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January 2010
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let go & let it in: how to stop being afraid of love


"The end of fear is where we begin the moment we decided to let love in
There's nothing we can do about the things we have to do without
The only way to feel again is let love in."

Goo Goo Dolls


If you were sitting in a room filled of people and asked, "How many of you want to be in love?" I bet you wouldn't be at all surprised if most hands in the room shot up quickly and without hesitation. Whether or not we think about it on a daily basis, love is something we all want. In fact, most things we work toward in life are based on the idea of wanting love and acceptance. We want to be successful and well-liked, but, above all, what we all really want is to be loved. However, much as we all want it, so many of us are actually really scared to get it. The way some people feel about love reminds me of the way my dog Bella acts when you give her a bone. She really wants the bone, but when you hand it to her, she won't take it. For whatever reason, she shiess away from it, looking at it warily from the corner of her eye. If you set it down on the floor, she'll run up to it and snatch it quickly, trotting it over to the couch or carpet where she promptly begins chewing. She wants the bone -- she really does -- but for some reasons she's scared of it. A lot of people are like that when it comes to love.

If you're lucky enough to be offered love, it doesn't always mean that you're going to welcome it into your life with open arms. Like my pup Bella, you may look at it from the corner of your eye, sizing it up and wondering whether or not you should take it. Why? Because you're afraid. Many, many people are afraid to love because they are afraid of getting hurt or they're afraid their not good enough or they're afraid they aren't capable of love themselves or they're afraid for reasons I've never heard of or reasons that are uniquely their own. In the past I've struggled with accepting love in my life. Like everyone, I've desperately wanted love, but, like so many, I've had difficulty letting others get close to me. Why? Because I was afraid that, inevitably, they would hurt me. Just like Bella with the bone, I was afraid of taking something I knew I wanted for fear that I would be hurt by it. (Also like Bella, once the love was left there for me to take from the safety of the floor, no longer being waved in my face, I found that I could reach down and grab it on my own, at my own pace.)

For a very long time, I was afraid of love. That doesn't mean I wasn't in love or I wasn't spending time loving others, but it does mean that during those times I was living in fear. I was loving but, at the same time, I was so afraid of losing. I held back for fear of love's loss holding me back. For me, and for many others,  letting love into my life was really difficult. It seems silly because, when you think about it, who wouldn't want love? We all want it but, for a variety of reasons, it can sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world -- even when the love itself feels so good. I've found that letting love in can actually require you to be brave, to open up to someone else in a way that you never thought you wanted to, and to believe that you can trust another person. Doing these things can be very challenging and, positive as love can be, the potential loss of it can also be very intimidating.

Let's bring it back to Bella, shall we? Anyone who has a pet knows that, at some point, that pet is going to die. My sweet little Bella is turning six next month and that means that, quite possibly, about half her life is over. Now, that sounds like an incredibly morbid thought I know, but think about it this way: just because I know my best buddy is going to die does that mean I'm going to stop loving her and playing with her and spending as much time with her as I can? Just because I know she's going to be gone at some point (yep, my eyes are welling up already at the thought of it) and I will be heartbroken, does that mean I shouldn't allow her little awesomeness to be a part of my life? No. Knowing that I'm going to lose her, in fact,  makes me love her all the more and makes me take extra care with making the most of my time with her (what if we thought that way with all of our relationships?).

The point is: losing love sucks and I don't disagree with that for a minute. Cliche as it might be, that old quote "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" really is true. Losing love can be terrible and terrifying, but does it mean we shouldn't love? Certainly not! I understand from experience how hard it can be to open your heart and mind to the idea of love, but every second of love is worth it, even if it ends in heartache. So, when faced with the sometimes scary opportunity of letting love into your life, ask yourself these questions:


  1. What do I really have to lose? It might seem like you have a lot to lose if you're considering your last heartbreak or thinking about all of those media-generated images of people who have had their hearts broken, but, really, what is it that you will lose if you actually let someone love you and it doesn't work out? You'll have to deal with some difficult times and you'll certainly feel rough at some points, but will it be the end of the world? No. You will survive and, if you hold back and don't let love in, you will have missed out on all of the wonderful things that come along with being in love. It can be very easy to focus on the negatives in any situation when you feel afraid. It can be much easier to just steer clear of anything that might potential make you feel bad, but, when you think about it logically, the good most often overrides the bad when it comes to love. 

