We hear and see so much about how we can’t give love to another unless we love ourselves – but what does that really mean? I asked myself this question for a long time before I decided to explore it myself. I thought, “Anyone can feel love for someone yet still have low self-esteem”. I didn’t quite understand the idea that you need to have self-respect and self-love before you can give love to someone else. It confused me. There have been so many occasions where I would feel bad about myself but feel admiration and love for somebody else. Let’s explore what this statement means.
If you don’t love yourself first, you…
- Will always want to receive, but you’ll never feel satisfied when you do
When you feel less than happy with who you are, you desire validation from others. When you receive it, whether through a compliment or being asked out on a date, you’re only happy for a short while. Soon you want to fill up that emptiness by acquiring something or someone – and the last thing you want to do is give love to someone else. The reason is that you feel you deserve validation more than other people do.
- Will withhold love when you’re feeling bad in a relationship
In an argument, couples say things they may later regret. This can lead to one partner withdrawing while the other chases or both partners may withdraw. When you don’t love yourself, you will always feel you deserve to be the one who gets the apology. What happens next? You withhold your love from the other person out of resentment, waiting for the other person to apologise. Whereas if you genuinely love yourself, you won’t need that apology – you will be the one stepping up to fix things. You will be thinking of your partner’s feelings as well as your own and start being assertive rather than passive. Withholding love in a relationship is passive-aggressive behaviour, and it often leads to more resentment and distance between couples. When you withhold love from another, it doesn’t matter how much love you have trapped inside – you won’t share it. Giving always requires sharing. Love yourself, and you are less likely to withhold love at a time when love needs to be shared most.
- Will accept unloving or abusive treatment in your relationships
People who love themselves don’t accept disrespectful behaviour in their relationships. People who don’t love themselves will put up with less-than-acceptable treatment where no love can be exchanged. You cannot give love when you are surrounded by negativity – both within and without.
- Will be false around others and never let your true self show
Authentic people love who they are. When these people are around others who feel bad about themselves, they lift them up and inspire them. That’s a form of giving love, which you cannot do in the same way if you hold yourself back and inhibit yourself. When you are being yourself – your beautiful, free, radiant, happy self – you unconsciously give permission for others to do the same.