A Jewish Matchmaker’s Guide to the Perfect Love Affair
Love yourself. What does that even mean? Does it mean to always put your needs first? Does it mean to be selfish and not consider others? Does it mean to brag about your accomplishments? No, these are narcissistic behaviors, and narcissism and loving yourself are very different.
It’s a popular adage, “You have to love yourself before you can love somebody else”- but what does it actually mean? For a long time I didn’t know what “love yourself” meant. I thought I did love myself. I was self-confident, intelligent, and attractive- what I personally considered, “the whole package”. So if I felt this way about myself, didn’t that mean that I loved myself? Sadly, it did not.
It took decades of relationships with other people for me to realize what “love yourself” means, and I’m still learning. For years I was disappointed in my relationships because I had the recurring feeling that others did not love me enough- or love me the way I wanted to be loved. Maybe they didn’t sacrifice enough or weren’t giving enough or didn’t consider my feelings enough- you get the picture. There was always something someone else wasn’t doing to make me feel loved. And then it hit me- I expected other people to show love to me in ways that I wasn’t even showing myself. And then I started to re-evaluate my entire concept of what “loving yourself” means.
The concept of “loving yourself” is not easy to define- but it’s easy to describe what it looks like.
If you’re a woman, do you wear makeup? Why? The usual reason a woman wears makeup is because she doesn’t think she looks good enough without it or there is a “flaw” she is trying to cover. Every time you start applying this “mask” to your face, you are silently telling yourself that you aren’t pretty enough just the way you are. Does that sound like self-love? If a parent told their daughter everyday that she wasn’t pretty enough to go outside unless she altered herself in some way, what do you think would become of that girl’s self-esteem? So why are you saying that to yourself?
How about your safety? Do you ever pull out in front of another car believing that you will “make it” in time? Do you ever choose to carry a too-heavy item or dangerously reach for something that could injure you if not caught exactly right? Do you smoke? In all of these scenarios you are betting your own health and safety on the “odds” that everything will be fine. You are willing to put your body at risk of injury and disease simply because you have you are impatient or have a bad habit. How would you feel if you saw a parent encourage their child to quickly run across a busy street? How do you feel about parent’s whose religion forbids them to take their child to the doctor even when deathly ill? Why are you so willing to risk your own health on the “odds”?
And what about relationships? Do you choose partners who are physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive? Why are you allowing yourself to be abused? Why are you not protecting yourself? Why are you subconsciously telling yourself that this other person is more important than you? Or that your fear of being alone is more important than your happiness and well-being? What would you tell your best friend or family member in that same situation? Wouldn’t you do all you could to get them out of there?
My examples are dramatic to make a point. These are all self-sabatoging behaviors that reflect our own lack of deep love for ourselves. There are many, many other less dramatic ways in which we neglect to nurture and support ourselves. Once you become aware of what not loving yourself looks like, you can start making decisions where YOU are the most important factor in the equation. It doesn’t mean being selfish – but it does mean examining all of your actions – no matter how small – and adjusting them so that every action sends a subconscious message to yourself that your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being come first. And once you start doing that – everything in your life will get better.
So yes, it is true, you have to love yourself before you can love somebody else. But not only that, you will never find someone else who can love you more than you love yourself. We attract who we are, not who we want. If you want more love in your life, start loving yourself more, and others will be able to love you more, too.