Love when you don’t love yourself
The thing is, for a lot of us who grew up unloved for various reasons, we may not know love for ourselves or others till the time someone risks loving us.
Have you heard of the saying, “You have to love yourself before others can love you?” There are multiple versions of the same thing such as: “You cannot find love if you don’t find love for yourself within you,” and “To love yourself is the first step to find love for yourself.” However it has been stated, the idea of it is that someone who has for whatever reason never quite learnt to uphold feelings of love for themselves, may not ever find somebody to love them.
The implications of it, then, are that someone who doesn’t love themselves cannot recognise it when someone else loves them or are doomed to never experience mutually reciprocated love, or that even if they somehow have such a relationship foisted upon them through some means or the other, will not be able to keep it. It sounds very true – something that our innate wisdom has us nodding and saying to ourselves that these are just facts.
The statements, compelling though they sound, are not necessarily true. We don’t have much research on the matter – probably because things like love are not easily measured, and we go by our own lived experiences and folk wisdom in such matters. The thing is, for a lot of us who grew up unloved for various reasons, we may not know love for ourselves or others till the time someone risks loving us.
We might have grown up not knowing we are lovable and not loving ourselves because nobody ever told us, or that we were shamed for something we did, or worse, something we just are and cannot help being who we are. When we are repeatedly scorned and shunned for being ourselves, we start to believe that we cannot be loved – not by ourselves and certainly not by others.
We might learn to mask it in a number of ways – maybe by just making ourselves small and taking up as little space as possible, or by building protective layers and defenses around ourselves, or by developing proxies for love such as being dedicated, efficient, hardworking, self-sacrificing or the such. When we grow up unloved and feeling unworthy of love, it is often the love of somebody else that is needed before we can even begin to think of loving ourselves.
We need someone to remind us that we are here, we are alive and we matter. It might be the love of someone in particular, or a community as such, or even just the unconditional love of a puppy that adopted us. We need that love to crack through and let us start seeing ourselves without shame, with some love. For people who had to grow up being shamed and derided, it is unnecessary pressure to say that one must already love oneself before finding love. It’s alright. Take a deep breath. Love will find you. Just be open to it. Once you receive love, you will find your way to love yourself.