I talk a lot about self-love, and a question I often get asked is, “do I have to fully love myself before I can be in a loving relationship?”
People have heard in the self-help world that in order to attract or enjoy a truly loving, soulful relationship, you must first love yourself.
While there are parts of this statement that have truth, the downside is that women who are struggling to find the right relationship, or are dissatisfied in their relationship, feel like something must be wrong with them. That if they were to only do more inner work and practice more self-love then maybe they’ll find that relationship.
It simply isn’t the case.
I did say there was some truth to having to love yourself first.
I do believe that if you are not happy with yourself or being alone, then you are at risk of winding up in extremely dependent relationships, becoming overly clingy or unhappy.
This happened in my early 20s where I put on a front that I had loads of confidence, but I was constantly needing validation outside of myself to keep up the facade. This manifested into too much partying, drinking, and seeking the attention of men. What I thought I wanted was a relationship, but what I really wanted was someone to make me feel good about myself.
Here are two ways that scenario played itself out:
1. I’d date a really nice guy who liked me a lot and should have made me happy except that I’d get bored and end up breaking up with them.
2. I’d date a nice-enough guy who liked to have fun but would never emotionally commit. I’d chase them endlessly (not some of my prouder moments).
I now have the clarity to see why I did what I did, but I certainly didn’t at the time. With low self-esteem, we end up attracted to others who perpetuate our inner belief that we are “not good enough”.
For me I would think “If somehow I can just get this guy to commit, then yes, I’ve proved myself!” Of course, they never would.
This is why it is important to have some basis of self-love and esteem before entering into a relationship. However, the work truly starts during a relationship because relationships are a vehicle for growth. If you’d like more tips on self-love and growth, I’ve written about it much more extensively here.
You may think you’ve done all the inner-work, talked to your Life Coach, and built your confidence. But then you meet that guy. And he’s amazing. And you get forget to eat and breathe because you’re so in love.
A few months go by and something shifts.
All of a sudden doubts come up, fear rears it’s ugly head, you wonder if you’re good enough for him, if he’s going to leave or cheat on you, or even if you like him enough.
And you think: What happened to that ‘I’ve got this’ feeling I had a few months ago? What happened to my peace of mind?
Vulnerability is what happened.
Vulnerability with another human being is the scariest and bravest thing we will ever do. It is also one of the quickest paths to enlightenment because it will bring up all your sh*t. It will bring up all your sh*t and then bring up some more.
Here’s why that’s a good thing: you need to have all that stuff come up so it can be healed. This is where the true work begins. This is where you can really learn the deeper meaning of self-love.
Not in a fluffy affirmation kind of way, but in a raw way where you have to reach deep into the depths of forgiveness and compassion.
So the answer is yes and no. Before you can be in a truly happy, loving relationship I do believe you need a foundation of self-love. Do the work. Speak with a Life Coach. Breathe. Heal. Set courageous goals.
But when that relationship comes along that is both so amazing and so incredibly scary, know that this is where the real work begins. And you have what it takes and more.