I know “self-love” is one of the ultimate goals for those on a path seeking happiness through a jungle of self-help books; life coaches; spiritual retreats; and self-realization workshops. I get that if you can’t love yourself that life will always generally suck at its core. You can have bright and glorious moments; fame; fortune; and the adoration of all those around you … but you won’t fully accept it or feel it without “self-love.”
But I don’t agree AT all, that you can’t find love without loving ourselves to a healthy degree. The very thought is patently ridiculous. Why? Think about it – most of us at some point in our lives have really despised ourselves, for a good reason or not, some lucky ones for a moment, for others decades – I raise my hand. And at these times, can you honestly say there wasn’t at least ONE person in your life that loved you during this period of time?
The expression of love, I have slowly discovered has less to do with the object of love, but rather the lover. I can remember throughout out my 20’s and 30’s, when depressions kidnapped my psyche with such regularity, hating myself seemed the most sensible thing to do. HOW could I love a self, which actually wanted to wipe my life away like a shameful spill. Yet, I have had family and friends, who experienced my existence differently – people who were happy to spend time in my company, people whom I would care for and who would care for me in times when we found ourselves in distress. Wasn’t this love? When others give to you freely, even when you are mired in the stink of self-loathing, isn’t THAT love?
I whole-heartedly say it IS – and to believe that love is entirely out of one’s reach if one is caught in the habits of self-disrespect on the light end and self-hatred on the heavy side of the spectrum is one of the CRUELest ideas that has been peddled in the self-help world for decades now. Why? Why would such a preposterous idea be given such authority?
The LAST thing a person who is struggling with self-loathing, and who desperately wants to find love in their life needs to hear is that they won’t find love until they love themselves. Perhaps that person won’t “experience” love but that doesn’t mean that the love isn’t there.
Dating coaches are the WORST when it comes to the whole “love” thing … telling people that they won’t be successful in finding love until they recognize their own self-worth. REALLY? If these coaches are speaking from experience, then they have REALLY sucky friends and family! I don’t know how many times, I, myself have encouraged a friend or lover when they were down on themselves. There was NO QUESTION in my mind that I loved them in their moments of wretchedness. In fact, I actively loved them MORE not less. If they were to show up dark and dismal at my doorstep – I wouldn’t demand that they button up their bellyaching and take it elsewhere!
If we are looking for people who only can love us when we are at our bright and shiny and best – well, what is the point? It’s not that we should expect to dump on our besties in life (best friends, lovers, family) 24-7, but that if we feel that we have to have built a perfect consciousness of self-love and bliss before we can find someone to love and love us back just as fiercely … then we should just give up the pursuit altogether.
Don’t let those dating coaches with their sparkling self-realized lives convince you that “self-love” is a destination that you must get to BEFORE you find love. It is a process more than a destination, and often that process is helped with the assistance of a beloved. Often in my life, it was BECAUSE of the wisdom and care of those who loved me, that I learned to look at my self with love in my eyes.
I don’t trust people who charge hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to help you do something that is actually quite simple. Isn’t it in their best “financial interest” to convince those that things that are actually quite simple are very difficult and worthy of lengthy and expensive programs? What should one do? Simply start treating yourself and others with kindness … start daring to believe in love … look for evidence in the world … and incorporate it as you can daily through simple acts like initiating or returning a smile, holding your tongue from saying harsh words to yourself or others … reach out to others … I could make a list of simple ways to pay a life filled with love.
And the irony is – that “self-love” is not necessarily a road to companionship with others. For myself, I find the more I love myself, the more content I am in my company, not feeling the same hunger for company that I once I had. There are so many solitary activities that I joyfully immerse myself in, that it takes the specialness of my friends and family to draw me out of that world.
It turns out the more you love the company of yourself, the less you hunger/desire the company of others. It is often our alienation and loneliness that draws us to others. So perhaps, rather than disparaging the hurting inside that seeks healing in the company of others, we should celebrate the fact that we need other human beings. We should also celebrate the fact that there is someone or many out there who can manage to see our light and beauty at times when we cannot.