A friend of mine just rolls her eyes when she hears someone remind her – yet again! – that ‘you can’t love another until you truly love yourself.’ Throughout her years of being single, she and I have had some interesting conversations about relationships with men and the crazy dynamics that often play out between the genders. It’s no wonder that John Gray’s book Women are From Venus and Men Are From Mars sold more than 50 million copies!
I have to be honest, when we’ve had these conversations, I never questioned my love for myself. How could I be in a very happy 25-year relationship with my darling hubby if I didn’t? Wasn’t that the litmus test? He loves me so I must surely love me too. Self-love seemed to be a given. But it wasn’t.
Self Love Is Deeper Than You Think
I thought I loved myself because…
- I’ve given myself the permission to live my Purpose.
- I’ve given myself the permission to make my work my Passion.
- Every day, I take time to get active or nurture my body with care.
- I make it a priority to live by my Values.
- I entertain relationships mostly with people who energize me.
- I manage, with integrity and kindness, relationships with people who don’t energize me.
- I’ve given myself the permission to be joyful despite my 20-year old son’s suicide last year.
- I set boundaries and say no when necessary.
- I acknowledge my emotions and feelings most of the time.
- I empower myself to either meet my own needs or transcend them.
- I surround myself with what feels like the right measure of material comfort.
- I enjoy my own company.
- I believe I have something unique to contribute.
- I grant myself time to revel in the beauty of nature.
- Oh yes, and I treat myself to dark chocolate, the occasional glass of red wine and Big Mac – it’s gotta be the pickles!
But, I came to realize that these are only part of the self-love deal.
True Self-Love Is Unconditional
Until a recent epiphany, I was not aware that my self-love had been conditional. I had never even given any conscious thought to self-love. One of the hints I had received in the month prior to this ah-ha moment was dropped by my husband. He had slept all night while I had not slept a minute. For seven consecutive hours – except pee and water breaks – I had sat at my computer plowing away at a number of projects. Around 5 am, when he saw me sitting at the dining table, he had this undecipherable look on his face and asked me why I choose to deprive myself of rest. Instinctively, I knew he was right. I did not need to do that to myself. My behaviour was incontestable evidence of feelings of “I am not doing enough; I must do more, sooner, better.”
Fast-forward two months and here I am, peering at myself from a new vantage point. The lightness and freedom that I feel is enlivening. Thanks to this new clarity, I see that true self-love could only happen once…
- I honestly accepted where I am on my journey.
- I truly forgave myself my mistakes…all of them.
- I made peace with my physical and personality flaws…all of them too.
- I sincerely acknowledged that I’m doing the best I can with what I have.
In other words, self-love is unconditional and could not exist, at a deep level, as long as…
- I judged myself.
- I beat myself up for not meeting self-imposed expectations.
Is Self-Love Blind Too?
In my search for the answer to this question, and armed with my intuitive insight, a summary internet search did not reveal any academic data. However, I did land on this captivating study by Professors Andreas Bartels and Semir Zeki published in NeuroImage (2004). While examining romantic and maternal love, they found that feelings of love suppress the activity in the areas of the brain which control critical thought. This mechanism, unsurprisingly, seems to be survival-preserving: “love” makes us blind to the faults and flaws of our mate and child to optimize conditions for the continuance of our species. It all makes sense.
What if we extrapolated the findings to self-love? What if self-love is blind too? What if I duped my heart with my life-preserving brain so that I could feel confident enough to do the work I’ve assigned myself which happens to be my reason for living? What if, in the moment that I found myself on the cusp of a professional breakthrough, I needed more self-love to achieve it, sparking the awareness? It would be interesting that these questions become fodder for future studies on the link between human performance and self-love.
For today, for now, I will simply bask in the deep gratitude I have for all the amazing humans who helped me catalyze this deeper self-knowledge and amplify my self-love. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
May this Valentine’s Day be a moment of celebration of love for yourself and those you choose to blindly love!
Emotionologist & Weight Loss Coach