You’ve probably heard the phrase, “In order for others to love you, you must love yourself first.” This statement often makes me cringe. How does one learn how to love yourself? Can you go off in the forest and learn to love yourself? Do you take two self-love pills, and call me in the morning?
How does a person learn to love themselves? What is Self-Love? and how can you get it? Looking at this statement from the perspective of Attachment Theory self-love is something that can’t be developed in a vacuum. The ideas you develop about yourself and your lovability are created from feedback from others. If you are surrounded by many people who love you then this is not as difficult. But what if you are struggling in your relationship, you are alone or single? Can you say, “I’m loveable, I’m great!” Self-love is established in a context and not believed to do this on your own.
Self-love is similar to self-esteem in that it changes based upon your circumstances; some days you have more, others you have less. Self-esteem and self-love are, in large part, the product of a social process. One of the main reasons people feel important and special is because they have friends and belong to social groups that regard them as important and special. If you play an important role in your work, family, peer group, and community, you will feel better about yourself.
When it comes “love” most people tend to think of it the context of a romantic context. But that means is you don’t have a partner, you are not loved. Surely this is not true?
Try to think of romantic love as a continuation for other types of love. Make a list of all the people in your life you have close relationships with. Ask them for feedback on your best traits. Think of people at work, school, church, volunteer groups, your bike group, book club, etc. Think of all the nice things these people have said to you. If you want to be closer to others, what actions will you take to make this happen?
When I was sad about dating, it helped me to remember prior romantic relationships in addition to my friends and family. I would read some of my old love letters and birthday cards. When I reviewed the evidence that family, friends, and old relationships saw me as a lovable person, I felt better about myself and could see my current situation as temporary rather than permanent.
If you’re having trouble bringing romantic love into your life, focus on other kinds of love, too. Stop waiting for the very specific feedback from a member of the opposite sex and work on improving your relationships with others. Think of love as a verb. “When I love someone, I do things to reinforce it.” Gary Chapman’s book The Five Languages of Love tells us that we can give and receive love five different ways: 1) acts of service, 2) gifts, 3) positive affirmations, 4) physical affection, and 5) quality time. Invite your friends over and make them a special dinner. Send your friend a little card just because. Adopt a rescue animal, hug your nieces and nephews, or be a great neighbor, daughter, mother, or brother. Spend time volunteering with the elderly or with children. When we increase our social support network, we feel more connected and more loved by others.
To summarize, you can increase self-love in three ways:
1. Increase your social network and seek positive feedback from others.
2. Expand your concept of “love” to include elements beyond romantic love.
3. Do things for others, which will make you feel better about yourself.
Let me know what you are doing to create more self-love. I want to share with others things that can be positive and motivating.
SECURE SUMMARY: Love is not just devoted to romantic partners. Increase your social support and remember that in order to get love, you need to give love. Start giving love today!