Unconditional Love-Deal with Self

I believe in unconditional love, in seeing beauty in people and the world, in having the non-judgemental attitude towards others, in accepting people as they are with all their pluses and minuses.

For me, unconditional love is the most authentic thing there can be. Like the sun and light, it has no boundaries and is all encompassing. Love is empathetic and caring, gentle and kind. It revives and heals, it brings joy and happiness.

I love to love and share happiness with others. But recently, I’ve come to a staggering realisation — the only person with whom I haven’t been sharing the unconditional love was me. My love for myself has been a conditional one. But how come? Unconditional love for others and conditional one for Self. The twist, I believe, occurred back in my childhood.

I was born in St Petersburg, Russia, to a family of scientists and intellectuals. My mother holds a PhD in non-commercial application of lasers and my late father was the head of a department at a government’s secret research factory, developing and producing fuel for space ships. My grandparents were doctors — my grandmother was a gynaecologist and my grandfather — a surgeon.

Shortly after I was born, my grandmother decided that my mother has to focus on her graduation papers — she was still studying at the University to become an engineer — and thus did not have time or energy to take care of me and my twin brother. So, we were taken away and brought to my grandmother’s country house in the Ukraine. I do not have much recollection of the first years there. Perhaps, my memory whipped it off to protect me from the shock of the separation with my parents. I lived at my grandmother’s house for three years, in the course of which I came to believe that my grandparents were my parents.

When the actual parents finally came to take me and my brother back to St Petersburg, I encountered yet another shock. This time the one of the separation from my perceived ‘parents’. Confused and disoriented, I had to live through yet another emotional loss.

My parents, though doing their best in the circumstances, did not have enough strength or confidence to rebuild the broken relationship with us. Having lived without their children for three years, they somehow became detached from their parental duties. So much so that my mother decided to send me and my brother to public school (internat). I am not sure what would happen to us should this come to realisation but my grandmother stepped in. Whether her intentions were genuine or not is hard to say since she had her own interest in it all — to prove to my parents that unlike themselves she was capable of unconditional love.

My grandmother was a caring from a doctor’s point of view individual. She would not hesitate to save a human life, using her medical skills, yet when it came to unconditional love she was at a loss. Not quite being able to feel it, she constantly tried to create an appearance of it. Using her charisma and some emotional manipulation she managed to distort the reality in a way she wished to.

Despite being lost in the ‘smoke and mirror wonderland’ of my grandmother, I still managed to preserve the notion of unconditional love. But not without some losses. In my struggle to stay loving and accepting towards my family, I signed an emotional deal with myself. As long as I loved them unconditionally regardless of how they behaved, I would allow to love myself too. Or rather I thought that I would be loved, which is one and the same thing, actually. The deal was my way of figuring out how to love myself when the rest of my family could not or would not do it.

Once rooted, the pattern had prevailed for quite long in my life until I started feeling uncomfortable and sometimes even unhappy every time I gave others ‘unconditional love’. That was when I knew that the deal I made with myself years ago was not a fair one. Like everyone else, I had a right to be unconditionally loved and accepted. Exactly the area of my life in which I have experienced a deficit for years. Unconditionally loving and excusing others no matter what their behaviour, I set conditions and a certain behaviour for myself to be loved in return.

The damage I was creating for my confidence and identity was greater than all my unconditional love directed towards others, including my family. Something that I was reluctant to admit for years. But I have done it now.

As I’ve discovered, the danger of such a pattern lies in its wide application. For unconditional love is not confined to the circle of your family, it reaches out and affects other relationships — romance, friendship and business. All these areas of my life have been influenced by the ‘love deal’ I made with myself. And though people whom I have dealt and shared my unconditional love with were rather happy, — who would not, — the relations and experiences left me dissatisfied with myself. My focus was always on others and not on myself. So much so that my self-image blurred to a degree of complete disappearance.

Fortunately for myself, I was able to stop harming myself just in time to not completely lose my identity and self-respect.

I still have faith in the power of unconditional love and the importance of positive view of others and the world, but I also believe now that the unconditional love that we give to ourselves can nurture others too, for by unconditionally loving ourselves we’re filling in our own vessel of love. Once it is full, the love will spill over and its abundance will reach others, making them happy too.