The popular adage ‘how can you love another if you can’t love yourself’ used to annoy the crap out of me.
But as the years have gone by, I’ve watched my relationship patterns flip past like a series of slides of the family vacation. They all look the same. And here’s an example of what it looks like:
I once got all dressed up to go on a date with a guy who showed up at my door, looked me up and down, and said, “Really?” But here’s the interesting part—I still went on that date with him.
I took him to an exclusive music industry Grammy party and nothing but criticism came out of his mouth. And yet, I still went home with him.
If you want to truly know how you feel about yourself, what your deepest beliefs are, just look at the people you invite into your life. The way they treat you is the way you feel you deserve to be treated. Don’t believe me? Then why don’t you leave the restaurant when your date has been flirting with other women all throughout dinner? Why do you accept a second date after he’s told you that you have terrible taste in fashion, music, movies and friends? Why don’t you solve a goddamn Rubik’s Cube in front of him when he tells you that you’re stupid?
Not only that, but we actually train others how to treat us. When you tell a guy no thanks you will not be accompanying him to a Superbowl party because football and a roomful of intoxicated guys make you break out in hives, and he guilts you into going anyway, you’ve just taught him that your word means nothing and your boundaries are drawn in invisible ink.
And validation lives on the other side of the self-respect equation, too. If I don’t think I’m pretty enough, smart enough, or funny enough unless a guy says so, then I’m also telling myself that I’m not worthy. Only this time I’m not proving my low self-worth by attracting people to me who will corroborate it, I’m demonstrating my low self-worth by not believing something good about myself unless someone else corroborates it.
So now I find myself wondering: do I love myself enough to not care what anyone else thinks of me—bad or good? Can I love myself in sweats, bed-head hair, and a pillow crease across my cheek while standing in line at Starbucks surrounded by women who somehow manage to look like models at 8am? Can I love myself even as I attempt to talk my red-faced self out of a joke gone awry to a guy I have a huge crush on? Can I love myself enough to turn down a date with a very handsome man because I’ve already booked an evening with myself?
This brings to mind (via Google) a quote from Georg Christoph Lichtenberg: “He who is in love with himself has at least this advantage – he won’t encounter many rivals.” And as I do the dance of intimacy with myself—I love me, I love me not—I suddenly comprehend a very simple rule: why on earth would anyone decide to love me when I can’t be bothered to go in there and clear the path first?
Read more posts by Selena Templeton, love and relationship expert. Selena blogs for JenningsWire.