One of my deepest regrets is that while I spend my life on a daily basis telling people that they are loved and that they are beautiful, it’s a very rare occasion when I hear the words before speaking them first. It might seem very simple and a little naive but to me it’s something that I have never had and seems a keystone of any relationship. The simple words “I love you” or “you’re beautiful” seem to have passed me by.
In saying them to others I don’t do it for the response, I do it because it’s the truth. I really do believe that every person on this planet is beautiful, not perfect because beauty isn’t perfect, but rather awe inspiring in their complexity and capacity for good. Everyone needs to hear they aren’t ugly, that they are lovable and that they have some physical attraction keeping there with you.
So it was and always has been. The ones who nurture do so and over time it becomes expected, it becomes so common place that in the end the nurtured person becomes resentful when it isn’t there. They forget that sometimes the nurturer needs to hear it before they say it. Perhaps it’s the norm. In every relationship there is one who is loved and one who does the loving but over time it becomes harder and harder to say because underneath there is a need which is unfulfilled. This doesn’t make the one who’s being nurtured bad or selfish, but I can tell you from my personal experience all the money and gifts on the world mean so much less than hearing those three little words. To hear them regularly reinforces why you are there, that you are valued, that you have a reason to keep on going. Words have power. After all if you tell someone that they can’t do something right enough times they give up, if you tell them they aren’t good enough then they come to believe it. So by extension surely the reinforcing of positive messages must also have an effect. If that person has never heard the positive then how can they think positively about themselves.
I remember being told by a doctor once that I should be able to have my own core of self worth and self love because the world will never provide it. How sad is that? In a world of billions of people we can’t take the time to reinforce to a fellow human being that they have value, that they are needed, that they are beautiful for who they are. It surely has to be the first duty of every human to show that to the world. But in the end in our homes, and schools, and work places we see bullying and oneupmanship rather than positive messages. And that, to me, is just wrong.
In any sort of partnership, be it parent and child, husband and wife, girlfriend and girlfriend, boyfriend and boyfriend, friend and friend, if there is an imbalance in the nurturing there needs to be some honest analysis by the person who receives it. Like a well it needs to be refilled if you want to keep taking water out. Otherwise a drought will occur and you will feel, unfairly, that the nurturing partner is not as loving as they were.
For myself the end result, when I am forced into this emotional vacuum, is that I feel worthless as person. That my love and by extension my being is no longer good enough.All because there is no spontaneity from the other person. True they may be tired, or upset, or just not in the right mood but the same could be said of me, and yet I still make sure to say the words.
Part of the reason it happens I’m sure is because I am a gardener, it’s my job to nurture. The same can be said of parents, teachers, carers, advocates, anyone who’s job or calling is to lift up another. When we do our job it tends to go unnoticed. But when we have a need we tend to have to ask. When we burn out from holding another people’s pain or emotion it is us who become, like Caesar, buried without praise because the evil (read lack of emotion) lives long after us. Sucks huh? But what sucks more is that there are thousands of people who love the world in so many ways and yet very few receive the simple gift of reflection of their worth without asking.
In the end I’m not asking for sympathy I’m asking for something very simple. Remember that it’s not just your doctor, your preacher, your boss that needs a thank you. It’s your wife, husband, partner, child, your partner who gives you the often unrecognized reinforcements that help you feel good about yourself freely and lovingly. So once in a while, no matter how tired you may be tell them they’re beautiful, just say “I love you” and help to refill the well.
Postscript: The title for this piece actually comes from a poem written in hospital where I was being treated for major depression and is about this topic. In the end the well can become so dry we can end up in very dark places.