  2. What's the worst that could happen? I know a broken heart may seem like the worse thing that could happen (and, yes, it's up there in terms of pain), but will you be unable to go on if you let love in and it doesn't work out the way you planned? Nope. You'll be able to survive. As wonderful and amazing and inspiring as love is, it's not everything when it comes to life. Life is about so many things and, while love does play a big part in many aspects of life, without it you won't wither away and die. Without it, your life won't have lost it's meaning. Whatever you think the worst thing that could happen is, remember that love is better than that and it's worth the risk. Every single time.

  3. What can I gain from love? Now, let's focus on the positives for a moment. Love, as anyone who has ever been in love knows, is A-W-E-S-O-M-E. It's one of the best things ever. Not only does it make you feel like a million bucks, but it also has health benefits and generally puts you in a much better, more positive, frame of mind. You can gain a lot from love. When someone in your life really loves you, that person will be there to support you. That person will stand by you and lift you up when you're feeling down. Check out the post "9 Positive Aspects of Love" to read all about how you can benefit from love. Focusing on the positives may help you to see that love really is worth the risk of heartache.

  4. What am I really afraid of? When you begin with the idea that you're afraid of love (or anything for that matter), it's important to take another look at your fear and really try to understand it. Are you afraid of letting love in because you don't trust people? Are you afraid of letting love in because you don't feel as though you love yourself? Are you afraid of letting love in because you don't know if you could really love someone else? There are many reasons you might be holding back and it's important to take a look at the reasons behind your fears and try to deal with those. If you have issues with trust or self-love, for example, it's important to focus on those and work toward understanding yourself better. Once you do that, it'll be a lot easier to let love into your life.

  5. How can I let go of my fears? After you determine what you're really afraid of -- and, yes, you must really learn to listen to yourself and be completely 100% honest with yourself with this one -- you can begin to figure out how you can let go of your fears and focus on the positive aspects of love (which, in reality, out weigh the negatives, though it may not always seem that way if you're in heartbreak mode). Remember: even when things don't work out, all of those good love-powered highs will have been worth it. When you love someone, it may feel like you're giving away a part of yourself, but really you're simply allowing that part of yourself to go out into the world and grow stronger. You have much more to gain than you do to lose.

 

Once you've given those questions some thought, I bet you'll find that it will be a lot easier to let that love in. Like Bella with her bone, you might be scared to take love when it's offered to you. You might fear it will hurt you or you will hurt others or that, for whatever reason, you don't deserve it. You might struggle with trusting others, trusting yourself, or even trusting love. But listen up! Love is amazing. It's one of the best things in the whole world and it's not every day that it comes along and shines it's bright light on your world. If you're given the chance to love and be loved, take it. No matter how difficult it is, no matter what you have to do to make it happen, let go of your fears and let love in.

 


Do you struggle with accepting love?
How do you let love into your life?

 


7 strategies for loving each and every day

 

"No yesterdays are ever wasted for those 
who give themselves to today."

Brendan Francis



Do you wake up every morning with a grin on your face, jumping out of bed with a fresh eagerness for the day ahead? Yeah, me neither. As much as I want to be positive 24/7, it's not easy to wake up every morning and say to yourself, "I'm going to LOVE today!" Some days are just downright difficult and no matter how you look at them, the negative seems to out weight the positive. As most of us probably know, sometimes you wake to a day that can be so overwhelming that you're actually scared of it. The other day as I was searching through photos on the amazing We Heart It, I came across the image above and it caused me to pause and think about how I determined I am to love each and every day. I had to ask myself, "Am I really that determined to love each and every day? Or do I settle into that fear sometimes, really letting negativity about the day's events get the best of me?" As much as I want to start every day off with the hope and cheerful notion that it will be a day I love, that's not always the easiest thing to do when faced with some of life's challenges. 

There's no getting around the fact that every single day won't be lovable. Life is challenging and there are simply going to be days that cannot be labeled "great" -- but that doesn't mean we shouldn't give it our best shot to try to love each and every day. I think it's perfectly okay to realize that not every day will be great -- or even good -- but I don't think it's okay not to at least give every day a chance. I'm not sure about you, but I've definitely had some days that seemed like they would be awful and then transformed into some of the best days I've ever had. Life is unpredictable like that and it's hard to know what's going to happen in a single day. As many of you probably know, a single moment can turn your life around and it only takes a second for day to turn from god-awful to glorious (and, yes, it can go the other way too, but let's focus on the positive since this is a blog about positivity). As many of you also probably know, attitude has a lot to do with your day. If you start off with the belief that a day is going to suck, you'll quickly realize that the day actually does suck. However, if you start off with the attitude that your day is going to kick ass... well, you just might find that it does. 

