Earlier this week I was writing a post about loving yourself in relationships, when a friend of mine sent me this quote.
I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.
― Maya Angelou
This was fortuitous both because it was precisely what I was writing about, but also because I am just beginning to read I know Why the Caged Bird Sings for the first time. So I erased the whole post and decided to start over, something I do more often than I’m willing to admit.
It’s certainly a good point. I’ve always believed that you can’t really succeed in a relationship if you don’t love yourself. Not loving yourself breeds all kind of tricky problems, like jealousy, insecurity, and doubt. Not loving yourself doesn’t give you an easy platform to love someone else. But how fair is that? How fair is it to say “you have to love yourself or you can’t love” in a society that routinely tell us that we always have to be better? That we’re always in need of improvement?
The truth of the matter is that I see lots of people in relationships who don’t seem to love themselves and they’re getting along just fine.
It’s a good standard to strive for though, and if you’re single, I think loving yourself can be a good starting point. Not only to love being single (because being single can be a lovely thing to be) but also to open yourself up to loving someone else.
What does loving yourself look like? Hell if I know. It could look like a lot of different things. Her are some possibilities I brainstormed.
1. Loving yourself does not mean that you always like everything about yourself. It is possible to pretend you are practically perfect in every way but it’s another thing to believe it. In fact, often times confidence gives way to ego, and thats when people start calling you a little shit.
2. Loving yourself means treating yourself. It means listening to what your body needs or doesn’t need. It means battling addiction and illness. It means trying to stay alive in an often times unfair and frustrating world. It means trying to stay upbeat because when everyone else is distracted by their own shit, you need to be your biggest fan.
3. Loving yourself means giving yourself a good quality of life. That is completely open ended but I think generally includes striving for something. That could be your career, it could be a large community of friends or lovers, it could mean traveling. Stray from stagnancy and be active in something.
4. Loving yourself means not putting yourself down. I love a good self-depreciating joke, and I try to laugh at myself, but I also have to remember to think positively. What am I doing right? Why am I a worthwhile human being? Why do I deserve to be loved?
What happens if you don’t love yourself before you enter in a relationship? What happens if you stop loving yourself?
I think the warning is out there because loving yourself is so fundamental. When you stop loving yourself, a whole bunch of things can fall apart. How you take care of yourself, how you take care of others, how you interact with the world around you. And those things are directly linked to your relationship. To how your partner is going to feel. To how the two of you will be together. Not loving yourself can lead to problems of dependency, depression, and anxiety.
Loving yourself isn’t easy, again, in a society that tells us we’re never quite good enough. And I certainly don’t think that all relationships require such perfect adoration for the self. But it is important to consider how your self love influences other parts of your life. It’s important to step back and think “the first person that should love me, is me.”
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