The Sticky Uncomfortable Business of Loving Others

When I planned this post on loving others, I thought I would tell you about the pitfalls that swallow a perfectionist who has written a relationship book. I had an idea that I would share some of my more disastrous relationship experiences in the hope that you could save yourself some of that trouble. However, this is what wrote me …

I recently had an experience with an acquaintance, let’s call her Angela, who may have needed something from me. I will never know what that something was because I shied away from her. My courage failed me.

We were both attending a gathering. I have known Angela for a few years and our paths have crossed here and there. She is not a well woman.

Every time she came near me, Angela sighed loudly. I was painfully aware of this. However, my conditioning and my fear of unexpected vulnerability have taught me to ignore attention-seeking behaviours. So that’s what I did.

Perhaps you too have also been exposed to personal development modalities that espouse turning away from behaviours or words perceived as ‘negative’ or attention-seeking in the misguided belief that this will somehow stop us from becoming entangled with this ‘negativity’. (These are, incidentally, the same modalities that claim that we are all connected and one.)

Vulnerability is uncomfortable, and there are a few different responses to that discomfort. You could probably divide the world into those who respond to attention-seeking behaviour with ‘What’s the matter?’ – the rescuers – and those who ignore it – the avoiders. I am not proud of being an avoider. In my case it’s origins are fear of having to take responsibility for yet another person. It’s also fear of seeing the vulnerability of another person and in doing so, experience my own.

As a coach, I am holding space for the vulnerability of a client. I love my work and I know my role. As a human encountering another human (not related) who may be about to display unexpected and unmanageable vulnerability, I sometimes get a little messy. I’m afraid of having my boundaries breached.

After I went home, Angela had a breakdown of sorts that I heard about from others. I spent days wrestling with my conscience. Was there anything I could have done differently that would have changed that outcome?

I sat with feelings of shame about not doing what a ‘good’ person would have done. I experienced the guilt that accompanied realising there was probably a better way to handle it. We discussed it in our family (my teenage sons are right into ethical dilemmas).

In the end, I concluded that I could have approached Angela and asked if there was something she believed she needed or wanted from me. That would have been brave and in line with my values. It would have opened up a space for some kind of exchange. It may not have made the slightest difference to Angela. But I would have acknowledged our connection and recognised our common humanity.

I have forgiven myself and taken the learning to heart.

Loving others is wonderful, nourishing, and absolutely at the heart of a satisfying human experience, but the truth is that is it also a sticky, uncomfortable business that requires real courage. It takes commitment to match what Brene Brown calls our ‘aspirational values’ with our lived behaviours. Its really really easy to act from the conditioned mind – be that family of origin, social or cultural conditioning. It’s much harder to live out our values than it is to think about them!!

Self-love plays a big part in making that commitment. When you are willing to be kind and compassionate to yourself, you are able to look at your mistakes and learn from them. You are able to bring your behaviours into alignment with the values that truly matter to you. Mistakes will happen, they are integral to the human experience. Finding the gold in them is an art that we can all discover more about!

To be available to others, be with vulnerability and give love generously, we have to love ourselves.

If you’d like to get serious about self-love, download my simple Getting Serious About Self-Love pdf to discover how self-loving you really are, as well as some easy steps you can take today to start giving yourself the kindness and compassion you need to thrive.


  • Jaynice Lace

    Reply Reply May 5, 2017

    Really LOVE your honesty !

    Thanks for sharing authentic messy “shit” with us xx ( good fertilizer for the Roses)

    • darling_lover

      Reply Reply May 5, 2017

      Thank YOU for your wonderful comment! I wondered if I’d crossed the boundaries here – it’s beautiful to know that someone appreciates it.

  • Sky

    Reply Reply May 13, 2017

    Wishing u an abundance of courage to continue ur journey & strength for helping others see their path & love for ur authenticity …great article!

    • darling_lover

      Reply Reply May 15, 2017

      Thank you Sky xx

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