I'm not going to pretend that every day can be fabulous if you just have the right attitude. Sometimes terrible things happen that are out of our control. Sometimes we just don't feel like things are going right and sometimes a bad-mood funk can suck the life out of even the most promising days. We can't make every day perfect, but we can give it the best head-start possible. It's just like that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" idea. What you eat for breakfast won't necessarily determine what you'll eat the rest of the day, but more often than not, if you eat a healthy breakfast you'll eat a healthy lunch and dinner too. That's what we need to think about when we're starting our days. Sure, even if we have a positive attitude at the beginning of the day, we might consume some negativity later on. But it's a lot more likely that we'll keep gobbling up that healthy positivity if we start the day off with the right mindset. 



7 Ways to Start Off (and Love!) Your Day
 

  1. Be grateful. One of the best ways to start off your day on the right foot is to begin your day by thinking about the things you're grateful for. It's not always easy to do this if you're in a bad mood or you have some difficult activities to look forward to that day, but taking a few moments to be thankful for what is going well in your life is an excellent way to dive into the day with a positive attitude. If you like writing, it might be helpful to keep a little journal beside your bed and jot down the things that you're grateful for when you wake up in the morning. If you're not the writing kind, just thinking about the things that you're thankful for as you're opening your eyes and starting the day is a great way to start things off right. 

  2. Be energized. It can be hard to start off the day right if you're not feeling full of energy. When you're tired or dragging, it's going to be difficult to be positive. I know first hand that when I'm not well-rested, I definitely feel like my mood worsens. So, in order to start of the day energized, make sure you get the right amount of rest (not too much or too little, Goldilocks!), eat healthy foods every day, drink lots and lots of water, and exercise (yeah, I need to work on that one...). If you treat your body right, you're more likely to be starting your days off with a lot of energy. Another way to start off your day with energy is to try your best to end your day with positive thoughts and images. When you're getting ready for bed, try to focus on the good things that happened that day and try to watch/read things that are positive. You can do a lot of preparing the day before to wake up energized and refreshed so get started now!                                                                                                                      

  3. Be mindful. Being present is one of the best ways to love every day. When you're living in the moment, you're not stressing about the future and you're not dwelling on the past. And one of the best ways to be present is to be mindful. Being mindful can be difficult, especially if you're not super excited about whatever you're engaging in on any particular day, but if you make the extra effort to look around you -- to really, truly pay attention to your life and all that surrounds you -- you'll find that your days seem a lot more exciting. And a lot easier to love. Mindfulness and being very aware of what's happening around you keeps you present and helps to keep unnecessary stress from your mind. Pay attention to everything, even the littlest details, and you'll find that every day is worth loving. 

  4. Be realistic. When you start your day, you might be overcome with ideas of what you think the day will -- or should -- entail. So often we place expectations on our days -- good or bad -- and so often these expectations aren't realistic. How often have you thought a day would be the worst ever or anticipated that your day would be absolutely fantastic? It's great to have an idea of what your day is going to be like, but it's not so great to be projecting generalizations on your day. It can be very tempting to think things like, "This day is going to be terrible" or "This is going to be the worst day ever," but it's pretty unlikely that things will go as drastically as you've made out in your head. When you really start to think about something realistically, you'll probably realize that things won't be as bad as you think they will be. Be realistic about what your day will entail and you'll most likely be able to handle whatever comes your way. Realize that most things aren't the end of the world and you'll be much more likely to face your challenges head on.  

  5. Be open. Just think about the number of times you've started off a day thinking you knew exactly how it would go only to find out that it unveiled itself in an entirely unpredictable way. Life throws us some pretty crazy curve balls and one of the hardest things to do sometimes is to just let those curve balls come right at us. There are a lot of things in any given day that our out of our control. Sometimes this can be one of the hardest things to deal with in terms of loving your day, and that's why it's important to be open. Be open to the idea that anything can happen and that anything that may happen might actually be good. I know things have happened to me that I didn't understand at the time, but that ended up being really great for me. Be open to new experiences and be open to the idea that any day has the potential to be a great day and you're a lot more likely to enjoy your days a whole lot more. 

