Worst Advice Ever Part 2

There is still just SO MUCH bad advice out there. And some of it (sort of) sounds like good advice. It sounds wise and thoughtful – especially when layered over beautiful landscape pictures or silhouettes of crying people.

I’m over it you guys. I read out loud a lot. I read to both my kids, and also to my husband because sharing a book that way is one of our ‘times’ together. Sometimes I will be reading and will realize the author did not read it aloud. They missed how awkward it sounds aloud. It doesn’t sound awkward when you read it, just aloud. Our brains tend to correct stuff before we really think about it.

Well, many of these little picture quotes sound like good, sage advice. “Oh my goodness!” we say. “I should use this to shape how I think about everything.”

Except when you actually think about them for a second, its like finding the awkward passage by reading aloud. Instead of awkward, however, it is downright stupid and potentially damaging.

Let us begin.

It got cut off and I’m too annoyed to find another. It says “You can’t love other people until you love yourself.”

Oh – and also I am usually strict about finding attributions to give proper credit for all quotes – but SO MANY people seem to have said something like this. Interesting font, cool black and white chalkboard-y kind of appeal.

So wise, right? NO! This is STUPID! Oh, and before I really get going.

My friend Lauren invented the ‘finger dance.’ Its like a jig where you alternate showing both middle fingers. I’m doing it in my head now.

Let’s unpack this together, shall we?

So, the gist of these two (incredibly stupid) quotes is that you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else, and also before anyone can love you.

Now, I grant you that there is the teeniest, tiniest thread of partial truth in that – but we’ll get to that later when we talk about boundaries. Right now we’re talking about love, and therefore this is just horse apples.

Does that mean I someone don’t understand the importance of self-love? No! Self-love is incredibly important. Immensely important. Something you should put time and energy into every moment.

So why am I comparing these quotes on self-love to horse excrement? Well, because it puts the giving and receiving of love as CONTINGENT on loving yourself. That gets the big NOPE from me.

Why? Love is a GIFT. In its pure form it should be given or received freely, without expectation or strings. When it has those other things, its not really love my friends. REAL LOVE does not come with qualifications.

So, what these quotes are telling me is that because I am broken, because I struggle, because I have ‘stuff,’ I am not worthy of giving or receiving love. No. no. no. no. no.

Perhaps someone sees in us what we are struggling to see in ourselves. Perhaps when they give us their love, it is a lesson we can learn in how to receive love – even from ourselves. Perhaps when we feel we are not of value, and the only thing left we have to offer is our love, by giving it (freely) we are reminded that we are a part of a greater whole. By recognizing that, we plant a tiny seed that can be coaxed into love.

Just to be clear – if in our struggle, in our brokenness we see ‘love’ as a commodity, as something we ‘have to’ give or a bargaining piece to maybe get something back so we feel worthy – that is not truly love. And we need to stop calling it love. Its fear wrapped in the need for approval and acceptance, swathed in the sticky strings of believing we have to earn a place in the world.

Which brings us to boundaries. My favorite ‘boundary’ resource is Brene Brown. Her books are great – but if you want the short version, check out her interviews or TED talks on YouTube.

Here is where the plan starts to come together. How many times when ‘love failed us’ can we see after the fact that we did not establish the boundaries of what we could and could not accept.

So, you ask, am I blaming you/us for what we experienced? No! But unless we can start to unpack the baggage we aren’t going to move past it. We fail to set boundaries, largely because we really don’t believe we are in a position to. Beggars can’t be choosers. And yes, believing that you are WORTH setting boundaries is perilously close to loving yourself. Its a stepping stone. Maybe feeling that love is too big a leap, but saying ‘in any relationship with me, this is what I will and won’t accept’ is a big move forward.

Trust me on this. This is hard and messy and it sucks sometimes. It can mean recognizing the love someone offers to you is not enough if it doesn’t respect the boundaries. It can mean that the love you freely offer that person in return means you wish them well – but also means you have to distance yourself.

‘Also the fact that someone else doesn’t love you doesn’t mean you aren’t worth that project.’ – me

There’s the other piece. I said earlier that sometimes when someone else offers us their love, because they see something in us we struggle to see, it can help us learn to love ourselves. That’s absolutely true (that’s why I said it). Its also not simple. We can’t wait around to be rescued by someone else’s love, we can, however, think of them as a Sherpa. We still have to climb the mountain that is learning self-love – but they seem to know the way and maybe they can help guide us.

We may need to detox from that other kind of ‘love.’ It might be messy. It won’t be fun. I’ll be honest – the people around you will probably change. Some will be gone, or less present. Others will emerge. But as you shovel away the bull***t you’ll find the path is a little clearer. You may find that some of those around you also carry shovels.

Take care.

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