When people say that you need to “love yourself” before you can love someone else, what they mean is that if you are subconsciously seeking a relationship to fix your life, give you direction, or make you feel better, you will perpetually choose the wrong person, and you’ll never really have the kind of relationship you want. Unfortunately, what gets communicated is that you have to wait until you love yourself – and every aspect of your life – before you can be worthy of finding and committing to the right person.
What it sounds like is if you don’t have love, it’s your own damn fault. It’s because you aren’t good enough yet, because you haven’t mastered enough, because you haven’t done enough to earn it. What it sounds like is that you shouldn’t accept love until you think you’re ready for it, and that we are only meant to evolve autonomously, and once we’re in a relationship, we can stop.
But you are not going to be ready for the love of your life when they show up. Nobody is. And if you deny yourself that relationship because you think you need to do more work beforehand, what you’re really doing is missing out on the most effective growing tool there is.
Love is a grand magnifier: it shows you what you love and what you dislike about yourself and your life. The right relationship will encourage you to address that fully, and work on it. The right relationship will help you learn to love yourself. It is meant to change everything, and it always does.
So learn to thrive in the meantime. Use the days you have on your own to be your own person, and do what you can only do on your own time, and by yourself. But never confuse that for the idea that you cannot be loved before you are completely loving, that other people are only obligated to be as kind as you are to yourself, that you’ll be ready for love when it comes.
Yes, the way you treat yourself will dictate and determine how other people treat you, but the work of being a whole, evolved, complete, loved and loving human being is not how well you can thrive in isolation and solitude, it’s how you can stand up for yourself, demand respect, choose love, and learn to keep moving and evolving even when the person you’ve always been looking for is finally standing right beside you.
Loving yourself is letting yourself be loved, too.