Have you ever heard the phrase “you have to love yourself before you can be loved by another”? It’s an idea I passionately disagree with. Self love can foster deep, intimate connections and benefit our relationships in many ways, but it’s not essential to have before getting into a loving relationship.
This phrase implies that those of us who struggle with self-love don’t deserve love from another person. That, or we are incapable of being in a loving relationship. This sentiment also hints at it being our fault when we get into an unhealthy relationship. I know I’ve been victim-blamed like this before. It’s the old “if you cared about yourself, you would have walked away sooner” idea, and all. We are all deserving of love just as we are right now, even when we’re a work in progress.
I won’t deny that compassion for others deepens with greater self love, but when we struggle with self-love or empathy, it doesn’t make us an inherently bad or unworthy person. We’re just as valid as someone who is filled with adoration for themselves.
Self love is healing and helpful, and that’s why it is worth working towards. But, in the meantime, know that you’re no less valid or capable of a human being.
This blog isn’t just about me saying it’s okay to not be perfect at loving yourself. It’s also filled with effective ways to increase self love! Keep on reading.
Conditional Versus Unconditional Self Love
Very simply, conditional love is the kind that requires certain circumstances to exist. If someone says to you “I’ll love you if…,” that’s conditional. Unconditional love comes with no strings attached. It’s more of an “I’ll love you no matter what you do…” This is regarding love from others, but (show of hands) have you ever said these conditional “if”s to yourself? I definitely have. I still do sometimes.
A surefire way to limit self love is by giving it conditions. We naturally crave and want total acceptance and compassion and we’re the only people who can give this to ourselves. We do it by letting go of the internalized restrictions on the love we’re allowed to feel.
There are a bajillion ways of doing this and each of us will have individual ones that help us the most. This blog is here to get you started.
So What Does Unconditional Self Love Look Like?
Unconditional love relies on three qualities: respect, acceptance, and compassion. The ways in how these manifest are infinite, but these are the three basic traits.
Respect means that we honor the existence of our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They have formed to help us in some way (now or in the past) and all of these are ultimately trying to assist us. This, just like a waitress at a restaurant who’s serving us, deserve respect. We don’t have to understand someone (or some emotion) to respect its inherent voice, identity, and characteristics. This is just like respecting another person. We don’t have to love their actions, but we can accept who they are innately. With our emotions, we don’t have to love how they feel, but we can respect their existence.
Acceptance comes next. It means, when we feel something, we let it be. We don’t try to stuff it down or deny it. Instead we say “I’m still valid, even when I’m angry.” Or, when examining a past mistake, we accept that it happened and recognize that our past actions do not dictate our future reactions.
I’m trying as hard as I can to squeeze Acceptance 101 into a paragraph, but I know there’s a lot more to it. That’s why I created this eCourse, which will help you learn how to accept the obstacles you face in all areas of your life.
Lastly, compassion. This one is pretty easy once we have the other two. Since we’re no longer fighting ourselves for who we are, we instead realize that it’s easier to love ourselves than fight. Compassion is all about choosing love to fill the void that self-rejection used to fill.
Unconditional Self Love Exists in Any Situation
Like I mentioned earlier, saying “if” means our love is conditional. Unconditional love is love without any “if”s. This means it can exist in any situation, no matter what we’ve done, will do, think, or feel.
Let me guess what you just thought there. I bet you felt a bit of “but what if I (insert intense situation here)?” I knew this because, even as I was typing this blog, my own love-limiting voice chimed in and said “Arien, but what if you turn into the people who hurt you?” And a handful of other “what if”s.
My answer to my own question, and the question that probably popped into your head is yes. Yes, you still are deserving of unconditional love. Unconditional love is something you deserve because you’re a living being and that’s the only prerequisite needed.
You have a consciousness? You deserve unconditional love. It’s as simple as that.
That love-limiting voice is always trying to place conditions on your amount of self love. In truth, there are no limits. Unconditional love can exist in any situation, no matter what is happening or what you have done. Self love can even coexist with guilt, when we’re feeling bad about a mistake. This is a subject for a whole other blog, but the idea demonstrates the power of unconditional love. Of course, I know this whole concept isn’t something we realize all in one go, and that’s why there are a million exercises to increase self-love and quiet this conditionally loving voice. Like, for instance, these 50 self loving affirmations here!
Cancel Out Your Love-Limiting Voice
I want you to try something. Think of a really difficult moment you had, something recent where you can still feel the emotions a bit, without them totally overwhelming you. Aim for something where the emotions are vulnerable, uncomfortable, or maybe even a bit painful.
Now I simply want you to say, aloud or in your head, “I am worthy of love even with (this feeling).”
How do your emotions shift? If some tears show up, that’s a great thing. It means the compassion really got down to your core.
If you feel like it, try this simple exercise with a small mistake you made. Something that triggers a tiny bit of guilt, but not a whole flood of it. This time, after feeling the guilt, say to yourself “I am worthy of love even though I (made this mistake/did this action).” That’s the beginning of self-forgiveness. This simple action, of consciously saying that we’re worthy of love, is the most effective way to cancel out your love-limiting voice.
Related video: Self-Forgiveness
Remember, Self Love is a Process
Self love is something you can create and manifest in your life, but it’s essential that you’re patient with the journey too. If we view self love as a finish line, we’re defeating the purpose. If we think it is somewhere in the future to achieve, self love becomes conditional.
The truth is, you already have all you need to fully love yourself. And, if you love yourself while reading this blog, then struggle after, that’s okay too. It’s a process, a constant one. And it’s a beautiful journey, too.
Recommended reading: 50 Self-Loving Affirmations