Love yourself! Sounds so easy. But seriously, you’ve probably heard it before and you’ll probably hear it all again: “You can’t love someone until you love yourself”. The phrase in all of its variations has been repeated so often, it’s begun to lose all of its meaning. For most of my life, it just didn‘t make sense: who made self-love a prerequisite for loving others? I hate myself and I love other people just fine, thank you very much!
It wasn’t until I was older, and had experienced–and in some cases, lost–love in so many different forms–platonic and familial and romantic–that I realized that what I had considered to be ‘love’ wasn’t love at all. Love, to me, had presented itself as a solution to a problem; I thought it would satisfy a lack in my life. It had been the projection of an internal misalignment onto an external ‘solution’. If I wasn’t getting what I needed from love, well then, it was wrong, or they were wrong, or I was wrong.
I am definitely not encouraging you to eschew the pursuit of love altogether or to resign yourself to a life of stoic independence and solitude; love is one of the greatest capacities that we as humans possess, and it deserves development and expression.
But are you doing right by love? Or is your definition of love so restrictive, and your demands so exacting, that you find yourself being disappointed again and again? You’re not the only one; unfortunately, we live in a society that by and large tells us that the love of another (usually, one ‘special’ other in a strictly monogamous relationship) is necessary for lasting security and happiness. But why restrict your potential for love and joy to such a specific condition? And one that may or may not be sustainable? I’ve outlined some tried-and-true points–with the help of some brilliant and influential minds–that will help you to gain peace with yourself–and to make the most of the love you that you already have.
Accept your bad traits as well as your good. Don’t love yourself only for the things that you’re proud of–your work ethic, or your kindness, your taste in music–and then rescind your love for yourself when you aren’t at your best. Here’s a radical thought: love yourself even when you think you’re being lazy, or sad, or mean. Even when you are disappointed in yourself–love yourself. Be aware of those aspects of yourself that you wish to improve upon, but let this awareness come from a position of forgiveness and friendship. If love for yourself is conditional on always being your ‘best’, then how can you accept and love another when they are not at their ‘best’? Love can only happen through the freedom to feel and express yourself. As Jim Morrison said, “A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself…That’s what real love amounts to–letting a person be what [they] really [are]” .
Related to acceptance, refraining from judgment of others and yourself (when possible) will undoubtedly lead to the cultivation of more love in your life. People respond positively to people who they can ‘be themselves’ with, without fear of judgement or criticism. Eckhart Tolle urges us to not only “listen with your mind [but] listen with your whole body. You are giving the other person space — space to be. It is the most precious gift you can give”. Releasing judgment of others will inevitably lead to seeing the best of people, as they will be more comfortable and joyful in your presence. Dividing others into the categories of ‘worthy’ or ‘unworthy’ of love will only limit the love you feel and the love you receive. I’m not suggesting that you compromise your conscience or your morals, but I would encourage an open and sympathetic mind: every person you meet is the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of the education and the relationships and the love that they receive; so give love when possible, and you are more likely to receive love in return.
I don’t mean ‘be brave’. I mean, turn that particle dissolver onto fear and annihilate that sucker. Specifically, annihilate the fear of aloneness. Of a life without love. Fear is love’s absolute opposite. If you love yourself, you will never be without love; love yourself openly and without reservation and the people around you will respond in kind. So set the standard for the love you want. As Stephen Chbosky wrote in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we think we deserve”. You deserve love. Give it to yourself and the rest of the world will follow. In this way, you will always have love.
I know that approaching love in this way can seem naive or cheesy or overwhelming; unfortunately, the way to real love is often contradicted by the messages and beliefs that we come across every day in society. Too often, we believe that our experience of love is restricted to the love that you receive from others. But why wait for permission from someone else to determine whether or not you’re ‘worthy’ of love? Love now, and accept only the love that accepts you completely. Love yourself first and the rest will follow, I promise.
Author: Theresa Faulder
Theresa Faulder is a recent graduate student of the Masters English program at the University of Victoria. She was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, but currently lives in Vancouver, BC. She is a personal trainer, an illustrator, and magazine editor and writer. She enjoys baking, drawing, writing, and adventuring with friends, old and new. If you are interested in contacting Theresa, she would love to hear from you! You can reach her at her email address, email@example.com
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