The Love You Seek

This article originally appeared on DailyGood.

The love you bear for yourself is never unrequited. You are the generous giver and the sole receiver. You do not have to wonder if your sentiments will be echoed or your kind gestures returned. You need only love yourself fully.

The love we bear for ourselves is guaranteed, each return exceeding its investment. Perhaps you’re longing to experience this kind of love from someone you care about, or maybe your heart aches from loving someone who cannot fully love you back.

The more we seek love like this, the harder we struggle, and the less we come to love ourselves. But who is more worthy of the careful attention and thoughtful affection we so readily dole out on others than the gentle soul that carries us through each day?

Self-love is an incredible gift we can choose to give and receive over and over again. As much as we say I love you to another, we can say it to ourselves. We can say these three words frequently, and we can say them with the reverence for which they are meant.

There’s a beautiful scripture often reserved for romantic love, but what if we looked at it in the light of loving ourselves?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthian 13:4-8

Imagine if you loved yourself in this way, every day; when you were feeling at your best and at your worst. Imagine if you loved yourself in this way when you were stuck in traffic, running late, waking up each morning, or enjoying a simple sunrise.

Could you love yourself in this way when you were angry, ashamed, scared, or overwhelmed? Could you turn to yourself in these moments and seek tenderness, instead of instinctively turning to or turning against another?

Love is patient, love is kind. Self-love is forgiving of failures and our steadiest companion during moments of doubt. It takes joy in looking in the mirror each day and does not magnify imperfections. It is accepting of shortcomings and freely offers second chances.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Self-love does not compare, but celebrates wholeness, confidence, and security. It dwells within the receiver, but its ripples spread for miles. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not tally weaknesses or failures, but thrives in the light of taking chances.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Self-love sees what is already present, and not what is presently lacking. It is steady, dependable, and strong. It is warm hands, tight hugs, belly laughs, and beaming smiles.

The love we give to ourselves is among the most valuable we can receive. It is not dependent on the presence, openness, or availability of anyone else, but instead allows us to be present, open, and available to ourselves.

Is there any greater gift we can give ourselves than the openness of our own hearts? Isn’t this what we crave from others, that they open their hearts to us, share their stories, and let us in?

We may not always get the love that we desire, or it may only leave us wanting more. We may get it when we’re too closed off to receive it, or when it comes in a form we cannot recognize, leaving us immune to its presence. We may get it one day, and feel its absence the next.

This love cannot compare to the love that is always available to us, always waiting to be received, always with our best interests and expectant hearts in mind. As we begin to love ourselves unconditionally, we become better able to love those around us.

We begin to sympathize with the stranger who speaks to us in anger because we too have been angry, and loved ourselves through it. We begin to be more accepting of our family members’ struggles because we too have struggled, yet our hearts have grown. We begin to ask questions instead of jumping to conclusions because we too have shared our stories, and been met with heartfelt gratitude.

Self-love is not selfish, but leads to openhearted engagement. It is far easier to be fully present with one another when we are not preoccupied by our perceived imperfections or our previous failures. When we can meet our inadequacies with softness, we invite others to do the same. When we can recognize our worth, we allow others to shine.

Take time to be the love you seek, and you shall find the love you’ve been looking for.