  6. Be hopeful. Along with being open, you also want to start off every day with a healthy dose of hope. Some days this is so easy. It can be so easy when things are going well to believe that they'll keep going well, but then there are those days when hope seems like something you dreamt about once as a child. There are days when hope seems as likely as a fairy tale. And those are the days you need hope the most. When you wake and think the day is going to be awful, remember to have hope. Any day can transform into the best day -- even when it seems completely beyond the realm of possibility. Life is so very unpredictable and I've never, ever been able to 100% predict what would happen to me on any given day. So when a day seems destined for dismal, take a moment and indulge in a little hope. It might sound silly or cliche, but there's nothing like hope to get your day rolling in the right direction. No matter how much you think you're going to hate your day, wake up and have hope because you never, ever know what the day will bring. 

  7. Be determined. As the quote in the image above says, you have to be determined. You have to really want to love every day. If you don't, you won't. It's just that simple. Waking up happily and cheerfully every single morning might sound like a bit much to ask for, but you can wake up believing that your day will hold something magical and unexpected. You always have the opportunity to choice a positive outlook (even when it feels like the hardest thing in the world to do), but when it comes to loving each day, you have to be determined. You have to really want it and you have to make an effort. This is a very hard thing to do and I can't say that I've mastered it yet, but I want to. I want to love every day as if it's my last day and even though I'm not at that point yet, I have hope that I someday can be that person. Determination is key when it comes to numbers 1-6. Without determination, it's going to very hard to do any of the things above when you're facing a really hard day, but if you're determined you have the power to do anything -- including love every day you're alive. 



Following these seven strategies won't always be easy. In fact, if you're anything like me, most days it'll be harder than it would seem. But if you try them and you are determined to love your days, I know you (and I!) can do it. Life's too short not to love every day you're alive, but I think we often forget to love our days. Too often we forget that this life isn't a given and that even when we're in a slump or a funk or a place of pain, we're all pretty lucky to be here. Every day you must wake and you must go on with your life so why not make an effort to love it? 


see life through the eyes of love


 
"One's destination is never a place,
but a new way of seeing things."

Henry Miller

 



Valentine's Day might be over, but that doesn't mean the Month of Love is going to stop here at Positively Present. Today I want to focus on how awesome it is to see through the eyes of love and how there may be a way to do that without actually being in love. For those of you who have read my blog before, you've probably seen the quote above. I use it often because it's one of my very favorites. It's such a great reminder that, no matter what you think you're seeking in life, what you're really looking for is a new way of seeing things. You might think you want a better job or a better relationship or a better life, but that's only because you believe that having those things will make you see the world differently. Deep down you believe that if you could just get that dream job or fall in love with that hot guy/girl everything would look different and, as a result, every aspect of your life would somehow be better. 

Now, before we let ourselves buy into that "someday" way of thinking, let's think about love for a minute, shall we? For those of you who were lucky enough to celebrate the heart-pumping love fest that is Valentine's Day earlier this week, you're likely to be aware that being in love changes the way you see things. Everything that could be a disaster seems to be just fine. Every moment that is good seems like a miracle. It's pretty amazing, when you think about it, what love does to our perspectives. We can become totally different people when we're in love -- happier, more sane, nicer -- because we're seeing everything through a more positive lens. Love makes us see the world differently. 

Many people who aren't already in love want to be. And why is that? If they don't know who they want to be in love with, why would they want to be in love? Because of the way it makes them feel -- and the way it transforms the world around them. Being in love, for many, seems like a destination. So many people want to be in love, but one of the main reasons they want to be in love is because they want to see the world through those rose-colored glasses. They want to feel that euphoric sense that everything is going to be alright. They want to have the positive attitude that those in love always seem to have. (Please note: I'm talking about a very healthy, mutually experienced type of love. There are relationships and types of love that are very destructive and not at all positive. In my opinion, that's not real love, but for those who think it is please keep in mind that I'm talking about the kind of love that makes you feel great, that makes you believe you are awesome, and that makes the world seem like a much better, kinder place.) 

The other day I heard the song "Like Lovers Do" by Heather Nova and I realized that there really is a different way of seeing the world when you're looking at it through the eyes of love. Check out some of the lyrics from the song here:


"There is a paradise
That can be found
A better life
To bring us round
And all we really need to do
Is see the world
Like lovers do

I want to take it easy
T
ake it slow
To catch on fire
And let it go
I wanna give myself to you
So we can live
Like lovers do

Like lovers do
I wanna feel that way
Yeah, like lovers do
They lose themselves for days
And I need to feel...
I need to feel that way"

 


It's those lyrics that made me see that, when you're in love, you see the world differently. There's a glow to everything, a sparkling happiness that makes even the most unfortunate of situations seem bearable. Those of you in love (or who have been in love in the past) know what I mean. Things are different when you're in love. They're happier and more full of life and everything just seems like it is bursting with possibility. Of course, as many of us know all too well, you cannot always be in love. Love is fantastic, but it's not one of those things you can just go out to the store and pick up. It's something that happens and, if it isn't happening to you right now, you may want to know just how you're supposed to see life through the eyes of life. 

