Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph. D. "The boy who was raised as a dog"
Before I go into love territory, let me explain something: I'm a person comprised of 90% unpopular opinions. This means that in my everyday life, both offline and online, whenever I open my mouth I start a war, or at the very least create discomfort in the person I'm talking to. The hardest part of living with my brain is that I suffer from anxiety (which most of the time is the result of the unconscious belief that I will be stabbed/hurt/killed), and over the years I have learned that part of self-care is knowing when you can get yourself into an argument and when you can't. Your health comes first; it comes before political views, before queer issues, before feminism, before animal rights. If you don't have good health, you have nothing. And I'm willing to bet that unless a person has gone through the excruciating experience of losing their health, they will have a hard time understanding what I'm defending. And notice how I'm talking about health here, not happiness. When I feel in good health, I will start riots against people, and it typically drives me away from happiness. But I couldn't care less.
What I am trying to say is that:
HSP + Social Anxiety + Unpopular opinions = I keep quiet more than I probably "should".
I refuse to buy into the beliefs some people spread in certain communities I'm a part of, things such as "You ALWAYS have to speak up" "You ALWAYS have to come out" "You owe it to the community" blablafuckingbla. You don't owe anything to anybody whose statements completely erase your mental health. Know thyself, know when discomfort/pain ends and health dissintegration begins, and don't cross the line.
And today I'm on fire, hence this post, which I've wanted to make for years now (back in livejournal days), but never found 'the right time' or 'the necessary energy to dig for proper vocabulary', especially with English not being my native language. Even right now, I'm unsure I will be able to express my thoughts in a coherent manner, but I'm going to try nonetheless, because 'the right time' and the required energy have arrived.
I'm tired of people making others feel bad for desiring connection, and like they're not good enough and will never be good enough unless they remove desire, unless they become an island; that they will never be loved because they can't love themselves.
This is bullcrap.
Look around you and pay attention: there's plenty of evidence of people learning to love themselves in their adulthood thanks to being loved by a separate entity. All of us have to relearn self love. It gets slapped, frowned, yelled, punished out of us when we're tiny cute gremlins, and it's common (and natural) that we claim it back later on in life after being inspired by someone. Someone who loves themselves and/or someone who loves us; an external source in any case. I remember my history teacher in university, who loved my brain more than I did, who saw things in me I couldn't yet grasp, and that's how I learned that my brain is valuable no matter the circumstances, even when I'm sending potentially incendiary opinions to the interwebs, ripples of which will get back to me in the form of hate mail. I will continue to sleep at night. I will not for a second doubt my own worth, because I had excellent teachers. We are all susceptible to this inspiration coming from the outside, and it's our choice to grab it and channel it in healthy ways. I don't believe that once the self love has left us, we can live in isolation for ten years, snap our fingers and tap into love again and say voilà! I think our connection to the external world is what helps us remember what we already knew when we were born: that we have intrinsic value and deserve everything good under the sun.
Statements such as "You cannot be loved by another person until you love yourself" is categorically false. I hear that every single day, especially in the spiritual community. And it's funny that usually it comes from people who are in long term relationships, and most of these people make a living as life coaches or even relationship coaches, so of course they will try to convince you that you lack something that they can help you get, pleeeeease! I ask you to question these people, stop buying all this crap that is based on guilt-tripping and shaming, and which clearly isn't paying attention to reality. It is in the interest of these "gurus" to convince you that you are unlovable right now, and they use skillful tactics to convince you that they are what you want, such as telling you that they are 'on your side', while magnifying a "problem" you may or may not actually have. It's like reading horoscopes; they're so vague that everyone believes it applies to their specific situation. The power of suggestion, baby. The statement "Nobody can love you until you love yourself" is actually affirming that you are unlovable unless X happens. Their discourse typically goes like this "Do you have problems in your relationship because you think you are unlovable or unworthy? You are lovable! You are worthy! Let me convince you of that! Come with me and I'll fix what's wrong with your beliefs, because you can't be loved until you love yourself" So which one is it, Señor(a) Cupido? Are we already lovable or do we need to get to X (self love in this case) in order to become lovable? Make up your mind already. Why isn't anybody seeing the trap here!? They are telling you opposite messages in one sentence! They're saying that you are always lovable no matter what whether you realise it or not, and then they're also saying that you are an unlovable being UNTIL something is shifted inside of you. Moreover, these people are making it sound as though we need to be perfect people, have all our personal issues resolved and out of the way, in order to be loved. A lot of us mortals are already perfectionists, or recovering perfectionists (as I tend to call myself), and the last thing we need is more impossible projects on our plate. Everybody has issues, no exceptions, and while being aware of & working on our own shit is necessary in order to have great relationships, there's no such thing as flawlessness.
I do believe there is something important to be said about self love being crucial in relationships, and I'll get there in a moment.
If you, like me, subscribe to new age podcasts and attend webinars and all that, I want to encourage you to pay attention to what these people are saying. Often times, I have to put my earphones down and walk away because I cannot stand to be exposed to so many lies and contradictions.
