You’re Not Who You Love, or Even Who Loves You

You, are freaking fantastic. 

You are. 

There is not a single living organism on this planet that has ever had the same unique combination of characteristics as you – both internally and externally, expressed in quite the same way as you and with the same life experiences as you, in the whole history of the entire universe. 

Now that’s powerful.

Have you ever just sat and pondered how magnificent this idea is? How often do you think about how infinite and expansive the universe really is? When we get out of our own little heads for just a fleeting moment, we can see just how unique that really makes us. 

My guess is that someone reading this right now really needed to hear this today. This is precisely the kind of perceptual lens through which we should all be viewing ourselves at any given time. And I don’t use the word “should” lightly, but in this case it’s quite fitting.

Let me tell you about one of the most important lessons I learned on love and self-perception from a mightily powerful TedTalk called, The Art of Being Yourself, given by a beloved life coach named Caroline McHugh. It was so powerful in fact, that I must have seen it at least 15 times now. The reason I’m telling you about this talk and the lesson I learned within it, is that it has served me well in this early stage of creating, negotiating, and navigating a foreign land of opening up my relationship – and I can see how without it, one could easily fall into a pit of self-doubt.

I’m going to explain 3 specific orientations of how we perceive ourselves and the world around us as described by McHugh in her TedTalk. And trust me, being able to identify these 3 complexes is a handy tool when you experience jealousy, insecurity, and discomfort in “the lifestyle” (and anywhere else for that matter). The first is INFERIORITY – a feeling of being smaller than others, which relies on the presence of another in order to find our identity in relation to them. The second is SUPERIORITY – a feeling of being grander than others, which also relies on the presence of another in order to find our own meaning. And finally, the third orientation McHugh coined is the one I want you to remember: INTERIORITY. It’s the only way to be that’s completely uncomparative. In this way of being, you are the only yardstick for comparison. You have value regardless of the presence of another. And it’s the one space where there’s absolutely no competition.

Now I’m not saying I have true inner confidence down pat (and I would be highly skeptical of any 34 year old who claims to), but I have internalized the very concept of universal uniqueness that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. In fact, I can say with absolute certainty that there is no one else on the planet like me, and there never has been and there never will be. Furthermore, I can say with the utmost confidence that this is true about you, too. And because of that, it is much easier to redirect my thinking onto INTERIORITY when, for example, I feel as though I should be farther along in my journey than I currently am. Do I struggle with emotional regulation just like everyone else? Yes, but I can say that I have a pretty strong sense of what I have to offer. 

However, what I have to offer is not for everyone, and that’s a beautiful thing. I made peace with that some time ago. There are reasons why we are not meant to mate with every person we encounter. How thankful are we that those past partners didn’t work out?? 

What I want you to hear loud and clear is that we are NOT who we love, and we are not who loves us. And thank Caroline McHugh for illuminating this so eloquently in her TedTalk. Moreover, if we took this concept of love and put it on a much smaller scale, we aren’t even who we find attractive or who finds us attractive. We aren’t who we want to date, and we aren’t who wants to date us. We aren’t who breaks our hearts, and we aren’t who’s hearts we break. If I could go back in time to my younger self, starting as young as middle school, this is what I would tell her. Our value and worth in this life is completely unrelated to the people who reciprocate or don’t reciprocate our affection for them. What McHugh was saying in her talk is that it doesn’t even constitute a part of our intrinsic identity. Because remember, we are each that unique composition of experiences and traits that cannot be replicated. Our conscious selves don’t belong to anyone, nor does someone else belong to us. And did you notice, that NONE of this has to do with physical appearance? Ya sure that’s part of your whole package, but it’s a very fleeting part. The much bigger, grander you that I’m talking about is the inner you – all the intangible qualities that are transitory yet somewhat stable.

I don’t know about you, but I gain an immense sense of freedom and relief from that. Those things come and go, they wax and wane. Both the good and the bad is fleeting. So the orientation that I choose to live by is interiority – where I remember the impermanence of the conditions in our lives, especially in our love lives. And in that space, I live with just me – uncomparatively.

So the next time that you start to feel like you’re drowning in an abyss of self-doubt, remember how lovely you are. Remember that the conscious you who is feeling the feelings of sadness, heartbreak, jealousy or insecurity is not actually tied to that person you’re thinking of. All of those things are impermanent. All of those things are outside of yourself. You are not who you love, and you aren’t who loves you.

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