Do You Love Yourself?


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Do you love yourself?

As I’ve learned more about interpersonal dynamics and relationships, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three things which significantly impact a persons ability to have a happy relationship.

  1. Your mindset. This is whether you believe your base traits and characteristics are largely fixed, or whether you believe they can change over time. I’ve touched on this in the past (and will deal with it in more depth in the future), but essentially EVERYTHING can change and everything can improve over time. When you don’t believe it can, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  2. Your ability to let your partner in. I recently wrote on this in a post on Emotional Walls. When we wall ourselves off from our partners, we create barriers to the intimacy or closeness we can have. Without closeness relationships suffer.
  3. How much you love yourself. This is about self-acceptance, and a sense of self-worth.

Of these, the ability to love ourselves is THE most important. And I suspect it’s related to the other two. If you don’t love yourself, you are less inclined to let your partner in. After all, if you don’t like you, and your partner were to see you as you see yourself, then perhaps they wouldn’t accept you or love you either. So why would you let them in? Instead people build facades and present the version of themself they believe their partner wants.

The problem is, when they do this they aren’t being authentic or true to themselves, and over time this will invariably lead to unhappiness (and potentially resentment).

Loving Yourself

What exactly does it mean to say you “love yourself”? At it’s core, I think self-love is about acceptance. You accept yourself for who you are. That doesn’t mean you can’t change, and can’t improve. You definitely can. It simply means that you don’t believe you have to as you are fine the way you are. Self-love means you believe in yourself and the person you are. You have self-confidence, and a positive self-image.

selfacceptance

This is not to be mistaken with arrogance, of being cocky. It also is not “self-love” in a narcissistic way. Loving yourself is healthy. Being in love with yourself of being full of yourself is not healthy.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret. The people who seem to love themselves most are often the ones who love themselves the least. When someone seems to love them-self it is because they are adept at self-promotion. They draw attention to themselves because they need external validation.

Self-love doesn’t require external validation, as it comes from within.

A Point of Reference

So I’ll ask again, do you love yourself? This can be a difficult question to answer.

A few years ago I went on a trip with a buddy and we shared a hotel room. Going in I knew he snored, but I had no idea how bad it was. His snoring kept me up at night, but worse than the snoring was the fact that it was broken up by long stretches where it seemed like he stopped breathing. After seconds (that felt like minutes) there were large gasps for air, and he would start snoring again.

I’m no doctor, but it was pretty alarming. I told my buddy that he should get it checked out and he insisted he was fine. I asked him if he always found himself tired or rundown, and he said no (even though he fell asleep when he was supposed to be navigating for me on the trip. Very helpful). To him, he was perfectly fine.

A while later I related this story to a co-worker who has sleep apnea, and he told me that it sounded familiar. When I mentioned that the guy insisted he was fine, my co-worker laughed and said that’s because it’s his normal state. He’s always tired, he’s always exhausted. And because of that he doesn’t understand how it feels to be rested.

He believes he’s not tired because he has no point of reference to compare himself to.

I see self-love as being similar. It’s not something you “know”. Sometimes people believe that they love themselves when they really don’t. We can’t get into other people’s heads, so if you have negative thoughts about yourself then you might think it’s normal. After all, it’s what you know.

Incidentally it’s been almost two years since that trip, and my buddy STILL hasn’t seen a doctor (and of course insists he’s fine). He’s not. Sadly the people who need the most help are often the last ones to see it as to them it’s just “the way they are”.

Signs You Don’t Love Yourself

To help understand self-love, let’s start with a looks at some signs and characteristics of people who don’t love themselves.

  • You are critical of yourself. This is one of the big ones. You second guess your decisions (or believe you made the wrong ones), your behavior, and you are unhappy with your body.
  • You spend a lot of time in the past thinking “what if…”. What if I had done this differently, or what if I had done that differently.
  • You become angry at yourself when you make mistakes
  • You don’t have dreams, or your dreams feel out of reach and you don’t see a way to make them happen.
  • You commonly operate out of guilt, or shame.
  • You worry about how you are perceived, or “what others will think”.
  • You believe things would be better or you would be happier if “X” were to happen. Maybe if you lost 10 lbs, got a better job, found a different relationship, etc…
  • You procrastinate.

