I had a conversation with one of my best friends last week on the concept of loving yourself before you can love anyone else. I used to subscribe to this feeling. Personally, I had to go through a traumatic experience, “date” a ton of not so great people, and be celibate for two years for me to really focus on learning how to love and value myself. What made me reconsider this theory is when my friend Amy, who deals with chronic pain and mental wellness, shared that she started to find love for herself when her now husband came into the picture. "For me, it's been a slow burn, a lot of therapy and self-reflection. It really started with Mike entering my life, and showing me more than anyone ever has how worthy and valuable I was. More than anything, I had to accept that if someone of his caliber had me so high up in his life, I needed to do the same for myself. I know everyone says the ideal is to love yourself before romantic love, but he has said that it was like I was an upside-down glass... and he knew all I needed was to be turned right side up. His love makes me love myself, makes me want to improve... and I've begun a long, awesome relationship with myself now because of it.”
I took the question to my Facebook page to ask what people thought about loving yourself before you can love anyone else. Some think that you should. Mary says, “Yes! I believe in order to truly be available to someone else, there needs to be an understanding of your likes, dislikes, boundaries, and how you expect to be treated. It took me years to understand that but now I'm in a loving relationship and my self-care work paid off. Doesn’t mean I’m perfect, I still have insecurities and issues I’m working on, but it’s a process." Moira says, "Yes, but not in the way you think. I always need to love myself before loving someone else but I mean “if I dated me, would I love me?” If I couldn’t deal with myself in a relationship why would someone else want to? I think you need to work on making yourself someone worthy of love before expecting someone else to love you.” Some think that you don’t. Shira says, "No. I think often your relationships can be healthier when you can love yourself but I do think you can love others without loving yourself. I just don’t think the world is black and white so it’s dependent on each individual and their journey.” Katie says, "Definitely not. Your ability to love isn't defined or limited by how deeply you love or accept yourself. In fact, some of the most loving people I know have a hard time loving themselves."
Amanda says, "Dealing with depression and having a hard time even looking in the mirror with my significant other frustrates me because I can’t see myself the way he sees me. It’s tough. I can’t figure out how to love myself. And it hurts both of us." This comment hit home for me. A blogger and spiritual thought leader I follow recently has been talking at great length about self-love and is pushing that you must love yourself first and how you are the only person who can make yourself happy. I see where she is coming from but it does seem at bit ablest. Some people need help and there is nothing wrong with that. Jay says, "Sometimes, we need help loving ourselves, and those we love can be that help." Emma says, "Sometimes you need someone in your life to show you how awesome you are before you start believing it too”. I’ve come a long way in my self-love journey and was happy all on my own, but it would be a lie to say that I’m not immensely happier since being with my boyfriend.
Filmmaker Casey Neistat has said that relationships are two 100 percents coming together, not two 50 percents coming together to make 100. I always liked that idea but honestly, no one is a complete 100 percent. Hopefully, we are always growing and striving to be better people. It's fantastic to have some base of self-love but not having that self-love doesn't exclude you from deserving or receiving love. Coley says it best, “I don’t remember a specific time in my life, where I was 100% out of self-love OR 100% full of it. I think we’re all trying to find that balance of accepting the bad days for what they are, without letting them consume us and always striving for happiness. I don’t believe that self-love and happiness are a destination, but rather a journey. To feel love, you just have to be present.”
There is a difference between not being where you would like to be on your self-love journey and being dependent on your partner to be your source of joy and love. Nicole says, "I nearly suffocated my marriage until I came to the realization that I was using my husband as a crutch for my insecurities. Once I understood that and overcame it, the dynamic of our relationship changed. It grew stronger and healthier because of my ability to love myself.” Finding a sense of self-love can enrich your relationships. Eugenie says, “It’s normal to find a bit of validation from the ones who love you, but lack of love for self will only harm your interpersonal relationships. There’s a difference between being insecure about stuff but knowing how to compartmentalize and not project that onto others, and disliking yourself so much you exude toxicity.” My boyfriend, Kyle, says "I think loving others can lead to you loving yourself more because we find the positive aspects of ourselves in ways we interact, but I will admit you need to be started on the path towards loving yourself in order to be able to have a healthy relationship.”
There is no right or wrong answer to this question and I’ve enjoyed reading the responses I’ve received on Facebook. Everyone is different and all of us are on different paths of self-love and giving and receiving love to others. This month on The Lady Project Blog, we will be talking about Love. From showing love to ourselves, to our friends, families, and partners. We will also be celebrating Black History Month by showcasing amazing Black women you should know. I hope you find yourself a little bit extra love this month.