I’ve always had a soft spot for broken people because these are the ones who need love the most. How often do we hear stories of beautiful, successful people who struggle with loving themselves?
I knew a girl who lost her confidence early in her life due to just one guy in her class telling her that she had ugly hair. Even though majority of her classmates and people in the school thought she was very pretty, all it took was that one situation to break her.
Throughout high school and college, she struggled with building and maintaining relationships and friendships despite her amazing personality. Her issues with self-love, combined with other things, made it difficult for her to accept that others loved and cared for her. She struggled with trust, pushed others away, and was often involved in fights with people that were once close to her. It was evident that her lack of self-love and acceptance played a part in ruining her relationships. People around the way would say, “She needs to love herself or she’s never gonna find anybody.” It seemed, at least to me, that society had deemed her as unlovable.
Plot twist: That girl is now a woman and is in a healthy, stable marriage to the love of her life. She did not go through any drastic changes before meeting her husband. She was still struggling with the same issues within herself that had plagued her for a decade. I shared this true story to make a very important statement to society:
The belief that a person is unlovable without self-love and unable to give love is toxic.
I am at a point where I am completely annoyed with the statement, “Love yourself or nobody will.” It has been around for decades and is a staple in black culture and ideologies. Rapper J. Cole used it as a lyric in his song, “Crooked Smile.” Self-love refers to confidence, self-esteem and taking care of yourself. However, just because someone struggles with this, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be loved. Who the hell taught us that this was true?
The major problem I have is that this belief insinuates the idea of perfectionism, as if humans aren’t prone to insecurities…
…especially in a society that lives and breathes on social media, a platform that breeds self-comparisons. As a therapist, I have teenage and adult clients who struggle with self-love and acceptance. I started thinking, I would never tell them they won’t find anyone to love them if they don’t completely love themselves at this moment. In fact, that’s the last thing that I would ever tell them. When I find people struggling with self-love, they really need love the most— not to be told that they won’t find love if they don’t love themselves. That way of thinking is negative and won’t help at all.
After watching a video where the legendary actress Jada Pinkett-Smith discussed her relationship woes with her husband Will, I further realized how the belief is simply not true. Jada Pinkett-Smith reflected on her behavior in her 20s (which is when she met and married Will), stating, “I was a mess!” She shared some of her personal struggles, and I’m sure most people would say that she probably didn’t love herself completely at that time. Yet, one of the finest and most famous men in the world fell in love with her and all her issues, and she is still married to that man today! This proves that men and women, regardless of how much self-love is present, can still give and receive love.
Just like a relationship or friendship is a journey you take with another person, self-love is a journey you take with yourself. On this journey, there are periods where it may be super high or we may not have it at all. But there’s no way in hell that we’re unlovable or can’t be loved if we’re going through a phase where our self love meter is on E. Loving a person requires us to still show love to our partner whether they’re feeling highly about themselves or not.
There was an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air where Vivian stood examining herself in the mirror then somberly asked her husband Phil, who stood behind her, “Do you think I’m pretty? This is a question that evolves from some level of insecurity or low self-acceptance. Phil’s response was very reassuring for Vivian. This moment between Phil and Vivian was so human and real, and showed how you can love someone through their self love journey.
Perhaps we should reframe the phrase to, “Love yourself so you feel secure in relationships.” Not only is this the truth, it doesn’t add brokenness to those with an already fragile sense of self. I don’t understand how we’ve carried this belief for years without it being examined.
The belief is nothing more than a breeding ground for conditional love.
Society has placed false stipulations and criteria on what a person needs in order to be loved, but that is the opposite of unconditional love. While it may be difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with someone lacking in self love, it is possible to do, and it is possible to love that person. If you can’t love someone because they’re not displaying the amount of self love that you think they should be, then you don’t know what love is.
Written By: Kahina Ray
Follow Kahina on Instagram: @soulchild_kay