It’s normal to feel all of these things occasionally. But when they are a pattern of thinking for you, then they are signs that you may not love yourself.

Signs You Do Love Yourself

So what do people who DO love themselves look like? The easy answer is, the opposite of the above characteristics. But as I mentioned earlier, if someone truly loves themselves (and has self acceptance) then it’s not easy to see.

One characteristic is that they tend to have a sense of calm. They are comfortable with who they are, and in their own skin.

They aren’t perfect, and they both know and accept that. They are also able to handle criticism fairly well, as they realize it’s not a reflection on them.

People who loves themselves tend to have a sense of personal accountability and a belief that they have control over their own lives.

They also can look at themselves naked in the mirror without thinking *too many* negative thoughts (regardless of body type).

Filling a Hole

One of the big problems with self-love is that it has to come from within. However, for people who don’t love themselves they often don’t see that. They know there is something wrong, but they can’t identify what it is. Because they don’t understand (or won’t accept) that the issues comes from within they start looking outside of themselves.

When acceptance and self-worth doesn’t come from within, they start looking for external validation. The problem is, validation from outside will never be enough.

self_acceptance_quotes

Everyone enjoys being complimented – it feels good to know that someone finds you attractive, or thinks you are good at something. But for people who stuggle with self love, often compliments are needed. But all the compliments in the world won’t help. If someone doesn’t believe it themselves that self-doubt shows through, and there is a continuous need for external validation.

This can result in all sorts of messed up behavior.

The Explanatory Gap

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t understand what it’s like to not love yourself. I’ve tried, but I can’t. Loving myself is just part of who I am. See, I like me. I don’t think I’m cocky or arrogant, but I am confident in myself. Most importantly, I know I’m in control of my own life. Things don’t always work out, but they often do. And when things don’t I can always adjust accordingly and find a new path. I make decisions, and they may not always be the right ones. But that’s fine, because they seemed right at the time. When I screw up I try to use it as a learning experience, and a way to do better “next time”.

Understanding what it’s like to not love yourself is as foreign to me as it is to understand what it’s like to be a woman on her period. As a guy, it’s impossible for me to understand that. Yeah, I know the biology – the lining of the uterine wall has thickened in preparation of a fertilized egg, it doesn’t happen so the extra stuff (pretty sure that’s the scientific term) breaks down and is released. It’s accompanied by hormonal changes that can impact mood and how someone feels. Intellectually I get it (kind of). But I don’t understand, and I never will.

This lack of understanding is often referred to as an explanatory gap. Understanding the mechanics of something doesn’t mean I can understand how it feels. In the case of a menstrual cycle, I’m fairly confident I will never understand that. Likewise for self-love.

So to help me understand this a bit better and start to close that explanatory gap I turned to a buddy who has lived this. Someone who has been through the fires, and come out a stronger person for it. We’ll call him Gandalf (as his experiences have made him quite wise).

Because I believe self-love is an important component of happy relationships I had the idea that he could help me understand the mindset a bit better.

When I first approached him on the idea the exchange went something like this:

Me: I’m thinking about writing on self-love, and thought you might be able to help me with a post.
Gandalf: Errr, me? Self-love? Umm, how do you know… (starts blushing and looking at his feet)
Me: Huh? Oooohhh. Dude, I’m talking about self-love, as in “do you love yourself”. Not self-pleasuring!!!
*Awkward silence *
Gandalf: So, how about that ball game last night…

Alright, that never happened. Well in my head it did, and it make me laugh. And since it’s a fairly serious topic I figured it would be good to start with at least a smile.

My buddy Gandalf was unhappy for a longtime and he spent years blaming his unhappiness on everything around him, pushing away the people who loved him the most in the process. He eventually had a breakdown that led to him being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that led to him falling into clinical depression.

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental disorder, and there is a strong correlation between anxiety and a lack of self-love. In the grips of anxiety, my buddy hated himself and it almost destroyed his life. But instead of accepting that this was just “the way he was” and allowing his anxiety to control him, my buddy decided to educate himself, learn as much as he could about it and try to regain control of his life.

Over the next few posts I will be doing something a little different. He will be my co-author, sharing his story. I think his story is at once fascinating and inspiring. Whether you love yourself or not, his experiences are ones that I believe we can all learn from.