For example, the case of Mastin Kipp, who runs The Daily Love, comes to mind. There's a ton of people like him out there, but I'll just use him as a reference to illustrate what I'm saying. I believe he has no opinions of his own, he just parrots whatever discourse the "gurus" at the retreats he attends tell him. Mastin has explained a thousand times how, when he got together with his girlfriend, he was so terrified that began acting out. He was a jerk (his words), and yet his girlfriend loved him through thick and thin to the other side of fear. Isn't this story wonderful? I think it is. And yet, you will hear him say over and over the statement "You cannot be loved until you love yourself". I throw my arms in the air and yell Aren't you paying attention to your own story?! Why are you not using your critical mind?! I'm willing to bet that what he actually means is that had he not learned to love himself -meaning be at peace with what he was receiving from life/girlfriend and accept it (which is a side-effect of self worth)-, his relationship with his partner would have dissintegrated. Let me emphasize this: it is the relationship that would become impossible, not her love for him. You can only stay with a toxic person for so long, and there comes a point to say goodbye. Sometimes you do love the person, but you love yourself more.
Here's what the truth looks like to me: You are always lovable, whether you hate yourself or are a narcissist, and self love in relationships is necessary in order for said relationship to be good, inspiring, fun, intelligent, fruitful and navigable for both parties, not in order to be loved per se.
There are people out there who will find you fascinating and lovely, and you won't know why; you might act like a jerk, and they will stick around and kiss your wounds. You may try to swat them like flies because you find their love annoying, because the overwhelm shocks your system, and perhaps because you want your identity of "unlovable" to stay intact, because it's familiar. How dare they try to change your mind about yourself, about what you can and cannot have and experience! You identify with your personal limitations, they're safe, so ain't no person gonna come destroy the comfort zone you have built!
And they might leave you in order to take care of themselves. This goes back to mental and emotional health. Goddess bless these smart people who know how to set boundaries. And when they leave -because you will always be abandoned by somebody, there is no escaping this fact of life- what will you do? Here's why unshakeable self love and self worth are crucial: you don't feel destroyed, you don't feel like a failure, you have the energy and the confidence to go on, you know where you stand in the scheme of things, your glorious life does not stop. In other words, you will suffer less and continue to appreciate life for what it truly is: a cycle of receivings and letting go's.
The reason why it's a great idea for a person to love themselves is because the relationship will be healthier and happier for all the people involved, and this has nothing to do with worth or love, it's strategic. It's about something that seems simple but it's crucial: the art of getting along. Have you ever been in a relationship with someone with zero self esteem? Who constantly insult themselves, and also insult you? Because that's what happens with some of the people who hate themselves, they will try to bring you down with them sometimes. Have you tried to pour your love on their wounds and help them heal? Have you succeeded? I can't say I have. As I said, I have succeeded as being the recipient of love, but not so much as the giver. You get to a hopeless zone where you must walk away.
I think I was able to heal because I was aware of my situation and desired to do something about it. The most important step on that journey was cracking my mind open, fearfully closing my eyes, and allowing life to try brainwash me with a different truth(s). On the other hand, the self hating people I was in relationships with were still attached to their identity of 'unlovable' and 'unworthy', and refused to open their minds to be convinced otherwise. Relationships between a positive and a negative person can only be successful for a limited ammount of time. When the positive person runs out of energy, they will leave unless the other party chooses to do something different. The resentment is no more than the frustration of feeling powerless. If you are someone who is positive and who loves themselves (as much as one can, given the despicable society we live in), you will likely choose to go somewhere where you are appreciated and supported, not dragged down. This is common sense. And we're touching ego territory here, in my opinion. I see the ego as the voice within you that wants your health to stay intact (I could talk about my frustration with those who diss the ego, but that's a discussion for another day). The ego has a valid purpose, and an individual benefits from learning how to manage it. Ideally, self love fuels the ego to work properly, indicating you when it's time to leave a situation. If you are a negative person, one of the repercussions of self love would be that you would not display those panicky behaviors we humans sometimes do in order to push people away.
This month, Valentine's Day is going to be exploited both by mainstream media & certain spiritual paths. One of them to try convince you that without external sources of love you are nothing, and the other to convince you that without self love you are essentially unlovable by the entire world.
I want to say this: FUCK THEM ALL.
You will not be able to keep up an eternal sense of self love unless every now and then you are seen, moved, heard, touched, complimented, winked at, inspired. Because we are essentially tribal beings, no matter the level of introvertedness *coughguiltycough*.
And you are not desperate when/if you desire contact with outside sources of validation sometimes. You are fundamentally a fucking beast. You just need to realise that we were all born with an unquestionable conviction that we were worthy and loved, and that whatever we asked for would be granted. We lost touch with that knowing along the way to citizenhood, and I highly doubt we can ever have it back. Still, it's worth the confusion and the pain to do our best to regain as much of it as we can, because that's the key to stop pushing away everything we're offered and that we secretly desire. Self love does not equal more (outside) love. It just brings you the clarity of what you want and what you don't want in life, and the conviction that you will not settle for mediocre. It brings you the wisdom to navigate relationships; it will make you either stay or go, because your well-being is the priority. And it's the compass that indicates whether you want this or that person around or not. People are and will be entering your life all the time, and you need to be in touch with yourself enough to know whether that is someone you are willing to invest energy and time into or not.
I see self love as the knowing of where you stand and where you want to go -a compass-, not necessarily as a lighthouse (I've seen it described as such sometimes). A lighthouse attracts all sorts of different boats, there's no filter.
Self love is not the attraction itself, it's the filter.