Love Thyself

Don't listen to that self-talk! Give yourself a break: Here's why you're your own worst critic, downtime is crucial, seeking romance is a bad remedy, and more.

Waiting For Someone to Make You Happy?

Endless pursuit of the perfect match may reveal a misguided quest for self-love.

If a woman has a negative self-image and generally feels poorly about herself, she may work tirelessly to find a cure by securing a perfect match. As a result, she may find herself perpetually caught in a cycle of working to attain male desire and feeling high once it is temporarily achieved. But of course, when the match turns out not to be a good one, the high is often followed by a crushing low. All of which can play out over a few hours or a much longer period of time. When self-esteem is lacking, it is tempting to outsource a sense of self through associating with an idealized match. Unfortunately, until self-love is present within, true love and care from outside evade.

If self-esteem lags, it is easier to focus attention on finding the perfect mate than it is to develop and achieve broader goals for the self. Attaching self-esteem to a romanticized other becomes a way to feel a sense of love that perhaps a woman cannot feel for herself, in her own head. Placing romantic partners on a pedestal is a way to make up for the self-worth deficit. If the man seems confident, sexy, high achieving, then suddenly the woman feels better about herself, almost as if she is him. Failing to harness her own self-esteem, she leans heavily on his.

As a general rule of thumb, the more obsessed and ruminative a person may be about obtaining a partner or finding new romantic attention, the more depleted and inadequate they may feel about themself.

When self-love is lacking judgment becomes impaired; a woman is more desperate to couple up and is so lost in this pursuit that she has difficulty making an accurate assessment of who the person really is and if he can truly meet her needs. When partners are idealized, the illusion is destined to dissolve, leaving the woman depleted and with a greater sense of inadequacy.

Building self-love is a process. A helpful first step is to notice if you are putting all of your energy into making a relationship work or to finding the perfect match. Take a step back and consider if you are hoping someone else will provide you with something only you can develop. Ask yourself if you have a tendency to idealize your romantic partners and then are left deflated when you discover who they actually are. If you tend to camouflage what you consider unlovable about yourself through attaching to highly desirable, oh so important men, refocus, not on another potential mate, but on yourself.

Jill P. Weber, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy—Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships. Follow Jill on Twitter @DrJillWeber

Love Thyself