Recently, I was having dinner at a friend’s house. Her teenage son emerged from his room and sat down at the dinner table with his head down and shoulders slumped.
I inquired: “How are your studies going?” “Not very good”, he replied. “Why is that?”, I wanted to know. With frustration in his voice he said: “Not all of the information is in my notes. It’s totally frustrating when I do not have all of the material I need to be prepared for the final exam”. I probed further: “Is there somewhere you could get the information you need?”. He responded: “No! That is another reason I’m so annoyed”. Silence filled the room for a minute, before he added in a restrained voice: “You know, I’m feeling really irritable right now and I think it would be better if you don’t ask me any more questions. Otherwise, I might snap at you”. I paused, allowing his words to sink in. I could hear my ego nattering, as it did not like his comment. “Thank you! I appreciate you letting me know’’, I answered calmly and then proceeded to eat my soup in silence. Silence as perceived by others that is, inside of me, there was plenty of noise while my internal dialogue chirped away. “What is his problem? I was just showing interest and offering him a place to talk about his troubles”. I sat quietly and observed my ego take offense, as it wanted to turn the teenagers words into a personal attack. Many people might agree with my ego’s perspective and code this as a moment of hostility. However, I would like to propose a different perspective: Not only was this teenager’s behaviour courageous, it was an act of love. An act of love towards me and himself.
I’m sure everybody on the planet has an opinion of what love is. In my quest to search for answers on this very topic, I’ve learned that there are many characteristics of love. Three of them are prevalent in this story: Patience, Vulnerability and Boundaries.
“Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in your mind” – David G Allen.
Holding a calm trusting perseverance in the face of adversity, exposes possibilities that might not have been seen from a frantic state of mind. Patience is choosing to trusting in something bigger than ourselves, allows time for things to naturally arise and the “small stuff’ to fall away.
Brene Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure that is not a weakness, but our most accurate measurement of strength.”
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and not me. A boundary shows where I end and someone else begins; leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for, gives me freedom” – Dr. Henry Cloud
Can we agree that the teenager was brave to verbalize his thoughts and feelings? It takes real courage to say something brutally honest, knowing that many people would automatically judge it negatively and could take the comment personally.
I believe his actions were loving towards me, because in his moment of emotional struggle, he took a vulnerable step in speaking up, so that I could become aware of his current state. This information helped me from unintentionally making things worse. He took ownership of his feelings and honoured himself by creating a healthy boundary. Having healthy boundaries is a behaviour that reflects self love. It’s important to realize, even in the face of his inner battle, he was able to remain calm and vulnerable enough to expose his challenge without losing his composure. He could have shoved his feelings down, snapped, wronged or verbally punished me; but instead, his patience prevailed.
Giving yourself permission to be right where you are and feel your feelings is self love. As much as we may not like uncomfortable feelings or challenging situations in life, we can also appreciate those are the times that hold our greatest opportunities for growth. Grieving comes to mind as a good example of this. When a person gives themselves permission to be fully present with the pain of their loss, they open the door to healing, and that is self loving.
Self love is trusting in the journey of life, embracing your humanness without getting lost in it, and knowing there are no mistakes. Everything has a purpose.
As you go through your days turn inward and practice asking:
“Am I being patient with myself and trusting a greater purpose?”
“Am I willing and courageous enough to be vulnerable?”
“Am I taking ownership of myself and setting healthy boundaries?”