Mental Health Awareness Month brings up so many important topics about mental illness and how their affect our confidence, self-esteem, thoughts, and moods. Your mental health affects your relationship with yourself, which in turn affects your relationships with your friends, family, and significant other. There is a common phrase of “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else”. I hate that phrase.
I don’t think you have to love yourself before entering a relationship. I would agree that it makes things run much smoother if you do love yourself and have all your issues dissected before entering a relationship. I’m personally still working on developing a healthy self esteem and there are many ways this manifests in my relationship. I always worry I’m not enough, that he’ll go looking somewhere else for better. It makes me paranoid and hard for me to trust him. I harbor on the mistakes I make in my relationship and get down on myself.
Not loving yourself makes you more willing to put up with disrespectful behavior from partners and that is where the common phrase of ‘you have to love yourself first’ comes from. I think it was just bad luck that I met someone who didn’t appreciate me before I ended up meeting someone who was very kind and respectful to me. Dating someone who treasured me gave me a guideline of exactly how I wanted to be treated in a relationship. If I had this experience before meeting someone who didn’t value me then I probably would have left very early on. I figured out how I wanted to be treated and the next guy I met is now my long term boyfriend.
Because I feel an absence of self love, I don’t want anyone else to experience that. Just because I don’t love myself doesn’t mean I can’t love anyone else. In fact, it motivates me to make sure I do show love to others. You can still be compassionate to others even when you’re still learning to be compassionate to yourself. Consider a mistake where you were hard on yourself and what you might say to yourself. Now consider your friend made that same mistake and what you might say to them. The attitude and thought process is completely different. It’s the same concept with showing love to yourself and to others.
Being in a relationship helps shed a spotlight on your positive traits and as your partner loves you, they teach you how to love yourself. You’re reassured that you are enough and that your partner chooses to be with you not anyone else. Your partner compliments you making you take note of something positive about you. My boyfriend once wrote a list of all the things he loves about me. It listed over 40 different things!! I can’t even tell you 40 things about myself much less anywhere close to things I might actually like about myself.
So No, I don’t think you have to love yourself first. I think you can still be good at loving other people. I think other people can help you learn to love yourself.