It’s interesting enough that human beings are the only (known) species that have relationships with themselves, but it’s even more to consider the fact that human beings are the only species that have relationships with themselves through other people.
That is: our perceptions of other people’s mindsets largely dictate how we see ourselves.
What binds us in love, in companionship, in friendship? Familiarity. The sense that you understand each other at a visceral level. It’s just being able to see yourself in someone else, and more importantly, being able to change your inner-narrative when you know, see and feel that someone else loves and accepts and approves of you no matter what. Ergo: you can do the same. (It’s a survival mechanism, I’m pretty sure.)
The most meaningful relationships tend to be the ones in which we’re completely reflected back to ourselves, because this is what relationships serve to do: open us. We only recognize this in the big, overwhelming, usually heartwrenching ones, but it’s true of every relationship. And it’s the crux of our issues beyond basic survival: how we are in relation to other people. How we are in relation to ourselves.
The relationships we tend to be most happy in are the ones in which we adopt that other person’s supposed narrative — what we think they think of us.
We feel most loved when we feel understood, when we are thinking that someone else is thinking in alignment with what we need to hear and believe. We feel most loved when we think someone thinks highly of us — their efforts and displays of affection serving to prove this.
This is why not just anybody can affirm for us that we’re okay, only people to whom we’ve placed meaning. Someone to whom we already feel a physical or psychological connection. Someone we are looking at as a partner for ourselves, someone who is like us, someone who understands us.
It’s why “loving yourself first” is the most common, the most confusing, and yet the most profoundly solid advice anyone can give. Because it’s not really about feeling love for yourself, it’s being able to feel stable enough that your mindset doesn’t rest in the narrative of a supposed other’s.
This is why things hurt so badly when we identify with them. All hatred is self-hatred. This is why we become so goddamned heart broken. We cannot lose people, we can only lose ourselves in an idea of them. We decided how we felt about ourselves through them — for better and for worse — so when we perceive that their mindset changes from loving us to loving someone else, our own stability goes out the window too.
The most freeing, liberating thing you can do is to realize that we are all a collective one and that each fragment of a bigger light refracts on one another in just a way that reveals what you need to see and understand. But that the light is always your own. Every relationship you have is with yourself. Every person in whom you feel you return “home” to is just coming back to yourself.
It’s always yourself you find at the end of the journey. The sooner you face you, the less you need other people to fill voids (you cannot squeeze someone into your brokenness and expect that to make you whole.) The sooner you face you, the sooner other people’s actions don’t affect you negatively — your mindset doesn’t depend on them. You don’t depend on them. Relationships do not serve to give you eternal, perpetual happiness. They serve to make you more aware. The sooner you realize that said awareness is your own, the easier everything else is.