Monday, December 14, 2015

Are Your Parents Obligated to Love You Unconditionally?

OK.  I know my answer to this question is going to ruffle some feathers.  But I've been thinking about this for a long time now, and my answer is NO.  That's right, N. O.  I don't think so.

Why?  Because I think the only person you can truly rely on to love you unconditionally is you and yourself alone.  I can add God to that list if you like, but I believe God is already within you - you are part of God - so that would be the same thing.  You expect anyone else to love you unconditionally, and you give up control of your happiness.  You're always relying on love from an outside source to make you happy, and that's unreliable!  Don't look for someone to be your savior.  YOU are your own savior.  YOU are responsible for your own happiness.

Maybe I should back up a little bit so you can understand how I got to this point.

This summer, when I was really questioning myself and my parenting skills in particular, I kept wondering "Is it even possible to raise your children without scarring them somehow?"  So I went to the Great Google and typed in the question.  What I found out was that not too many people were asking the same question.  What I did find out was that there are A LOT of people asking, "Do you think your parents loved you unconditionally?" and the resounding answer to that question was "NO!"  It seems pretty much everyone felt that their parents were selfish, if not narcissistic.  There's even a whole website devoted to daughters raised by narcissistic mothers.  Even the ones that felt relatively well loved remembered incidents in their lives that made them feel unloved.

My first reaction was, "Oh lord!  Is this how my children will see me when they grow up?"  But the more I thought about it, I started to feel like, "Well, why not?"  After all, I am a human being.  I'm not some perfect saint!  Sometimes, I need to do something else before I can sit down and read a book with them.  Sometimes, I don't have the patience to deal with the constant bickering among siblings or the obnoxious repetition of a really annoying song.  If my children choose to see those moments as my being selfish or a sign of lack of love, there really isn't anything I can do about that.

And this is true for all parents, including yours and mine.  It's completely normal and routine to feel unloved at some point in our childhoods. What's insane is that we've all bought into this lie that our parents are supposed to love us unconditionally, and then we lick our wounds collectively, blaming our parents for "messing us up."  Please, let us all get rid of this unrealistic burden!  I know a lot of people, personally, who didn't feel loved as children and are carrying this huge load of resentment, anger, sadness, as well as a faint hope that someday, somehow, their parents will turn around and tell them "I'm sorry, I love you."  Why wait until then to be happy?  What if that day never comes?  Wouldn't it be better to just recognize this as a myth and get rid of the guilt that comes with thinking "My parents must not have loved me because I wasn't good enough"?

Now, I'm not saying that no one is able to love unconditionally.  I'm sure some people are capable of loving others unconditionally, and some of you grew up without ever doubting your parents' love.  I also believe that all of us are capable of loving others unconditionally, too.  But before that can happen, we must learn to love ourselves first.  When we love ourselves, we take responsibility for our own happiness.  When we take responsibility for our own happiness, we stop seeking validation from others.  When we stop looking for validation from others, we stop seeing others as possible attackers of our fragile egos.  And when we are no longer afraid of receiving attacks from these people, we can love them freely.  Unconditionally.

So that's where I am now.  I may feel differently a few years from now, but right now, I'm working on loving and accepting myself.  I at least recognize my immediate anxiety when I hear a word of criticism from my parents and try to just observe that anxiety from a distance.  I'm trying to allow my children to feel whatever they want to feel without turning it into a personal attack on my parenting skills.  I feel more connected and loving toward all earthlings.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.

Do you think your parents loved you unconditionally?  Do you think we can raise our children without scarring them somehow?  Do you feel at peace with your answers to these questions?  How do you feel about my stance on unconditional love?  I'd love for my thoughts to start your inner dialogue - a seed that begins your search for a deeper answer.  And do let me know what you found in the comments below!

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