There’s some truth to the idea that the way we love others reflects the way we love ourselves but I don’t think it means what we think it means.
Loving others is complex. It is not always warm fuzzy feelings.
Having ambivalent feelings about our loved ones is incredibly normal.
Relationships are places where we really learn about ourselves deeply. They are sites of exerimentation and growth, where you are able to learn all the intimate details about another person and them about you- both good and bad; the things that are lovely and attractive about you and the the sides of yourselves you wish you could hide.
When we aim to love better, we often think we are aiming to love unconditionally, or to make someone feel like they are really the best, most special person we’ve ever met, to never make them feel bad, to never think an ungenerous thought about them.
And that’s where we get it all wrong.
Learning to love better is creating a love that is stronger.
It’s accepting that you don’t need to like everything about the people you love, that there will be times you hurt each other, that you will challenge each other regularly to choose between harmony and validation and your personal growth and integrity- and that for a relationship to stand a chance you’re going to have to commit to choosing your integrity every time.
The foundations of a strong love are honest and they are brave.
They know you can’t rely on anyone else to validate you, that ultimately it is only you who is in charge of honoring yourself and holding yourself in esteem.
And they understand that a worthy partner may not always be what we wish they were but that by showing up unapologetically as your full self you will have something far more real and solid than unconditional validation:
You will have deep mutual respect.
If you expect relational love to look like perfect attunement and mutual validation, you probably think that to love yourself you need to be perfectly attuned to and unconditionally validate yourself. And you will be perpetually disappointed trying to attain this.
The path to loving yourself isn’t about finding some way to validate every little thing about you, every little choice.
The path to loving yourself is the path to respecting yourself.
It’s honesty and acceptance of the things you wish were different and it’s the pursuit of aligning your actions with your integrity above all.