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22 thoughts on “Do You Love Yourself?

  1. I think you already know I struggle with self love, although I am at least aware of it. I have thought a lot about it and feel it is mainly due to never being good enough according to my father. If he didn’t love me, how could I love myself? Problem was he didn’t love himself either. As a kid, you don’t know about things like that or how they will impact you. Luckily I am able to course correct and will be working on getting better at loving myself. Really good post (again).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have guessed that from your writing. I’m guessing/hoping that my next few posts will be valuable for you and many others out there. They are my buddy telling his story though me. There will be some stuff about how it affected his life, his understanding of where it all started, and how he was able to change. You’ll have to let me know what you think.

      I have seen significant links between a lack of self love and other issues such as anxiety and depression. Have you had issues with either of those (feel free to ignore this if you don’t want to answer).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I’m emotionally pretty healthy, but when my world fell apart a few years back I fell into a depression. I don’t like the word “depression” because I wasn’t depressed. But I had many of the symptoms. Limited appetite (I lost significant weight in a short period of time), trouble sleeping, mind constantly racing trying to understand what had happened to my life, trouble focusing on pretty much anything else (which impacted me greatly at work).

        When it’s in response to an event, depression is essentially like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (which is a form of depression). I normally handle stress well, but my brain hit a level of stress it had never seen, and stopped working correctly for a while.

        But while it’s happening to you, you don’t even realize because it’s your new normal. Scary stuff.

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      • Yes, I have recently experienced the exact same symptoms dealing with my impending divorce (and considering it’s from a narcissist it made things that much worse). I am recovering from it though, i.e. I consider that as temporary (although it’s not over yet). I am monitoring (and still going to counciling so that helps).

        Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. I believe this is a hugely important issue. I generally write about relationships, with a little self-help information thrown in as well. But I think a lack of self-love is central to almost all personal and relationship issues.

      My buddy was told “how can you love someone else when you don’t even love yourself”. And it’s true. You can’t truly experience love, and what love is supposed to be like until you have first accepted yourself for who you are.

      A lack of self-love leads to many bad things, and insecurities is a big part of it.

      Self love isn’t an absolute (like most things it happens on a sliding scale). But when people don’t love themselves, their behavior is often self destructive and can drive away those around them who truly do care about them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. By your definition, yes, I love myself (thank God). Like you, I don’t understand how anyone can not love themselves. And I do know quite a few people who don’t, who become self destructive, and often choose the wrong people to love (mostly the ones who would abuse them).. Your post is very interesting and am looking forward to the next one and hear about your friend!s story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s good that you don’t understand it. My buddy allowing me a window into his mindset has been very illuminating. And kind of scary. If his old viewpoints are “normal” then a lot of people deal with a lot of pain every day.

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    • Thanks for the catch on the “they”. It doesn’t matter how many times I check something before hitting publish, there are always a few things that I miss.

      Regarding the length, I am somewhat conscious of length but I try to write what “feels right” for a post. Normally this ends up in the 1500-1800 word range.

      I know it’s long for a blog, and I lose some people (and limit my audience as a result). At one point I tried keeping things down to the 800-1200 word range, but it wasn’t working for me.

      Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As much as you don’t know what it feels to “not love yourself”, others on the ‘dark side’ of loving themselves don’t understand how one CAN love themselves…I often wonder if you can behave your way to finding self love and ultimately happiness?

    I think the people who love themselves the easiest have a strong support system in place for reassurances without really having to work to obtain acceptance. When your support was lacking as a child, and that continues on into adulthood, and you’ve had some experiences with support, but they’ve gone (out of no fault of your own, you’ve relocated or lost contact) and some of the biggest relationships that were supposed to be there for that kind of support let you down (grew apart or chose another) I think people can have a hard time reclaiming that self love token.

    I think one of the most base of human needs is a sense of belonging. Whether it’s to a social group, or a ‘greater cause’, or a spiritual base, or a family unit, or a community of like believers/ achievers; I think that most people at their base want to feel like they are accepted (as a part of something or someone). When you find difficulty ‘fitting in’ or feeling accepted, then you tend to see yourself as un’acceptable’ and therefore unable to ‘love yourself’. Unfortunately, for many people, it’s more about not having been able to find that right ‘fit’.

