What “You Can’t Love Anybody Else Until You Love Yourself” Really Means

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“You can’t love anybody until you love yourself.”

That was the phrase I grew up hearing. It was something I heard adults say all the time. It was filled with negative connotations and shamed women with low self-esteem.

I’d never seen any of the women who were labeled as not loving themselves being treated with love and kindness. They were the kind of woman you should avoid being and you never wanted to admit that you didn’t love yourself.

As an adult, I realized that there was a huge gaping hole in my life and I didn’t know how to fill it. I didn’t know how to love. I didn’t have any idea of what this looked like. The women in my life were self-sacrificing and self-deprecating. No one looked truly happy and everyone was “settling” in major areas of their lives.

When I entered the spiritual world, everyone told me:

 “Be kind to yourself.”

Okay, that’s awesome in theory but I had no idea what that looked like in practice. How was I supposed to be nice to someone I didn’t even like?

So, what did it mean when people told me to be kind of myself? Did that mean that I was supposed to excuse my own behavior when it didn’t fall in line with my personal moral code? Did that mean I should buy myself whatever I wanted at the expense of my budget? How about stuffing my face with ice cream until I saw the bottom of the carton?

After reaching a low and suicidal point in my life. The only thing I was left with was raw honesty. I only had room for the truth and sitting around saying 2.5 million positive affirmations was no longer going to cut it.

Looking in the mirror and saying, “I love myself” only made me want to put my fist through it.

These are the parts that most people don’t want to talk about.

The part where you’re wondering if you have enough pills to check out of life for good, however, you won’t do it because you don’t want your kids to find you. Plus, you have a pet, so what’s going to happen to Lucky if you leave?

Crying until your eyes are swollen and sleeping the day away. Not being able to function and falling off the grid with your friends and family.

It’s these ugly parts that society has made to be so shameful. Many will say, “Oh, well that’s depression. You need to see someone.”

While I 100% agree that professional help is important. I don’t like how this behavior and these feelings are being treated like a dirty little secret. Also, everyone can't afford "professional" help. When people share these kind of details of their life, they’re labeled as “brave.”

The unspoken shame around these topics are one of many reasons why I never thought I could love myself. I thought that I was one of the few people in the world who had these feelings. I felt like something was inherently wrong with me.

I didn’t trust myself and I didn’t trust my feelings for other people.

“You can’t love anybody else until you love yourself.”

How could I have any positive feelings towards anybody else if I didn’t love myself? How could I trust those feelings? This didn’t just affect me, this affected all of my relationships.

So as I said before, I was only left with anger and self-deprecation. I could no longer plaster a smile on my face and pretend to be fine.

So what did I do?

I worked with what I had.

Anger was my salvation.

That sounds counterproductive to love, but love doesn’t only consist of joy. Love means honesty and showing up for yourself even when it’s uncomfortable.

I stared in the mirror and finally said all of the things that felt blasphemous. I didn’t like myself. I didn’t love myself. I hated being me and I felt like my life was never going to change. I felt like it was my fault.

It was my fault.

That truth felt terrifying to admit and it hurt like hell.

But THAT was the beginning of my freedom.

Because if the rut I was in was my fault, then I had the power to change it.

Whenever I’ve tried to articulate the thought that certain things were my fault, people shamed me and even accused me of victim blaming…myself. They wanted me to lie to make them feel better and it wasn’t serving me.

After I came to this truth. I set out on a journey to change my life. I found meditation and it transformed me. I got to see all of the unchecked thoughts that ran through my mind every day. I worked on sitting with those thoughts and not judging them. They gradually got quieter and then I replaced them with the thoughts I wanted to have.

Meditation brought me into a place of mindfulness. Long story short, I started to like myself and then that grew into love. I built a relationship with myself that was built on honesty and trust. Yes, I use affirmations but on the days that my spirit rejects them, I stop trying to force feed them to my psyche.

Instead, I ask myself, “What do YOU want?”

Sometimes it’s silence, sometimes it’s brutal honesty, and sometimes it’s vegging out to TV.

THAT’S what being kind to myself has looked like for me. Being kind to myself has included taking my wants and needs into consideration and ignoring people who want me to disregard my intuition.

Now, I FINALLY know what the phrase, “You can’t love anybody else until you love yourself” means.

It’s not a negative thing. It simply means that you don’t know what DIVINE love feels or looks like until you’ve given it to yourself. I loved people from a place of dysfunction. I let them walk all over me, I didn’t trust people, and I always overcompensated.

That was the way I treated myself. I walked all over myself by catering to my fears, I didn’t trust myself to make the right decisions, and I overcompensated by overeating, overspending, overdrinking, and more.

Now, I’m able to love others because I know what healthy love looks like.

I thought I could never love me.

I was wrong.

And I’m so happy about it!