I talk a lot about self-love in this blog and community, and a question I get asked often is, “do I have to love myself before I can be in a loving relationship?”
I have had clients who are incredibly self-aware, working on self-love, feeling doubtful that they’ll ever enter in to the loving relationship they truly want. And they’ve heard in the self-help world that in order to attract and manifest a truly loving, soulful relationship, you must first love yourself.
While there are parts of this statement that have some truth, what happens is that women who are struggling to find the right man feel that something must be wrong with them. That if they were only to do more inner work and practice more self-love than maybe they’ll find a great relationship.
This can get you stuck in a perpetual pattern of defeat and procrastination, thinking you need perfection before you’ll reach your dreams.
It simply isn’t the case.
I do believe there is some truth to the above statement. If you are not happy with yourself, or being alone, then you are at risk of winding up in extremely dependent relationships, becoming overly clingy, or unhappy in the relationship after the initial excitement wears off.
In my early 20s I put on a front that I had loads of confidence, but inside I was extremely fragile, needing constant validation outside of myself.
This manifested into too much partying, drinking, and seeking the attention of men. What I thought I wanted was a relationship, but what I really wanted was a man to make me feel good about myself.
Here are the two ways that scenario played itself out:
- I’d date a really nice guy who liked me a lot and should have made me happy except that I’d get bored and end up dumping them.
- I’d date a nice-enough guy who liked to have fun but would never emotionally commit. I’d chase them endlessly (not some of my prouder moments).
I now have the clarity to see why I did what I did, but I certainly didn’t at the time.
With low self-esteem, I’d be attracted to men that would perpetuate an inner belief of “not good enough”. If somehow I could just get them to commit, then yes, I’ve proved myself! Of course, they never would.
This is why it is important to have some basis of self-love and self-esteem before entering into a relationship.
However, the work truly starts during a relationship.
Relationships are vehicles for growth.
You may think you’ve done all the inner-work, talked to your Life Coach, and built your confidence. But then you meet that guy. And he’s amazing. And you forget to eat and breathe because you’re too busy having unbelievable sex until 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
A few months go by and then something shifts.
All of a sudden doubts come up, fear rears it’s ugly head, you wonder if you’re good enough for him, if he’s going to leave you, if he’s cheating on you with someone else. You might even wonder if you like him enough.
And you think: what happened to that ‘I’ve got this’ feeling I had a few months ago? What happened to my peace of mind?
Vulnerability is what happened.
Vulnerability with another human being is the scariest and bravest thing we can do. It is also one of the quickest paths to enlightenment because it will bring up all your shit. It will bring up all your shit and then some.
But here’s why that’s a good thing: you need to have all that stuff come up so it can be healed.
This is where the true work begins. This is where you can really learn to love yourself.
Not in a fluffy affirmation kind of way, but in a raw way where you have to reach deep into the depths of forgiveness and compassion.
So the answer, dear one, is yes and no.
Before you can be in a truly happy, loving relationship I do believe you must have a foundation of self-love. Do the work. Speak with a Life Coach. Breathe. Heal. Set ambitious goals.
But then when that relationship comes along that is both so amazing and so incredibly scary, know that this is when the real work begins. And that you have what it takes.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, have you ever had fears come up in a relationship? How did you handle them?
Are you curious what it might look like to work with me? Learn about the transformational work I do here.
I originally published this article on Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com