We’ve all heard the well intentioned advice - “You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else”. With endless romance movies, jewelry commercials, and social media it's that time of year when love is on the brain. Self love is discussed like an on/off switch- something you either have or you don’t. Whether we are single or partnered up we may ask ourselves- Do I really need to love myself before I love anyone else? What if I don’t love myself? Where does such definitive and inactionable advice leave those who are still on the journey to self love?
Am I doomed to be alone if I don’t love myself?
If you feel some or most of the time that you don't love all of yourself all hope is not lost. We don’t have to be at the destination to enjoy the journey and can have fulfilling relationship experiences without feeling we’ve completely achieved self love. It's important in relationships to actively do the work and check ourselves while we grow to love ourselves- acknowledge your own reactions, triggers, and strengths to keep from projecting on your partner. Through this work we develop curiosity and deeper intimacy with ourselves. The closer we get and deeper our understanding grows, the harder it is not to have love and compassion.
Love is a verb
When love feels hard to achieve, remember that Love is a verb. We can show love through big and small actions even if we don't feel we can embody it yet. The act of showing love can in turn help us practice habits that make self love a practice and routine. We can love and show love to others even when we find ourselves unloveable. What's important is to acknowledge that through self love we bring our best self to our relationships. The best way to show love is to model good self care to those around us- healthy and loving habits can be contagious and the spirit and energy we can bring our loved ones in turn can help free us from the cycles that have us feeling stuck.
Acknowledge the parts that make up the whole
Rather than asking ourselves the definitive question of “Do I love myself wholly and completely”? Try to break down the parts of yourself. We are all complex beings- made of light and dark. Some parts are more loveable than others and sometimes certain traits need to grow on us like the way we learn to love coffee as we age. If love is too hard- first try just noticing aspects of what makes you who you are. Neutral acknowledgement is one step away from criticism and one step closer to fondness.
Work to forgive our past selves
Thinking of your past self make you squirm? Still thinking about that dumb thing you said at work 5 years ago? These moments are hurdles on the path to self love and confidence. Thoughts about past self tend to pop up most during moments of stress. Allow the cringe to happen! If you didn't think things you’d done in the past were questionable it’d mean you weren’t growing. Knowing and acknowledging our growth areas is tough- but doing it with compassion and gentleness is a way to remind ourselves that while we may feel we have a long way to go, we have already come so far.