There is no shortage of blog posts, Instagram inspirational captions and grandparents to tell you that you are loveable just the way you are and that you should value and love yourself. Hell, even I’ve said it a couple times in posts such as these.
But a lot of people fear loving themselves because they think that to love yourself is conceited. As most of us know, this isn’t true but we all know people who are very full of themselves and conceited. They think they’re God’s gift to humanity — and in a way they’re right — but we’re all gifts. It’s not that some people have the potential to be gifts and others don’t.
The notion that one is superior to anyone else might be confused to be “too self-loving” but love is never something that is bottled up inside for us to just feel good about ourselves and hold above others. Love is meant to be expressed and shared.
For example, someone may fail at landing a coveted contract but they don’t beat themselves up for it. They tell others, “Well, I gave it my best shot and that’s all that matters.” Okay, that sounds loving. But if someone else gets it and they turn their noses up at them, this isn’t a person that loves themselves. This is someone wrapped in egotistical. Their self-talk might’ve sounded positive, but it was a mask to hide their disappointment.
Contrast the above example with someone who fails to get the contract, allows themselves to be disappointed and congratulates the one who wins it. The difference between the two examples is that the latter person has self-acceptance. Not only did they accept that they failed, they accepted how they felt. This acceptance doesn’t just stop within. When someone else succeeds, there is praise. Why? Because you valued that contract and if this other person won it, then they must’ve been pretty exceptional.
How does this play out in romantic relationships?
We always have to start with the fact that to love yourself puts you in excellent stead for any relationship, whether platonic or romantic. I get that some people will still think that you can love yourself without loving someone else. After all, all you have to do is value someone more than you do yourself, right?
Yeah, I guess you’re right. But when you’re taken for granted or worse, taken advantage of, the self-love that weird Medium post, Pinterest and great-aunt Lorraine kept trying to tell you about would come in handy. Because you don’t value yourself, you will choose people who reflect how you view yourself, guaranteed.
And then you will resent them, just as you resent yourself. Maybe worse.
I was re-watching The Breakfast Club and I remembered that Claire and Bender ended up together at the end. As much as I love the movie, those two together would be a trainwreck. Sorry if you loved them together (I did too), but realistically it’d flame out. Why?
For as confident as Bender appears, he lacks self-love. Claire does as well, but it isn’t as bad as Bender. Bender antagonizes everyone and the principal throughout most of the day because he’s simply acting out his own personal frustrations. He’s communicating his inner turmoil from being abused and neglected at home to anyone within spitball range.
His no-fucks-given attitude could lead one, like Brian for example, to assume that Bender must really like himself. But that couldn’t be any further from the truth. The sad truth is, each student in that Saturday detention hated something about themselves, and it was translated in their behaviours.
Bender is acerbic, Claire is judgmental or dismissive, Andrew lacked an identity other than what was expected of him, Allison is unhinged and Brian considered suicide. The nicest person in the whole movie was actually Carl the Janitor. When Bender tries to cut him down for being a janitor, Carl is not only unfazed, he maintains his chipper disposition because he knows his worth. When he and Principal Vernon talk about the kids, it is Carl who exudes empathy, despite his status as lowly janitor. He is a man who embraced who he was and his circumstances.
If he had a love interest in the movie, it’d probably be a good relationship with someone who mirrors back his own self-acceptance. You can’t be with people who value you if you don’t value yourself. Even if you have those people, you won’t be inclined to be around them much. You’ll make different choices, choices that echo how you treat yourself.
In life, you will see a lot of people behave horribly to others. Onlookers will say, “Oh, they really doesn’t love themselves.” It isn’t some cheap and bitter clapback, it’s actually true! We know that because those among us who treat others with respect, even people that have hurt them, they love themselves the most because they cannot help it. If you are loving, what do you think they’re going to do? Be hateful? Would you think that a hateful person would be loving? Or course not. Even if they were given a dose of love from someone, they’d find it indigestible.
So, my invitation to you is to consider that in loving yourself, valuing yourself and giving yourself the best of life, it must have the chain reaction of exuding this love to those who cross your path. Conceit never loved anyone else, valued anyone else or gave anything to anyone else, so conceit isn’t self-love. It’s deception.
When you start to love yourself, you will love others; and you will not be able to help it. You are powerless to resist. But it’ll feel so good that you wouldn’t even try to resist it anyway.