In lots of Self Love Circles, there’s that quote that says “You can’t love someone else until you learn to love yourself”, or “No one will love you until you love yourself.”
In my early days of self-care, I’m pretty sure that I believed that. Experience has given me a deeper perspective on it.
It’s such a good question: is our capacity to love and be loved influenced by how we feel about ourselves? Of course, it is. But will it make or break your relationship? That depends.
You don’t need to love yourself to (love or) be loved by someone else.
It’s just a really REALLY good idea.
When you lack self-love here’s what happens. You get really excited when someone (anyone) pays you attention because you feel so unworthy of it. You’re likely to not be too specific about the things that you need in a relationship. Soooo you fall for the wrong kind of person, or at the very least – someone that doesn’t nourish you. You’re so happy that someone is loving you that you sweep all of those warning signs under the rug. You turn a blind eye to their bad sides and maybe an itty bitty part of you hopes that they’ll love you enough to change because wouldn’t that prove that you are special and important?
In the end, you get stuck in a relationship that doesn’t nourish you and probably never did. You get cheated on, lied to, or put in an unhealthy situation.
However, there are some really awesome people out there in the world who will love you through all of your baggage. They’ll get that you might self-sabotage and they’ll stick around. They’ll get that you might not be your biggest fan but they’ll pick up the slack and love you hard because you are worthy and deserve it. Those patient, lovely, healing souls – they’re rare. The mistake that we make is thinking that everyone we love will be equipped to help us fix ourselves and continue to love us and stick around through that journey.
#1 My experience where neither of us loved ourselves:
It was difficult and one of the worst relationships I’d been in. I was young and it was before I’d started actively dealing with my depression. They were in a similar situation and it always felt like nothing anyone did was enough to make the other person happy. I didn’t feel good enough for them, they didn’t feel good enough for me. There was a lot of self-sabotage on both ends that lead to each of us believing even more so that we were unworthy of love.
#2 My experience where I didn’t love myself but they loved themselves:
So. Much. Jealousy. I felt so insecure all of the time. They were pretty and confident and had tons of friends and I was constantly, constantly, constantly waiting to be replaced by someone better. I got jealous over everyone because they must be better than me. I was constantly trying to overwhelm them with my affection so that they wouldn’t leave me while simultaneously pushing them away because it felt bound to happen. It was this terrible back and forth and to be honest I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with it.
And eventually, they didn’t want to deal with it. They got tired, they got frustrated, and I got broken up with.
#3 My experience where I loved myself and they didn’t love themselves:
Fast forward five years and I’m all up in my self-love journey. This relationship was by far the most destructive relationship I have been. When you truly learn to love yourself it’s like angels are singing from heaven and light is shining down upon you. It’s like you want to share that feeling with EVERYONE.
You fall in love with someone who doesn’t love themselves and it feels like your duty to be a beacon of light. You need to show them the way because you’ve been there and you know it gets better. So you shine and shine and shine. You try to show them how worthy they are, how much they matter, how we as people can be loved in spite of our “baggage”.
And one of two things happen.
They slowly start to believe that they’re worthy and you watch them grow and blossom under that light of unconditional love. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s not that you fix them, you just give them a safe space to learn to love themselves.
Or they don’t.
You find yourself exhausted from trying to love someone who simultaneously wants to be loved but will also do everything in their power to show you how terrible they are (because how often do we feel like we are terrible?). (See situation #2, I’d been there done that). If you’ve ever been in the situation where the role is reserved, then you might just make excuses (because you remember how desperately you wanted to be loved even when you couldn’t show it) and you might just stay in the situation longer than you should because you have compassion and you know how it feels to be that person who just can’t get it together, but look at you… you eventually learned to love yourself so maybe if you love them a little harder and you’re a little more patient…
And before you know it, you’re not liking yourself most days either. You’re mentally exhausted, and you’ve realized that somewhere along the way it turned from you trying to show them that they were worthy of love, to trying to prove that YOU are worthy of it.
#4 My experience where I loved myself and they loved themselves:
That would be with my wife. It’s like magic. It’s nourishing on a level that felt impossible when you were in situations 1-3. Everything is easy. Everything flows back and forth between you. It’s the kind of love that helps you grow and be a better person. Your actions aren’t born from a place of desperation and your energy isn’t spent trying to make someone feel something they aren’t ready to feel. You’re not over-compensating for their lack of love for themselves.
No one’s sense of self-love is perfect. We all have days when we feel down about ourselves or we have to build each other up, but that foundation of self-love makes for a good base to build on.
When you don’t love yourself it’s really hard to love and be loved in a healthy way.
It doesn’t mean that you’re unworthy of love. It doesn’t mean that you deserve to be alone. And it doesn’t mean you have to wait until you 100% love yourself. You just have to be aware and mindful of those things that you do or that the other person might do, that are symptoms of that lack of self-love. It means that you have to do your own work (and let them do theirs) to get to a place where everyone feels good about themselves.
If you are single or lonely or struggling in your situation right, focus on loving yourself. It leads you to where you are meant to be. Learn what you want from a partner and what you are able to give to someone else. Don’t be afraid to explore, to focus on yourself, and to create a life that nourishes you. When the right one comes along you get to share that happiness. Take it from me, it is so worthwhile.