Unconditional Love Bankruptcy

We officially have two teenagers living in our house! Mya is now 13!!

Last night we went to Red Robin (birthday girl’s choice) to celebrate this momentous occasion. We got crazy and actually allowed the kids to play games on the table tablet that is always there staring kids in the face and that inevitably breeds the question with a very sweet look on their face and a twinkle in their eyes, “Can we please, just this one time?”. They thought this was absolutely amazing and pretty shocking because this is very different from our standard – no electronics during dinner rule.

So, while we waited at a much quieter than usual table due to the kids playing video games, I picked up the good old fashioned kid’s menu to check out the activities. I must say that Red Robin has a very entertaining and well-rounded kid’s menu enjoyed by both children and adults.

I found a question cloud that really grabbed by attention. It read:

“Would you rather travel to the future or to the past?”

I immediately knew my answer. I would travel to the past to make different choices around some critical things that began three decades ago that I still experience grief about today. (yes, middle school and tween life is rough!)

I have thought, wondered, cried, regretted, raged and shut down. I have chastised, berated and punished myself. I have fantasized about things having gone differently and how that would have affected my future.

Last night I had the exact opposite experience, and it was wonderful. As part of my work as a coach for women, I often notice a great divide between how we treat ourselves versus the way we treat others. Generally, it comes much more naturally to show compassion, understanding and acceptance toward others than it is to do the same for ourselves. When it comes us, a very common instinct is to resort to a relentless, vicious, critical, accuser and torturer. It’s brutal!

Over the years I have worked on recognizing the ways I think about, talk to and treat myself as compared to my responses to others. Recently during a session with my coach, I was challenged to put “unconditional love” post-it notes around my house. These would remind me to take a few minutes to love on younger versions of myself who made choices that I would like to reverse.

This integration practice has been very powerful. I am bringing my “black sheep” back into the fold of who I am. Each time I meet those parts of me with love rather than contempt, I experience a greater degree of internal wholeness and can operate more as my true self.

No longer trying to outrun, ignore or beat things out me, I can relax into all of myself. And without all the energy spent on kicking my own ass, I have so much more space in my life for other things. Like kid’s menu activities, writing in the sand and thinking about all of the amazing things about me. (I couldn’t have even fathomed that last one 10 years ago)

My mom has a theory – that the only true unconditional love that exists here on earth is the love that a parent has for their child. Every other relationship has some conditions.

I have thought about this a lot. As much as I hate to admit it, this has been true in my life. Overall, the relationship that has been most impacted by my lack of unconditional love has been my relationship with myself.

From the time that I was VERY young, I developed various conditions that I needed to meet in order to be “ok”. I needed to look a certain way, act a certain way, talk a certain way, have certain friends, go to certain places and like certain things. Oh my goodness, it was completely and utterly exhausting!

I’m a pretty good student and rule-follower by nature so you better believe that I did my best to meet all these conditions. And for the most part, I did a pretty good job. It took a LOOOONG time for me to realize that on the outside things seemed to be going well, however internally, I was moving closer and closer to being completely bankrupt. Not in the financial sense, but in an emotional, mental and spiritual sense.

I was completely bankrupt of self-love for so long. Not only that, I was completely bankrupt of a sense of self. There was no real Shannon and therefore, I didn’t have anyone to love because Shannon was no longer there.

About 20 years after all this began, I had an equally wonderful and terrifying experience. It started a complete course correction in my life and placed me onto the path that I still walk today. A huge aspect of this directional change has been a growing awareness of how I treat myself. Initially, it was relatively easy to see that I had very little love for myself, let alone unconditional love.

So, I was told to “love myself”. That was one of the foundational pieces of my new life. It seemed simple enough, but I soon realized that this was no small hill to climb. In fact, this was Mount Everest in the worst of conditions. As much as I tried to “love myself”, I often felt like I was missing the mark altogether. The concept felt so elusive, I felt like I was grabbing at things in the dark.

The missing ingredient, that I discovered after another LOOOOOOONG time was that I needed to learn who “myself” was. I needed to get to know her and like and accept her before I could even attempt to love her. It’s amazing what decades of conditional does to a person.

Over the years I have made countless deposits into my self-love bank account. I am grateful and proud to say that I am no longer bankrupt. Over the past several years in my own life and in working with other women, I have noticed some common themes around self-love bankruptcy and have developed a very strong belief about it all.

  • It is often easier for us to say or do loving things for others than it is for ourselves.
  • Many people consider themselves “good” at loving others but not themselves.
  • Many people would never treat others the way that they treat themselves at times.

Even when I was emotionally, mentally and spiritually bankrupt, incapable of loving myself, I was still pouring out all that I had for others and felt like I was loving them well. What I have come to believe incredibly strongly is that I can’t truly and unconditionally love others without truly and unconditionally loving myself first. It is impossible to give away something that I don’t have.

In those moments in the big sticky booth at Red Robin, I felt a ping of unconditional love for myself. Instead of thinking about wanting to return to the past to redo all the things I had “messed up”, my mind and heart automatically went to all the younger Shannon’s who did the best they could. I felt compassion and gratitude to myself for surviving and thriving as well as I did. Yes, I thought about what my life would be like had I done things differently. But my vantage point was on top of Mount Everest.

And then I took a deep breath, looked at my family and loved them unconditionally for a moment (thank you table video games which bring peace and laughter and miraculously remove complaining and whining) and played a game of tic-tac-toe with my husband.

It’s amazing what happens when I am resourced and out of the pit of bankruptcy.

If you are feeling personally bankrupt in any area of your life, I can and would love to help you! Schedule a complimentary 60-minute Breakthrough Coaching Session and you’ll be on your way!!