Even if you're not in love, it's very, very possible to see the world like lovers do. I'll admit that it's not always easy and there are probably chemical things going on in your body that you can't create without actually being in love, but you can do a pretty good job of seeing the world through the eyes of love if you just give it a try. If you're in love, you probably already have these steps down, but if you're not and you want to see the world through that I'm-in-love glow, check out the steps below. 


5 Steps for Seeing From that "I'm In Love" Perspective


Step 1: Love yourself. People who are in love love themselves. They are excited about the fact that someone else loves them and they learn to appreciate the things that others love about them. Even if you're not in love, you can find the things that others love about you and focus on them. You can always figure out the things you love about yourself and spend some time on those things. Being in love with someone else often makes you fall in love with yourself and that's something you have the ability to do right now. You can love yourself all the time -- even when it's extremely difficult -- and you certainly don't need me (or anyone else!) to tell you how awesome you are. We're all astoundingly awesome, amazingly unique, and we all deserve to love ourselves -- in love or not! 
  
Step 2: Look around you. Those in love are excited by life. Things they've seen a million times before seem novel and interesting when they're showing them to their loved one. But you don't have to be in love to see the world like someone in love does. You can look around, open your eyes, and see the world from a fresh perspective. Sure, this is a lot easier when you're showing it to someone else or trying to see it through his/her eyes, but it's absolutely possible for you to take a new look around and really see what's happening around you. There is so much happening in the world and, if you're anything like me, you probably rush by it all the time. People in love usually take it slow. They look around and do what they can do take in every moment. You can -- and should! -- do this too. You don't need to be in love to savor your moments and make the most of every second you're alive. 

Step 3: Smile, smile, smile. When you're in love, you're insanely happy -- usually to the point that you catch yourself smiling for absolutely no reason (or, rather, for the reason that you've started thinking about the person you love). You don't have to be in love to smile all the time. You don't have to be in love to be ridiculously happy. All you need to do is make an effort. It's a simple thing to forget to do, but smiling can make a HUGE difference in your life. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Smile at the stranger that holds the door for you. Smile when you're in the car driving and no one else can see you. Smiling is one of those things that can make you feel happier even if you're not really in the mood to do. Sometimes you have to force it, but when you do it can really make your day. Smile, smile, smile because it really will make you look (and feel!) like you're in love.  

Step 4:
Seek out positives.
 This seems like it would be obvious (especially coming from me!) but just think about what's it's like when you're in love... You look for the good things in the other person. You look for the happiness and joy around you. Even when situations aren't easy to deal with, you make the most of it when you're with the one you love. You focus on the good even when it seems damn near impossible to do so. And you know what? You can do this any time you want. You can choose to focus on what's positive in your life and in the world, with or without a love story in your life. It's completely up to you and you probably already know that. Love makes the world seem brighter, but you have the ability to turn on that light of positivity any time you want to. 

Step 5: Rise above negativity. If you're seeking out the positives already, this step should come easily to you. It's important to be positive, but it's not always enough just to look for the good in life. Sometimes, no matter how hard you look, there is going to be a whole lot of negative. When you're in love, negative things can seem smaller, less significant. Why is that? It's because you're rising above them, soaring to a place that's more positive and, rather than harping on the negatives, you're dealing with them and moving on. And that's what you need to do to see the world through the eyes of love. You have to face the negative situations and then you have to rise above them. In love or not, you can overcome anything if you put your mind to it. 


In my opinion, love is one of the greatest things in the world. There is almost nothing like looking into the eyes of someone you love and knowing s/he loves you back. However, that kind of romantic love isn't always available and that's okay. It's still very possible to see the world through those awesome lenses of love. Easy to do? Not always. But it's pretty awesome when you can look around you and realize that you're loving the world just as much as you would be if you were in love. Fall in love with your life and I guarantee you it will love you back!  


Do you think the world appears different when seen through the eyes of love?
Do you think it's possible to see the world this way even when you're not in love?