Everyone's heard this self-help platitude: We need to love ourselves before we can love anyone else. This may sound wise, but it misses a great truth; if we want to experience true intimacy, we need to be taught to love aspects of ourselves--again and again--by the people around us.

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As much as we want to control our own destiny, the humbling truth is that sometimes the only way to learn self-love is by being loved-precisely in the places where we feel most unsure and most tender. When that happens, we feel freedom and relief-and permission to love in a deeper way. No amount of positive self-talk can replicate this experience. It is a gift of intimacy, not of will-power.
Every time we face the choice to share our deeper self, we stand at a precipice. Often, it's just too scary to take the step forward.

Imagine taking a pet you love and putting it in a yard with an invisible electric fence. When it moves outside its allowed space, it gets stunned by an unexpected shock. It will only take a few jolts before your pet gets the message: if it goes too far, punishment will be instantaneous. In a short period of time, your pet won't act as if the borders even exist; it will simply avoid them. If pushed closer to the danger zone, it will exhibit increasing signs of anxiety. The world outside the fence just isn't worth the pain.

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