation for the challenges (and celebrations) they face along the way.
Listen to other people. Don’t put words in other people’s mouths. Don’t expect you know what they’ll say. Let them say it themselves, and pay attention when they do.
Never stop loving. By sharing love constantly, you create a loving environment and you inspire others to do the same thing. You also show the best reflection of your worth to others when you love.
More people showing love in our world means endless forgiveness, a willingness to give people second chances, and a commitment to moving humanity forward, always striving for greater harmony.
Jean Anouilh once observed that «love is, above all, the gift of oneself.» In giving of the best of who you really are to others in the name of love, you transcend selfish motives and introspection, and truly seek to appreciate others.
Love is a means by which you start to see things more clearly together, to reach compromises or to collaborate, and to make room for finding a way forward that includes others, not just your ego.
It does not make you a bad person to desire someone else’s love, even if they do not love you. However, to truly love someone, you must let them be free. It is selfish to blame them for your feelings.
People become beautiful to you because you love them. In a society obsessed with appearance, it can often seem the other way around but the reality is that love makes a person beautiful and the imperfect perfect.
There are many types of relationships that involve love, but love itself is a common thread to all those relationships. For example: a mother-son relationship is different from the relationship with a best friend, and both these relationships are different from a romantic relationship. But in each of these relationships, each person loves the other (wants the best for the other). Love is the base of the pyramid. On top of the base, we can add other items such as other common interests (in the case of friends) or sex (in the case of romantic relationships). Therefore, relationships can grow and evolve but the love itself is solid and constant. It does not change.
Remember there is no failure in love, because once you show somebody that you love them, then you have already succeeded in love, even if they don’t care.
Loving isn’t always easy.
Never seek to force love. You can try but you’ll find fear, neediness and insecurity, not love. Love will come if you’re willing to share love, to give of it freely and to expect nothing in return.
The idea of romantic love is often fueled by fantasies and much of the romantic love shown in movies and romance novels is unrealistic and causes real mortals to feel inadequate. Be aware that creatively written or filmed romantic love is a thing of art in its own––mere mortals are recommended to see that romantic love has warts. The more expansively you view romantic love, the more accepting you are that romantic love isn’t always ideal and the more certain you are about who you are and what matters to you in life, the more likely you’ll be to find happiness in romance. Leave those rose colored glasses slightly lifted at all times!
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