Sometimes we can go into a relationship all encompassed in our new love and forget to take care of ourselves. Self-love isn’t selfish, it is just as important as shared love. By looking after our own physical, emotional and spiritual needs we can bring our very best selves into a relationship.
What is self-love though? It is one of those terms that we’ve all heard of but often don’t fully understand.
I’d like you to think back to when you were a child and how your parents cared for you, or perhaps how you wish they’d cared for you.
My definition of self-love is caring for all the different parts of you whether they are likable or not. It’s accepting, understanding and being compassionate towards all the parts of yourself, even to the bits that you don’t like or aren’t proud of.
Think of Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones Diary when he says “I love you just the way you are” that’s the way I want you to love yourselves.
Every part of you has a message about what you feel and what you need. There are also likely to be the parts of you that express pain from the past or the present, that needs to be paid attention to and healed.
To help you to understand what this would look like, let’s look at what can happen when we deprive ourselves of self-love.
I’m going to use the example of someone going into a new relationship and being the person they believe their new love wants them to be. This person constantly denies their feelings, minimises and disregards them, pretending they don’t exist in order to be loved. These behaviours can also extend to them wanting to be accepted into their partner’s family or friendship groups. By doing this, not only are they giving a false picture of themselves, but are also training others and the world to treat them accordingly.
There’s a widely held belief that self-sacrifice and pure hard work will get you love, attention, respect, fidelity and fulfilled ambition. It really doesn’t work like that! In fact, it’s the exact opposite. You cannot earn these things in this way.
Trying too hard gets you more self-sacrifice and less respect.
Not only does it lower your value in the eyes of others, it also makes you feel undeserving within yourself. For example, if someone tries to give you something good or support you, be kind to you or offer you gifts, the likelihood is you will feel unworthy, be suspicious, and inadvertently or overtly push them away.
If the way you are living is declaring to the world on an unconscious, or even conscious level, that your needs and feelings don’t matter, that you’re of low value, then this is how you will be treated.
Don’t be that person that just falls into liking the same things as their partner, losing your own identity, and ultimately no longer remembering what you really loved to do, listen to, or watch or wanted from life.
Now let’s look at what self-love really looks like.
When you truly look after yourself in a relationship you take time to observe your feelings and determine the needs behind those feelings. You honour those needs and meet them to the best of your ability. You treat yourself as an equal human being whom you love dearly, loving ourselves is something we are inherently very bad at and it’s so very important.
It is also crucial to take time to do those things you truly enjoy doing, making space for you within your relationship. Just because your new love doesn’t enjoy sitting quietly reading a book, or going on long country walks, doesn’t mean you should give up these pleasures. You need to take time for yourself to switch off and enjoy “you” time and replenish your inner resources.
Ensure you have good boundaries around you and understand what you will and will not accept from others. Avoid being in the company of those that exude negativity and suck out all your positivity. Look for those who are a radiator rather than a drain!
By doing these things you will feel worthy of embracing the loving gestures and gifts of others. You will be assertive and champion your ambitions and desires. You will give and receive support from others on an equal basis.
Self-love will mean you have a generous heart and value what you naturally give.
Somehow, in our culture, we consider maturity to be complete independence, doing it on our own, not needing anybody’s help or support. No man or woman is an island, we thrive best giving and receiving the support of others.
Look after yourself, be yourself and yes, love yourself. From that place, you will be happy in yourself and have so much more to offer in a relationship.