What does it take for you to tell someone you love them? What are the qualifications to love, for you?
Do you reserve the L word for your romantic relationships, or do you extend it into your friendships as well? What about friends of the opposite sex? Do you tell your family that you love them? Immediate family, or extended family also? How often do people in your life tell you that they love you? How many romantic partners have told you they love you? Have you always said it back, or have you ever had one of those moments where someone said it and you couldn't say it back? What's your emotional (and physical) response when you hear those "three little words" for the first time? Which people, in what scenarios, with how many stars in alignment, warrant an I Love You in your life?
And on the flip side, how often do you express your feelings of disdain for someone? How many times a day do the words, I Hate You/That/Him/Her, come out of your mouth or run through your mind? How often, while talking shit with your friends, do you say you hate someone or something? Like me, do you feel hate towards anyone in your family? Do you have failed romantic relationships laced with hatred that you have no trouble expressing? Have you ever looked a friend in the face and said you hated them? Why? What's your emotional (and physical) response when someone says they hate you? Which people, in which scenarios, warrant an I Hate You in your life?
I ask because, at least in my experience, expressing hateful emotion toward people - being mean to someone or telling them I hate them - can sometimes come a lot easier than expressing loving ones.
And no, that's not because I'm a bitch.
I'm not a mean person by any means, and there is not a lengthy list of people out there who I hate or wish bad things on. But, I do often struggle with the ability to tell someone how much I love them (romantically or otherwise). And it's because telling someone I love them makes me vulnerable, and I don't always like to be vulnerable. Telling someone how much I dislike them, however, puts me in a position of power and control, with which I am much more at ease. There is some strange satisfaction is telling someone that you don't like, the reasons that you don't like them.
You can take many members of my dad's family for example on that; I get a real (sick) thrill knowing that they read this blog, and from knowing that they have seen in black and white the reasons why I will never forgive them for their awful behavior towards me and my mom (and towards my aunt and cousins, by the way). I'm not apologetic for saying the things I've said to them, because I know I am not vulnerable to them and that I have control. And I like that. Because that's comfortable for me, being in control.
On the other hand, I can struggle with telling my friends how much I care about them in significant ways. Specifically with that big L word; I don't often say I love you. I don't toss it around with my friends. I don't say it much to my family, other than my mom (and all the babies, but they'e easy). I never say it to friends who are boys, because I always feel like that's such a mixed signal. I've said it to exactly three boys, romantically, and I have never said it first - even when I knew I was ready to say it. Specifically, my most recent ex-boyfriend (who will likely read this and then make fun of me) comes to mind. I knew I was in love with him before he ever told me he loved me. But I certainly was far too scared of my own feelings and my own vulnerability to say it. So this one night, when he was out of town for work and we'd been on the phone for an ungodly number of hours, in the midst of telling me a list of qualities he liked about me, he told me he loved me. And even after he said it, and even though I knew I felt the same way, it was a struggle for me to choke out, I love you too. Enough of a struggle that he responded with, you don't have to say it back if you don't feel it. And I remember being so caught off guard by that, because I knew that my feelings were real - but I was so bad at being vulnerable that it didn't feel real to him when I said it. **lessons learned in therapy that could have been helpful so much sooner in my life.**
Someone asked me today why I thought it was so much easier to tell everyone who/what/where they hate, but then once you say the word love, people get all twisted over it. "Like the qualifications to love are always scrutinized." This came up because while we were chatting last night, this someone said I love you, V, g'night. And instead of smiling and thinking it was great that one of my good friends was expressing a positive emotion towards me, I got super uncomfortable and a little anxious - enough so that he could read it through a Facebook chat window and fully called me out on it. And the thing is, he was right. It's easier to be mean, it's easier to say hate, it's easier to keep control and to extend your emotional arm out to where no one can get close enough to warrant an I Love You. But is it better to have something simple, or is it better to have something real?
I'm afraid of saying I Love You. Especially first. So for my first day of my challenge, to face something I'm afraid of today, I'm going to tell a few of the people I love, that I love them. Because I do. I am actually a big heaping scoop of sappy, gushy love...I just tend to be scared to say it out loud.
But today, I'm challenging that. Because nothing good ever comes from burying your feelings.
You don't have to be in a 21 day fear challenge to make a change, either. If you love someone, go tell them. They deserve to hear it, and you deserve to express it. Never be afraid of your own feelings; they're part of those imperfect flaws that make you who you are.
And people love you for it.