We’ve all got that one thing. The one struggle, challenge, person, disability that makes life, well, interesting. It also can make it hard to connect with others, because nobody can truly understand us and the roads we walk. . . just as we can never fully grasp what they are going through either. The Bible says it this way: “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy” (Proverbs 14:10).
It’s a process, finding our balance on the tightrope walk of accepting people will never fully understand our ups and downs, and choosing to be open and share life with others anyway. In the process, we all must find ways to love ourselves when those who love us can’t meet our deepest needs.
Ways to Love Yourself when Others Don’t Understand Your Struggle
1. Be present in THIS moment.
Some circles refer to this as “being mindful” or “practicing mindfulness.” The term may seem new-age-y or navel-gaze-ish at first, but don’t let it fool you. In essence, it means to be aware to focus our thoughts on the present moment, as opposed to our shopping lists, challenges, schedules, or anything else. (Is anyone else already feeling more peaceful just thinking about not thinking about all that?)
Once we let ourselves temporarily set aside external pressures and looming needs, mindfulness lets us notice our feelings, thoughts, physical sensations, and what’s going on around us . . . in this moment.
When we know how to be mindful—aware, in the moment—we’re less apt to live in the whirlwinds of emotion and grief that may have colored our pasts or this particular relationship. Instead, we’re right here, right now. And even if it’s hard right here, right now, it’s just this one moment we’re dealing with, instead of dragging along its 101 closest cousins as well.
2. Be the kind of friend you want them to be.
Be interested in their lives. Listen when they talk without trying to formulate in your mind what you’ll say next. Ask them about their lives and about whatever you talked about together the last time. Encourage them in their dreams. Celebrate their milestones and successes. Remember their big days. Honor their choices. Pray for them. Get excited about what their kids accomplish. Offer them a piece of your chocolate. Tell them when they have something in their teeth. (Those are the real friends, right?)
Be honest and open with them. Don’t sugarcoat your life when they ask about it, but don’t let your stories dominate the conversation either. Be there for them. I know this seems like a no-go with everything we’re balancing in our families, but bear with me. Dependability means that whatever you’re able to do, you do as consistently as you can. Be loyal. Keep a confidence. Call when you say you will.
What does all this being and doing for THEM have to do with loving yourself well? It feels good to love someone well. It feels affirming, especially when we’re in a difficult season (or it’s just a difficult life!) to do what we can do. And we can love people. We can extend God’s love to them. No matter what we’re facing, we’ll always be able to love someone else. And that gives us back a bit of the identity that others not understanding our lives or trials takes from us. It puts us back in the game.
What kinds of things help you take care of yourself when facing struggles others don’t relate with or understand?