    So I guess I answered my question about ‘behaving your way to finding self love’…if you can find that niche where you fit and feel most comfortable and accepted, maybe it can be an end road to self love.

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    • It’s a tough question, and one I can only speculate on. I do think that people have a need for community and belonging, and it would seem that self-love is related to that. However I’m not sure if that truly addresses self-love, as it has to come from within. Finding acceptance in a group would be positive, but if someone ONLY finds acceptance through a group then that is another form of external validation.

      From my buddy’s situation (and others I’ve seen), a lack of self love at a your age seems to result in some very broken thinking patterns. In order to “get better”, those thinking patterns need to be identified and corrected. It’s very difficult to do though, as once the have been internalized they happen at a subconscious level. Breaking a lifetime of bad habits can be difficult.

      My buddy is in a much healthier spot, and now he is able to recognize his broken thinking. Looking back, he’s actually ashamed of the way he used to look at the world. But in times of high stress he still finds himself reverting back to “the old habits” if he’s not careful

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  4. Wow, some great stuff here, and a lot of it! I’ve written about Self Compliments / Acceptance over at Quick Me Ups, but not about this direct topic. I think the point about self-love being a precursor to fully loving somebody else and accepting their love in return is absolutely key. I love myself, but also don’t always treat myself the best (read: overwork or procrastinate) so there are some important lessons I need to reflect on. Thanks for the great work, keep it up and stay in touch!

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    • I’m glad you found the site. I generally write about relationships and things that “go wrong”. As I’ve looked at different things, I have found that often people feel there is *something* wrong in their relationship, but they aren’t sure what it is. All they know is, they aren’t happy.

      When someone isn’t happy but is having a hard time pinpointing what the problem is, I believe the problem frequently stems from a lack of self-acceptance and self love. It’s hard to truly let go and love someone when you don’t even love yourself.

      Thanks for reading.

      Like

  5. Pingback: Your Most Important Relationship | thezombieshuffle

  6. Great post. However I must admit I’ve only read two posts and so far you’ve mentioned Lord of the Rings in both posts. This may be a deal breaker😜
    In all seriousness this topic is huge. I find myself in the middle. Not a strong self love but I definitely don’t fit the criteria for self loathe. I work in a profession where my work is part of me. Over the past few years I have felt the need for constant validation of my work. I always wanted to hear how wonderful it was and I was less interested in how I felt about it. Slowly though I am looking at my work in terms of how it makes me feel and not how it makes others feel(although I just be concerned with that to en extent!). I see growth in my self love in a very small way!
    Thanks for directing me to the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lord of the Rings in both posts? Really? Well don’t worry, I mix it up with a bunch of NBA basketball references too 🙂

      Interesting you talk about work. My buddy who helped write the self love posts was someone who found his purpose and validation in work. And when he wasn’t feeling valued in his work, that’s when things started to really fall apart for him.

      We all like acknowledgement, and we all want to feel valued. In some cases though, it crosses a line between being something we like to feel and becomes something we need. That’s when it’s a problem.

      I know we talked about this earlier, but this need for validation is something that I think it one of the leading cause of affairs.

      My buddy also talked about how it became a problem for him because he stopped believing people when they actually gave him positive feedback. His self-doubt from his anxiety was so bad that if people complimented him he became suspicious of it – feeling that they couldn’t actually mean it, because he didn’t feel that way about himself. So there was no winning. He needed validation, but couldn’t accept it from people he knew. So he constantly turned to other, newer people for the validation. And as a result that hole inside of him could never be filled.

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      • I DO think people who fall under this mindset can have successful relationships though. I don’t want to automatically categorize people as “well you don’t love yourself so you can’t love anyone else”. I think that is BS. Your expectations are different and it takes a lot more work and self awareness but I don’t think it means you will fail. I’m going to guess in most relationships, atleast one person has issues with self love.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Natasha, I agree – anyone (no matter what damage they have – and we ALL have damage of some sort) can have a successful relationship.

        There are just things that can add additional pressures to a relationship, and make it more difficult to have a “healthy” relationship.

        I think a key is self-awareness. If people have issues, and accept those issues and are up open about them then a relationship can navigate any waters.

        It’s when people are in denial, and are blaming their own personal issues on something else (usually the relationship itself) that the real problems begin.

        Like

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