“If you don’t love yourself, you’ll always be chasing after people who don’t love you either.” — Mandy Hale
My childhood was filled with negativity, verbal taunts and attacks.
In my parent’s eyes, I never felt good enough.
I was not enough in school, not a good child at home and not even human. Why is it that Asian parents crush our spirits (and self-worth) by putting us at par with jungle animals?
I was called every animal in the kingdom – from the stubborn “water buffalo” to the nonchalant “donkey”.
After years of growing up in this toxic environment, I thought very little of myself and cared very little for myself. If the people who were to have loved me, hated me, I thought, I must really but unworthy and unlovable.
Naturally, as I became and adult and got married, many of these thoughts and feelings spilled over into my relationship. The self-hate within spilled out to attack my partner. I was loving the way that I had known – with a desire to cause pain. A harmful and hurtful love.
As you can imagine, the relationship ended in divorce after a decade.
I’ve had much to reflect upon and to figure out how to love myself. I’ve thought about how to love myself especially when I was and am in a relationship.
Here’s what I’ve discovered and I hope you’ll find it useful for your own life and journey.
Here are 8 steps to love yourself in a romantic relationship:
1. Accepting yourself.
You can’t expect your partner to accept you when you don’t accept yourself first.
Get comfortable with yourself, your quirks, your flaws and your perceived shortcomings.
You’re not perfect and you ARE on a journey to become your highest and wisest self.
Realize that you’re not everything you want to be today and that’s ok. Where you are is a starting point, not the ending point – you will continue to grow.
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to focus on your own life and own growth instead of studying the “Facebook” and “Instagram” life of your friends.
2. Forgiving yourself.
When you’ve done something wrong or have screwed up in your relationship, forgive yourself first. You can’t expect someone else to forgive you if you can’t forgive yourself first.
You may feel you’re a terrible or flawed person. You might feel guilty and responsible for what transpired in your relationship but you know what – you were doing the best you could. If you knew better, you would have done better. You now know and you’re going to make better decisions in the future.
Love yourself enough to forgive yourself. Only when you release the heavy baggage of self-resentment, can you break free from the prison of self-hate.
Affirm and speak out loud that you forgive yourself. Write down why you’re choosing to forgive yourself.
Yes, your choice.
3. Caring for yourself.
Even in a relationship, you can care for yourself and do nice things for yourself.
Getting enough rest, getting enough sleep and doing what brings you joy are ways to care for yourself.
Take yourself on nice walks, needed vacations and give yourself permission to have down time.
You don’t have to spend every minute with your partner – prioritize your needs and take care of yourself first. Even if your partner isn’t caring for you as you’d like, you can do the things for yourself that help you feel loved and cared for.
4. Trusting yourself.
Your partner doesn’t know best on what’s right for you. Only you do.
Those of us who grew up with self-hatred, doubt ourselves a lot. Even when our inner voice of wisdom is screaming at us, we ignore it.
Feel those feelings that wash over you. Listen to those incessant voices in your ear. You are continually receiving the right answer. Trust yourself enough to follow the inner voice. What is speaking to you loud and clear is your intuition.
5. Setting boundaries for yourself.
A relationship doesn’t give anyone the right to treat you badly or disrespectfully.
It doesn’t mean giving without limits and being a doormat for someone else’s bad behavior.
Recognize what your partner is doing to you and be willing to step up for yourself when you are taken advantage of. You can draw your boundaries in a respectful and kind way by communicating what you’re feeling.
6. Speaking up for yourself.
No one is a mind reader.
Your partner can’t respect your boundaries or love you as you would like if you don’t communicate what you want.
There’s 2 kinds of communications in this world – respectful communication that requires listening and sharing your feelings. Or a second kind of communication, filled with criticism and negativity.
As you can imagine, respectful and honest communication works a heck of a lot better. Be willing to share your feelings but do it in a kind and gentle way. Communicate to express yourself, not to belittle or destroy your partner.
7. Working on yourself.
Loving yourself means accepting yourself but also working on yourself.
If you are filled with anger, rage and hatred, these qualities are going to spill out into your relationship.
Same with your self-doubts and inner-securities.
Get help – therapy and counseling if you need it. Meditate. Visualize. Write. Talk to someone.
Set intentions for self-improvement. Build up self-love habits. Create time to be on your yoga mat, prayer rug or silent meditation space.
Self-reflect, take actions towards self-improvement, build up daily habits.
8. Completing yourself.
If you grew up in a harmful environment at home but watch a lot of Hollywood movies, you’re going to think that you didn’t receive the love you wanted but you can get it from another person.
That’s an outright lie.
No one else can love you so you will feel loved. Only you can do that.
Relationships are about sharing the love that’s already within and cultivating love for yourself. Once you have love within, you can share that love with another person.
Don’t expect someone else to do the job of loving you. Again, this is a false promise and a monumental societal, Hollywood lie.
Only you can love and complete yourself. The work that you have to do to cultivate love is an internal one, not an external one.
If you’re looking for love from someone else, you’re going to find yourself disillusioned by relationships.
The power to love yourself is within yourself. Learn to love yourself first and then welcome self-love into your life.
Once you’ve accepted, loved and completed yourself, feel the joy and pleasure of being loved by your partner.