You’ve probably heard people say “you can only love others as much as you love yourself.”
Myth or reality?
I think it’s a myth.
I mean, you love your kids like crazy, right? And most people have been in loving romantic relationships and have loving, compassionate friendships.
So, nah, I don’t buy it…I think we can love others even when we don’t love ourselves.
But I also think it’s pretty unlikely you’ll be truly happy if you don’t love yourself.
“To me, it’s extremely unlikely that without the ability to love oneself a person can ever be happy. That is, what’s necessary and sufficient—not for loving another but for a state of inner contentment and well-being—is healthy self-love and acceptance.” ~ Leon F Seltzer Ph.D., Evolution of the Self
So, you love others – your kids, your partner, your family, and friends. But you still might feel like something is missing.
You’ll look like you have it all, but you might feel empty, or like a fraud, or somehow never enough – so you can’t internalize all of the goodness in your life.
Learning to unconditionally accept yourself is the key. If you were emotionally neglected as a child, or never accepted as you were – always expected to be better, smarter, quieter, more polite, calmer, happier, etc. – you weren’t unconditionally accepted.
It’s tough to make it through childhood and adolescence feeling fully accepted – I haven’t met anyone yet who feels they were unconditionally accepted by their parents, siblings, peers, teachers, and others. Intentional or not, as we grow up, we become conditioned – and this conditioning layers upon us (false) beliefs about who we “should” be in order to be acceptable and lovable.
But there’s hope – you can totally give this to yourself. We can undo what’s been done to us.
As you become more aware of the real you – the full you, you’re loving yourself. Because we all want to feel seen.
As you seek to understand why you do what you do and forgive yourself, you’re loving yourself. Because we all want to feel understood.
As you feel more compassion towards yourself instead of beating yourself up, you’re loving yourself. Because we all want to feel good enough.
As you accept yourself – imperfections and all – you’re loving yourself. Because we all want to feel acceptable and lovable.
As you embrace all of yourself, you’ll find yourself not hiding parts of you that you think are “unacceptable.” The more you reveal who you are – show up more fully – your relationships will feel more intimate and close.
So, if you’re willing to do the work to fully accept and love yourself, there are other great rewards beyond being able to love others…
- You’ll find the happiness you seek
- You’ll feel more present and less distracted
- You’ll feel closer and more authentically (and consistently) connected to your loved ones
- You’ll have an increased capacity to receive love
- As you are more compassionate towards yourself, you’ll be less triggered, less reactive, and more patient.