“Lauren, you need to love yourself first before anyone else can love you.”
Every time I hear this line from someone or see it on some inspirational Instagram post, I scream inside. I usually drop some F-bombs as well.
Seriously, f*ck you.
It always makes me think back to a friend of mine who is now married to the same person she has been with since she was 18 years old. She constantly gave me this message. She has never dated. She has never experienced rejection. She has never had her heart broken by men who decide they don’t want commitment, or men who lose interest for no good reason. She has always been safe and secure in her relationship with that one man.
But I find that these are often the exact people spouting this bullsh*t advice that I need to love myself more, every time I lament about my perpetually single status.
I know they mean well. I really do.
However, my question is this—do they even know what “love yourself” means?
Why do so many women tell other women that they need to do this in order for someone to find them worthy of love and compassion? Where and when did that start? And why don’t we give this same advice to men who run away at the first sight of a relationship challenge?
I think many of us interpret it as needing to fix ourselves first, which can be an extremely hurtful message. In the beginning of my singlehood, I would agree that there were definitely things I needed to fix. I needed to learn that I was strong and that I could fight for myself. I needed to learn that no matter what, I would be okay. I needed to learn that I had an identity outside of a relationship, and that it was a damned good one.
But several years later, after doing all this work on my mind, body, and soul, I am still single. So what gives? Do I still not “love myself” enough?
I’ve traveled the world, I’ve practiced thousands of hours of yoga, I’ve left a job that sucked the life out of me, I’ve tightened my circle of friends to only those who truly love me, I’ve bought a condo, I’ve been to therapy, I’ve gotten a dog, I’ve hired life coaches—and I am still single. And lonely. And beyond frustrated.
Can we change the message, please? Can we remove this idea that there is something wrong with single women who continue to have poor success with finding a life partner? Can we remove the idea that we don’t value ourselves enough?
Maybe the men we meet don’t stack up to us. Maybe they have issues of their own. Maybe our timing has been off. Maybe we’ve simply just had bad luck.
However, I do want to try to define this notion, since the message is so prevalent. When I really give it some thought, I think loving ourselves is this (and I still cringe at the phrase, by the way): eating well, exercising, pushing away negative thoughts, keeping good people in our lives, parting ways with those who devalue us, and being clear with potential partners on what we’re looking for and how we want to be treated.
But it’s hard to fit that into an Instagram post, I know. So we diminish it to those meaningless few words, and the person on the receiving end is supposed to all of a sudden be enlightened (or in my case, get incredibly frustrated and drop F-bombs).
So to the women out there who are still searching for love, like me, hear this: we are enough just as we are. We don’t need fixing. We don’t need healers and shamans. We don’t need to climb Mount Everest or attend silent yoga retreats to find ourselves. There are plenty of women who haven’t done any of that and are in great relationships. We just haven’t met the right man, at the right time—yet.
But the more we care for and look out for ourselves, the better positioned we’ll be when he comes along.
Author: Lauren Collinson
Image: Used with permission via Alisia Gonzalez/Bodhi Imaging
Editor: Emily Bartran
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman