The foundation of any kind of other love
We cannot love others until we love ourselves.
And we cannot accept others love until we love ourselves — without it, we are bottomless pit empty vessels into which others’ efforts fall without impact.
And so we understand (most of us, anyway) that self love is an important part of the equation. And yet it seems many of us still struggle with what that looks like.
There might be things that work for you
Things like “self-gratitude lists” or “rewards,” reminders and routines… bullet journals of daily actions, mental checklists of self-love “to-do’s” and even “mental diets” (because why that needs a name like that, I don’t know.)
These are not my things. They don’t nothing for me.
Maybe they work great for you (and seemingly they do work for somebody, because I see suggestions like this everywhere) but they mean nothing to me.
What works for me is bigger, broader, and more robust…
1. Realize — and acknowledge — that WE are in control of our thoughts
And we are not our feelings or emotions. We are not our fear. We are not our anxiety. We are not our anger. We are not our low self esteem. We choose who we are, and we choose how we respond to things.
We choose how loved we feel.
And the source we’re most in control of is us.
2. Every time you think you want something from someone else, ask if you’re giving it to yourself first
Across the board… everything you want other people to accept, you must first accept for yourself. These include but are not limited to:
- Your imperfections, real or imagined
- Your body
- Your mistakes
- Your past
- Your productivity, or how much you get done in a day/week/year/life
- Your social “markings” (house, car, spouse, etc.)
If what you seek is not acceptance but “understanding,” then understand this: you only need to validate yourself to feel validated. And in most cases, when people are grasping for external validation, it’s because they aren’t turning inward and reassuring themselves “this is fine. you are fine.”
Value, worth or esteem
Respect yourself in the way you expect others to, and base your value of yourself on your own opinion rather than theirs.
Get your own ducks in a row — without defining those ducks within the framework of “someone else.” Because, sure, you might meet someone and fall into a situation where everything then feels stable and perfect, but the reality is that, deep down, you still know that your sense of comfort and control hinges on your circumstances and holding them together, leading to a lot of low-key anxiety.
Be your own security. Whether that means financial, emotional, or anything in between. Don’t hang your sense of stability on anything that’s inherently out of your control (which, reminder, is: anything outside yourself.)
Your love language
Learn your love language, and provide yourself whatever you need to feel loved.
- If you like gifts, by all means buy yourself one.
- If you like physical touch, get a massage, take a bath, or wrap up in something that feels good.
- If you like acts of service, hire someone to do some jobs around the house.
- If you like quality time, then set aside some time to do something — anything — that you enjoy and can do (and learn to do) mindfully and joyfully alone.
- If you like words of affirmation, then ffs use kind words with yourself — and keep doing it until you learn to listen and absorb and believe them.
Money can’t buy love, but it can buy a sense of satisfaction and meeting your own needs rather than waiting on others to notice and fulfill them.
Show yourself the love that you so desperately want from others.
If you want excitement, go get it. Learn how to go out to dinner alone, how to go to concerts alone, or to events alone, or the zoo or the museum or your parents’ anniversary — alone.
It’s not meant to make you want to crawl under a rock and die; it’s meant to invite you into yourself and help you develop the most important relationship; a sense of satisfaction and sufficiency in being with you.
If you want peace, give yourself peace — but you must do so not by checking out, but by taking care of things, ensuring peace not just in this moment, but in the long run.
Running away or wanting things artificially smoothed over may feel good in the moment, but over time what works better is engaging enough to make the investment.
It’s not anyone else’s job to define how we should be treated (and anybody’s effort at this is simply because they are being kind, not because it’s their responsibility.) It’s our job, not theirs, to set boundaries.
We teach others how treat us.
Look. I say this as a serial monogamist. I love love. I love relationships. I’ve pretty much always been in some relationship or another since high school, with the exception of a 6–12 month period (it was complicated) in my mid-20s when I was single partly to recover from a breakup, partly to make space, and partly out of curiosity: could I be alone and be happy? (The answer? A resounding yes.)
I just like relationships. I like having a “person.” So I get it.
But here’s the thing: there’s a huge difference between healthy and unhealthy.
- There’s companionship as the icing on the cake; companionship from a position of sharing, of adding, of coming together as two complete people, of honoring each other and respecting the other person as a separate human on their own journey…
- And then there’s “companionship” as desperately seeking to distract and fill holes. There’s the gathering up and clinging to other people as way to stuff ourselves and our lives in order to suffocate the buzzing, deafening sound of fear in our own heads. And this companionship is not healthy.
If we’re pursuing the second one — if we can’t sit alone with ourselves (literally, as in a restaurant, or figuratively, in life) — then we need to do this work and learn to be our own companion first.
And only once we do that — and everything else above — can we pursue the fist one, and find a companion that we can give full love to, as a full person.