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As a female born and raised in a conservative family and society, I learned early in life that being of service to others and loving others first was an act of self-love and self-worthiness.
I believed that loving other people (in romantic relationships or not) would add more value to who I was and would eventually cast away any form of insecurity or ugliness I felt every now and then.
So I loved others. I loved them hard.
I loved my exes with all my heart. It made me feel loving and worthy; it helped me cover my reality—a lack of self-love.
Because I had put others first for so long, I did not even know who I was. My self-concept and self-image were poor. My identity always came from what I was told as a child from the adults around me:
>> You are tiny, and so you don’t know.
>> You are crying for nothing.
>> You are so spoiled.
>> You are a bad girl. Good girls don’t behave like you.
>> What you are feeling or thinking is not important.
I was told with emotional words and gestures that I was lovable only if I behaved the way that was expected of me, or if I loved others and tended to their needs before myself.
This script stayed in my psyche for a long time. I developed an urge to love others at the expense of loving and caring for myself. In fact, I did not even have a self to begin with. I was an accumulation of beliefs, thoughts, processes, and emotional experiences gathered from the environment I was raised in.
It took me almost three decades of my life to realize that I was trying to love myself through loving other people. It never worked. My love was not pure. It was pure attachment and pain.
My little, desperate heart always attracted emotionally unavailable men, men with different psychological or other issues, men who were manipulative, and men who, like me, lacked an identity and didn’t know what they wanted from life.
And it makes all sense now.
It is, oftentimes, much easier to love other people than oneself.
We try to substitute our deep-rooted lack of self through loving other people, especially in the romantic department. And as much as it may sound like “unconditional love,” it is not really love at all. It is an ego mechanism to feel love for self by being loving to others. It’s tricky territory that often turns out to be illusory.
I have learned—and am still learning each day—that if I can’t accept my being in her totality with all my jealousy, paranoid thoughts, lustful desires, ugly sides, and all that is labeled as so inappropriate out in the world; if I am not able to be alone—utterly alone—for prolonged periods of time, or to feel compassion for all sides of my personality and spirit; if I can’t feel at ease with all these elements of self and become aware and accepting each of them—possibly transmuting them into something beautiful, like art craft or any other form of creativity—then I won’t ever be able to love another. Not a romantic interest, not any other person.
Love of others before love of self is just a personal exploit of another to make ourselves feel good or lovable. Until we stand alone—until we see our inner dark corners and cultivate compassion for ourselves, we cannot truly love another.