There is a very sad and painful story most of us fret about internally, it is the story of ‘I am unlovable’. This is a big problem we believe we need to fix with the activity of changing the unlovable qualities of our self to become lovable qualities. From early childhood we receive information from others about the many ways in which we are unlovable. We all dutifully internalise this information and create a re-mind-er to tell the self about these many ways in which it is failing to be lovable, and what improvement programs we need to follow to transform this unlovable self into something universally guarunteed to be lovable. Many people will be very helpful about adding to this story things you may have missed about how you are unlovable, they are experts on how a self is unlovable and so they are happy to show you the ropes. In turn we become an expert and show others, particularly our children and partners, the ways in which they can improve in order to achieve lovable-ness. We have an alert system for instances of when the self is being unlovable again, on the way home from a social situation this aspect of the mind will tell you all the ways in which you ‘got it wrong’ and slipped up and revealed your unlovable, (or to point out all the ways others got it wrong). Depending on how closely we are able to adhere to whatever ‘top lovable traits list’ is trending in the group mind we swing between the thought that we are winning at being lovable, or suffer in the corresponding state of despair that we are failing again. We generate a lot of money (nowadays for only a select few humans) in the pursuit of a guaranteed permanent solution to this fixation.
Thus one of the great modern anxieties we suffer with is perfectionism. The term ‘perfectionism’ is ironic, its true message to the self is that nothing can ever be perfect. Note I am not referring to the concept of doing one’s best in the joy of attempting excellence, but rather the pursuit and fixation upon an ideal we are destined to always fall short of.
We may put in a great amount of heroic time, money and effort to for example be thin, and beautiful, and rich, and popular, and clever, and highly esteemed (or whatever traits your culture has deemed desirable). We may even have periods of believing we have found success in ticking off this list of top desirable love-ability traits. We make gross assumptions; things like fat equals ugly, and old equals undesirable, and poor equals powerless. We now have entire social platforms dedicated to the pursuit of lovableness, with built in features that underline and exacerbate this tendency in order to create addiction. Under the tyranny of perfectionism we cycle through hope and despair, winning and losing. We berate and punish ourselves over losing and reward and congratulate ourselves for winning. This is suffering. At some point we will experience that it all topples down, for it was only ever a house of cards.
Eventually, exhausted from failing to win at the pursuit of love-ability through material success, we try our hands at becoming lovable by realising the Ultimate Love. We spend all our energy in what we don’t notice is an identical quest for lovableness through what is now spiritual success. In this way meditation and its corporate cousin mindfulness are co-opted into this quest to be perfect and therefore eternally lovable. It becomes possible to fail at meditation. What about the option that it is unnecessary to need to win at all? Telling ourselves we are failing at meditation can be a source of tremendous pain, because what is left for us if we can’t win the attention of the ultimate Attention? What if winning at spirituality is the only solution to this terrible problem of the unlovable self and we are no good at it? What if we can’t stop hanging on to letting go?
Attempting to win at being lovable is of course doomed to failure, because winning and losing are just two sides of one coin, and so in this way the only solution to the perceived problem of being unlovable is to love. To truly give love requires no qualities or conditions, it doesn’t matter if you are old, or fat, or thin, or poor, or rich, or popular, or unpopular, it is possible for any person of any kind to actively unconditionally love once they decide to do so. The battle is over! You longer have to have some kind of perfect conditions in which you are entitled to receive love, you can simply give it. Beautifully this true unconditional giving of love feels as nourishing as receiving it. If the term unconditional feels like a word that might exacerbate a bit of spiritual perfectionism, just think of it as the kind of love that needs no return. If you can only love those who are thin, or rich or popular (or whatever the current desirable traits list is) or those that have to behave to please you then that’s your clue that your love is conditional, meaning based on assumptions. Assumptions are uninvestigated ideas.
Be curious about it, and feel into what is Known by all of us. There are really no prerequisites, beauty IS the beholder.
Along with all the expert modelling of the activity of unlovable-ness, we sometimes come across experts on pure unconditional love. Pets are pretty good at it, also generally children under two, sometimes a little time in nature opens us up to it, sometimes we simply forget we are unlovable and become free to model it to each other ourselves. What is it that is the same in all these experiences of love? It is selflessness. If we momentarily forget we have a self who is unlovable, this forgetting shows up effortlessly as Love. The irony here is that if we all managed to stop worrying about whether we were lovable enough, we would simply Be Love.
If we are in the habit of paying attention to all the ideas of the mind in which we are unlovable, we can train the habit of being alert to the ways in which we can really genuinely love. We can turn our fixated attention on making lists of self wins and failures into noticing unconditional love moments in life, and these will become our sensei. To love actively is to be love, and therefore the need to receive love is rendered obsolete. In this way each time an episode of problem solving the unlovable self arises in our mind attention, this becomes itself a reminder that all is needed is simply to love. The return to love is wonderful every time.
It does not ever matter how many times we forget to turn to love, love is timeless, and therefore from the perspective of love patience is unnecessary. There is no list of past wrongs and future hope of rights as there is no past and no future in what is eternally now.
*I write these blog posts as love letters full of helpful reminders to myself, and in the spirit that this may also be helpful to others.