Most of us first experience love from our mothers, who gave birth to us. A mother puts no conditions on her love and she loves us just the way we are, even if we can’t do anything on our own and have continual needs. Of course fathers love their children too, but in our patriarchal world something else often enters into the mix: expectations, a pressure to live up to certain standards. They compare and assess, correct and criticize. A child often responds with motivation, or an intense or vague feeling of not measuring up, not being perfect, and instead feeling ashamed of his or her (seeming) imperfection. These are damaging feelings, and their short-term antidote is approval. But the solution is only temporary. The destructive feelings quickly return, and a continual dependency sets in, because our self-worth is now dependent on success and approval. But where does the mother’s love end up in the midst of everything?
Unconditional love is considered to be of less value in our patriarchal world because it doesn’t cost anything. Only that which has a price can be valued in the patriarchal system of values. By contrast, approval takes a lot – it requires effort, dignity and vitality:
- It takes effort to constantly bend ourselves to do things that we don’t actually want to do and to be someone we are not.
- It takes our dignity when we are humiliated by constantly being evaluated and compared with others.
- It takes our vitality, sapping our life energy through the process of accomodating, denying and enduring humiliation (“emotional detachment”)
Thus we learn to seek approval instead of love early on, and only later do we realize that we are being terribly deceived. Striving for approval, also approval of our selves by our own inner critic, makes us sick. The lost self-esteem and self love destabilizes us, wears us out and makes us age faster. Likewise, we project our inner lives onto the outer world, we assess and judge and use approval as a form of power by withholding or giving our approval sparingly. In doing so, our hearts harden and our ability to love diminishes.
Approval is just as impossible to sustain as our patriarchal world, since it is dependant on performing a service and making a sacrifice. Love, on the other hand, is sustainable. At the same time it’s a form of energy. Love is free, and it flows. Love can be neither kept nor accumulated. The love which you receive, you pass on or give back. If one doesn’t do so, the flow of love ceases. Therefore, love is completely pure and free from manipulation, deception and egotistic motives. Love can only flow when one begins to love oneself; otherwise love cannot circulate through us and we cannot pass it on. You can only truly love when you have a good relationship with yourself, when you love yourself. When you love yourself, you will be loved and be able to feel love for everyone else.