Today my husband—my best friend—said something to me.
A sentence that I was longing to hear; yet, until he uttered the words, didn’t realise I needed.
I asked him what he felt was blocking a part of our relationship. I wanted to know the answer because I knew that it was something we had to get through to face a tricky patch together.
I cried and begged him to open up to me, to not worry about causing me offence or upset. I knew that I desperately needed his words to free me from myself.
He told me that it was my intense self-loathing that had driven a wedge between us.
It was my inability to love myself than was preventing him from truly giving himself to me.
He loves me. I know that he loves me, but he doesn’t love me in the way I want him to and I always thought it was about him.
But it is about me.
It stems from years and years of telling myself that I am not good enough, not pretty enough, not slim enough.
It comes from years and years of trying to figure out what it is that makes me feel that he is unable to dedicate his heart completely to me.
It is the result of constant hateful comments, not to him, but to myself.
I finally understand the importance of self-love. Why we cannot expect anybody else to give us the breathtaking, exhilarating and unconditional love that we deserve, unless we can do it for ourselves first.
Self-care is not the same as self-love.
Self-love is a word that is over-used and has, as a result, lost some of its real meaning. It has become confused with self-care. We can easily do things as acts of self-care, but deep down these are just practical things—they aren’t genuine love.
Genuine self-love is about accepting ourselves and embracing and loving our imperfections. But that isn’t an easy feat.
It starts with awareness. Being aware that our inability to love ourselves is hindering the love we are receiving from other people. With this awareness comes a sense of responsibility and also a sense of power.
We hold the key to true self-love—nobody else can give it, or take it away from us.
Maybe it starts with us just learning to like ourselves? We can take the pressure away from love and delve deep within to see what it would feel like to simply remove the hatred and replace it with a more gentle feeling of like. When we are ready, the love will grow.
I believe that noticing the common narrative and negative self-talk that shows up; then switching the abusive words to ones filled with gratitude and appreciation for what our mind and body allows us to do, can alter our mindset. By acknowledging the things we take for granted such as breathing, moving and digesting, it might just shift the focus away from the things we are unhappy with.
When we slip back in to the old habitual self-loathing discussions with ourselves (which will happen I am sure), it isn’t necessary to give up or berate our failure. We simply need to use compassionate terminology instead of harsh criticism.
The truth does hurt.
It hurt to hear those words from my best friend, but it also gave me freedom. It made me realise that I have the power within me to choose self-love over self-depreciation. In doing this for myself, I can finally allow him to love me in the way he wants to—the way I want him to.
I can give him the freedom to express himself, without him fearing a careless rejection.
See, I think that deep down we feel that it is self-indulgent and selfish to really love ourselves. I think that we fear being judged for loving ourselves.
We know it in the love that we feel for others—the intense sensation that resides in our hearts, yet is palpable in our whole body. In that powerful protective instinct we have over someone who means the world to us—the prospect of doing anything for them to avoid their suffering or pain. That is the love we are capable of—and why shouldn’t we include ourselves in it?
True love is the most powerful experience—one that so many of us feel that we are missing out on.
I understand now, that it isn’t because we are un-loveable or incapable of feeling love; it is because we have to learn it for ourselves first.
Author: Lauren Barber
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Lucahennig/ Flickr