There are usually two ways you can identify that somebody recognizes truth: they appear stunned in that gut-punched-how-did-I-not-put-the-pieces-together-so-many-parts-of-my-life-make-sense kind of way, or they get angry, (you can’t resist that which you don’t also recognize as being real.)
The latter happened to me the other day when somebody rather plainly told me: “I think your problem is that you won’t love yourself the way you love other people.” My mind rushed to “No, you don’t understand,” and my gut swelled with, “Oh shit, you’re right.”
And I knew they were right because I also know that my deepest fear is not being loved. By other people. There’s an Oprah quote that I’m very fond of, and it speaks to this well: “A lack of intimacy is not distance from someone else, it is disregard for yourself.”
It’s funny, how the things we fear we have the least of, tend to surround us most. We gather and create so much, but we remain numb to it (so we gather and create more, but never to a feasible end.) In my case, I almost felt as though I needed somebody else to recognize and appreciate the love I had before it could be legitimate. Before I could revel in it. It would become real when somebody else verified and validated it and me.
Needless to say: this never happened. This will never happen. The pursuit of this thing is a bottomless pit of loathing and a road that winds in the same circle. This expectation has caused me the most pain, in almost every relationship in my life.
You know how sometimes you fall in love with the idea of a person, and what they’re supposed to do for you, rather than the person themselves? I think that’s true of our own self-love more often than not. We hold onto the structure because there’s nothing inside. There’s no content, only an idea. And because that idea brings happiness, we confuse it for something real.
You do not earn the right to love yourself. You cannot collect evidence that you are loved and appreciate it and compile it and then expect to be convinced. The idea of ‘loving’ and the actual, dirty, messy, day-to-day act of it are two very different things.
You have to get to know yourself. Ask yourself questions. Write down the answers. Be interested in who you are, and how that person evolves. Finding yourself is not a once-and-done kind of thing. It’s an evolution, and you have to be present for it each day. Just in the same way you’d want to wake up every day and say to your partner: ‘I teach you how to love me, you teach me how to love you,’ You have to wake up each day with yourself and ask yourself who you are, what you want, what you like, how you feel. Take those answers seriously.
Do not tolerate the kind of negative self-talk it would break your heart to learn that somebody you love gave themselves. Clean your home. Light a candle. Listen to music. Wash your linens. Live in the kind of space you’d create for somebody you love. Cook yourself each meal. Something good and good for you. Take care of how and with what you prepare them with. Execute it the same way you would for anyone else.
Give yourself compliments, and let yourself feel them. Keep a commonplace book. Give your opinions weight. Care about what you think as much as you’d care about what somebody you want to love would think. If you’d change yourself because of what somebody else likes or dislikes, think about what you like or dislike. Change that instead.
Touch yourself the way you want to be touched by somebody else. Think about the things you notice when you’re in love with somebody: their quirks and lines and literal scars and emotional ones and the way these things aren’t perfect, but endearing. They make up the whole person. They create the interest and intrigue.
You probably don’t notice how often your inner monologue is constantly berating you, focusing on the body part you feel is least acceptable, constantly just trying to justify to others that which you aren’t convinced is okay yourself. You don’t have to do that. There is a choice. Give yourself the narrative you’d give to somebody you love.
Comfort yourself the way you would somebody else. Acknowledge your shortcomings and address your problems and come up with solutions the way you’d encourage someone else to. Stop creating fantastical daydreams where you’re somebody else being admired for things that aren’t the things that really make you wonderful, and start creating fantastical daydreams where you’re yourself, right now. Don’t create a world in your mind where you are only loved when you aren’t yourself.
Make yourself look beautiful for yourself. This, above many other things, is something you cannot fake. You cannot put on certain clothes and style your hair a certain way and mimic what you admire on other people and expect it to feel the same way. Seeing something good and feeling something good are two things that do not always align.
Do the things you dream of doing with somebody else. Enjoy your own company. Work the hours you need to. Or don’t. Don’t be afraid of taking breaks and days off and half hours laying on the grass at the park. Be kind to other people, especially when they’re not around. Get the tattoos and haircuts and band t-shirts you’ve always liked but have never fit into your current image of yourself. Hold yourself at night the way you want somebody else to hold you. Say sorry. Forgive yourself.
Realize this isn’t what you do to get the love you’re seeking in somebody else. This is what you do to give yourself the kind of life you deserve.