Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT
You Don’t Need to Love Yourself First
“You have to love yourself first before you can love anyone else.” Justin is saying this as his explanation for why he’s still single. It’s an adage we’ve all heard a zillion times, haven’t we? I used to blindly believe it myself—I’d heard it over and over and read it in self-help books, so it must be true. It’s considered so absolutely right, it’s not even questioned. I hear it frequently quoted by my patients and friends. But think it through with me:
Many people out there in long-term relationships don’t particularly love themselves, and didn’t love themselves before they got paired up either. They didn’t wait until they loved themselves to get involved.
You don’t need to be a good tennis player before you decide to learn to play tennis. People at all levels of competency enjoy playing. Some of them don’t even particularly love tennis; they just play for the fun of it.
Relationships are petri dishes in which we can learn to love ourselves and others. Through the constant friction, through correcting our mistakes and starting over again, through striving to become a better person, we gradually turn into someone who is capable of love. All that is really needed is a willingness to love and be loved and a decision to not have to get your own way all the time.
People who don’t especially love themselves yet, usually because of a difficult childhood or because they are sensitive to advertisers’ messages that they don’t measure up, can learn to love themselves by being in relationships. As the slogan goes in Al-Anon, “Let us love you until you learn to love yourself.”
We don’t learn to love in a vacuum. It’s essential to have relationships with other people in order to turn into a person who loves yourself, and not the other way around. The famous saying above is putting the cart before the horse.
© 2021 Catherine Auman
Catherine Auman, LMFT is a licensed therapist with advanced training in both traditional and spiritual psychology with over thirty years of successful professional experience helping thousands of clients. She has headed nationally based psychiatric programs as well as worked through alternative methodologies based on ancient traditions and wisdom teachings. Visit her online at catherineauman.com.
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California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists
Los Angeles Chapter