But really, it’s true. I thought once I found the one who loves me, cellulite and a hangry attitude aside, those feelings of insecurity and self-recrimination would dissipate. Turns out, that is false. Very. Very. False.
If you’re in the dating world or ever have been, firstly I offer you my condolences. Secondly, you have undoubtedly seen countless memes touting the wisdom “you must love yourself before someone else can love you”. Like everything that is true on the internet, I took this as gospel and worked hard to implement it into my life. I worked on loving myself so someone else could love me. As I am writing this, the absurdity of this is jumping out at me with alarming alacrity (I just learned this word and intend to use it as much as I can in an effort to appear smart but also, to keep reminding myself of the word until it becomes stuck in my everyday vernacular. Because synonyms are like shoes; you can never have too many)
So if I understand the internet correctly, it is telling me that in order to be loved by someone else I must love myself, making this transaction of love entirely conditional and dependent on my feelings for myself. With a divorce and a couple of relationships behind me, I may not be an expert here, or maybe that’s exactly why I am an expert, but love is not meant to be conditional. But I don’t entirely believe it’s meant to be unconditional either. That’s another post altogether.
The self-help industry is packaging this mantra of conditional love and is selling it back to us as personal growth. Allow me a moment to flex some cynicism, if we loved ourselves there would be no need for online courses on how to do so, t-shirts re-affirming this message, or mugs that tout it as well. I’m not here to hate on mugs because who doesn’t feel better drinking coffee from a life affirming mug? Dating apps work on the premise that you stay single, dieting companies stay in business so long as people remain unhappy with their bodies. And so, the self-love industry which encompases commercialized health, beauty and spirituality, only thrives so long as we don’t love ourselves. The dangling carrot is the love of someone else that we will finally be worthy of once we love ourselves.
I’ve been in a funk lately. It could be that my doctor and I have been playing around with medication doses, it could be that I graduated school a year ago and still haven’t found gainful employment, or that the kids are at home or it could be that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket in a global pandemic. Regardless, I’m just not feeling it.
People say that in successful relationships each person gives 100%. I don’t know about other people or their relationships aside from what they post on Instagram, but I don’t always have 100% to give. Somedays all I have is 50% and I give all that I can within that 50%, but it’s still 50% and I need my person to bring the other 50%. And some days all I have is 20%.
Yesterday was a 20% day. I was struggling. I needed to be loved a little harder. I needed my person to step in and love me more to make up for what I couldn’t give myself.
There is the fear that your person will become the sole bearer for your self- love, a receptacle for your own self love that only they can pour . Yesterday, my person brought me 80% because I couldn’t do it myself. Today, today is a 60% day with a high of 80% and low of 40%.
My person’s love for me doesn’t replace the need for me to love myself. I must do so. And not in the commercialized way that is targeted towards me in ads on Facebook, but in ways that honour me. In writing. In creating. In being outside. In eating three meals a day. Things I need to do to show myself, love. But on days when I cannot do that, on days where everything feels too hard, I am no less worthy or deserving of the love I cannot muster for myself.
You can be loved, truly madly deeply loved in a way that you never have been before and still feel fat, still feel ugly, still feel unworthy. For better or worse, your love for yourself isn’t conditional on their love for you. You have to bring something but you don’t have to bring it all.
“You’re not my insulin that I would die without, you’re more like the Xanax that I can live without but life is so much better and clearer when you’re there.” This is what I tell my fiance on those 20% days.