Do you say the words, “I love you,” to the people you love and care about?
I grew up in a household where we told each other how we felt and said the words, “I love you” multiple times in a day. Whenever I left the house, I would tell my family I loved them and they recipricated. We also said this when we went to sleep at night or got off the phone. It’s how we always did things, and I didn’t think anything of it.
I’m the same way with my family now. I tell my family many times each day how much I love them, and I never get tired of hearing them say it back to me.
Over the years, I’ve learned how blessed I was to grow up this way. I’ve met many people who never heard their parents tell them they loved them. And, while many of these people say they always felt loved, we can’t dismiss the importance of hearing it.
One person told me, “I knew I was loved, even though my Dad never said it to me. He showed me by his actions, and how he worked hard for our family. He was a man of few words.”
Her father passed away several years ago. While she’s at peace with her relationship and knows how loved she was, she makes it a point to tell her family how she feels. “I never want my kids to question how I feel.”
Love is complicated.
We bring our past relationships to the present, sometimes carrying around pain and hurt from years past. If you’ve been hurt, it’s natural to try and protect yourself from getting hurt again. But, when we do this, we end up hurting ourselves. We prevent ourselves from experiencing deeper, more authentic, loving relationships.
When my Mom passed away, twenty years ago, I could actually feel my heart hurting.
I understood what it meant to have a broken heart. I wanted to pull back my love, close off my heart a little bit, and love more cautiously. It felt safer. I was protecting myself. That way, if I lost someone, it wouldn’t hurt as much.
And, while this might have been safer, I was actually hurting myself instead of helping myself. I was closing off my relationships, and not fully experiencing the joy that comes from loving others. Fortunately, I realized I was doing this, and intentionally allowed myself to feel vulnerable.
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I gave myself permission to open up my heart.
There aren’t a lot of things in life that are free, don’t cost anything, and won’t be depleted. Thank goodness, love is one of them. No matter how many people you love, there’s always room for more. You can open your heart and love those around you, and still have room to let others in. If you let yourself.
Even if you’ve been hurt in the past, try not to hold back on your love.
Tell the people in your life how you feel, and make sure they know it. Let them hear you say the words, “I love you,” even if it feels unnatural to say it. If you mean it, let the people you care about hear how you feel. And, while loving comes with risks: the risk of unrequited love, of not being loved back, of losing the person we care so deeply about, it’s worth the risk.
To live and not fully love, wouldn’t really be living. We’d be going through the motions of life. And, you deserve more. Open up your heart, allow yourself to feel vulnerable, and experience the joy of loving others.