Emotional Fitness

Harness the power of emotion to deepen your love with your partner, become more successful at work, and more

You Don't Need to Love Yourself First

Another's love can help you learn to love yourself

There is a psychological myth going around that you have to love yourself before someone else can love you. The real truth is that many people learn to love themselves by first being loved by another.

If you never had a loving family, it's more difficult to build healthy self-esteem. Appropriate affection from another person may be the magic touch you need to actually believe that you are loveable. When someone you admire gives his or her heart to you; it makes you feel cherished and in turn you learn to love yourself.

I know a number of people who were only able to develop self-love after someone who made them feel worthwhile came into their lives. For many, this love blossomed into a healthy and life long relationship. For others, it was an experience that put them on a path to finding their true purpose in life.

In many support groups one of the things that helps a person to recover is that the group loves the individual until he or she can love themselves. This is also one of the ways in which therapy helps individuals to heal from depression, loss and addiction.

On the other hand, we all know people who are in love with themselves (they're called narcissists). When someone is totally self-absorbed, he or she many not have room in their hearts to care for another human being. When looks, power or charisma begin to fade, many people with this issue find themselves very depressed and very alone.

If you put yourself before all others and ignore the needs and feelings of those closest to you, you'd better get a grip and change your behaviors before your loved ones take a hike. It's very difficult to keep giving love to someone who seldom or never returns it.

For those people who are still struggling with loving themselves, getting reassurance and support from a loving partner is very important in the healing process. Reminding someone who is struggling with self-acceptance that he or she deserves to be loved is a true gift from the heart.

If you have to continually ask your partner if he or she loves you, or if your partner is never able to take in the love you have to share, both of you may want to seek some additional support. If you let the pattern continue, your relationship will not have the strength to or ability to grow.

Trusting that you are loved may be difficult for someone who has suffered a trauma or significant loss. For those people I suggest patience and persistence. I believe that the heart only has so much room and if it's filled with hurt, there is less room for love. Love actually pushes out the sadness in our hearts, so by letting it in you not only get to feel the wonderful gift of being loved by another, you also get to release some old pain you may be holding on to.

Remember the story of the princess and the frog? We can all turn into something charming when we let ourselves be loved.

 

Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, columnist, and radio host. His latest book is The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.

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