This post is my contribution to this month’s Self-Discovery Word by Word organized by Taron of Mind, Body & Scroll. Taron chose the word LOVE for this month’s series – find out how to participate by checking out her introductory post here. And it just so happens that this month has us celebrating ONE YEAR of Self-Discovery.
We’ve all heard it: someone will love you, when you learn how to love yourself.
It’s something that people say when you’re young and you’re looking for someone to love you. It’s something that people say to you when they know that to find love, you need to be open to loving yourself.
What happens when there is someone in your life that is so amazing and wonderful, someone who looks at you like you are the most cherished thing on the planet, and you find yourself feeling unbearably distant because you just can’t feel their love?
The thing about self-hatred, damaged body image, or low self-esteem is that it’s isolating. It can feel as though you are the last person, on the last glacier, out in the middle of the abyss and nothing is strong enough to breach the distance between you and the people in your life. You hear them saying all the right things, “I love you. You’re my favorite. You’re my one and only.”
The kind of things that people dream about hearing.
And yet, in your brain, the only sounds are:
How can that be? Don’t they know how awful I am? How repulsive? I bet they are only pretending to love me. I bet they just think that they love me, but someday they will realize that they were mistaken. Don’t get comfortable. Don’t let your guard down.
Before long you find yourself picking fights. You find yourself taking apart every bit of the relationship, aggressively, trying to locate the evidence that will support your lack of self-worth. You find yourself sabotaging something good, because you don’t think that you deserve it.
Unfortunately, in this isolated state, all you can manage to think about its you you you. Your needs. Your feelings. Your love. Your safety. Your security. It doesn’t even cross your mind to imagine the difficulty of what it must be like to love you in that miserable state. You don’t consider how much strength and heart is required to love someone that spends the entirety of their day trying to push you away or test your love.
Being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t love themselves is heartbreaking.
It is overwhelming.
For many years I tested my partners’ love. I ran through them. Or rather, I pushed them until they ran away. In that moment, I felt validated, because I just knew that they would leave me in the end. I just knew that I didn’t deserve to be loved.Â
Until I met C. When I met C I was challenged with a level of love that I had never experienced. I pushed. I yelled. I cried. I experienced the deepest depths of my self-hatred and I blamed it on her. But she didn’t run away.Â I felt disgusting. I begged her to leave me, because I was no good, I ruined everything, I didn’t deserve someone to be there for me, forever.
The thing about love – reciprocal, intimate, lasting, nourishing, fantastic, gorgeous, exciting love – is that it requires that both parties believe that they deserve to be there. It is impossible to participate wholly in a relationship with another person when you are constantly tripping over your feet, getting in your own way, and demanding all of your attention.
The thing about love is, that when you feel it for yourself, when you are able to truly forgive yourself for all of your perceived shortcomings and treat yourself sweetly, you can’t help but want to extend that love to those you come into contact with.
Love breeds love, but it begins with with love for yourself.
And that is the best reason that I can think of to do this work.