Photo Credit: Sebastian Pichler

Can You Love Someone Else When You Don’t Love Yourself?

It can be difficult to admit that you don’t like yourself very much. That despite all the wonderful things people see in you, there’s still a special brand of resentment you reserve only for yourself.

Speaking from experience, I know that living this reality can create some very difficult problems, and few are more troublesome than our relationships with other people.

With this in mind, it seems irresponsible and selfish and perhaps even unrealistic to try loving someone else if our relationship with ourselves is so dysfunctional.

Because the truth is, when we’re busy focusing on all the things that we can’t stand about ourselves, these destructive thoughts will manifest in our relationships with others. And eventually, we usually end up dragging other people through the mud because of the way we feel about ourselves.

When this happens, the people in our relationships become collateral damage from the war that’s taking place inside of us. And this is such an incredibly shitty reality to face if we’ve allowed the ugly parts of who we are to take control of the wheel and drive our relationships off a cliff.

In any committed relationship, we have a deep responsibility to the other person. Aside from treating them well in the generally agreed upon definition of what “treating someone well” means, I think we also have a responsibility to make sure we’re in a relatively healthy state of existence internally before letting someone else into our world.

Not being with anyone because you’re not on stable enough footing is, in many respects, the responsible thing to do. But staying away from serious relationships because you’re not ready to have the privilege of trying to love another person can be an impossibly lonely place to inhabit.

Even so, saving our feelings and emotions and effort, as well as the feelings and emotions and effort of someone else is sometimes for the best.

The only problem is, in this ongoing effort to take care of ourselves before we focus on loving someone else, we can get lost. We can feel like we have to wait until we’re perfect to try loving someone else because everything starts to feel so goddamn fragile and it seems like the slightest imperfection will doom the next relationship.

Of course, everyone knows that perfection is a lie. And for some of us, for those of us who really struggle with the way we feel about ourselves, if we waited until we were anywhere close to “perfect,” we would be alone forever.

With that in mind, maybe what it’s really about isn’t quarantining ourselves from all relationships.

Maybe what it’s about is being more understanding of our own issues and being cognizant about not letting these issues bleed into our relationships. Maybe it’s about not letting the fact that we’re still struggling internally splinter to other people.

This sound great in theory, but I’m not sure if it’s actually possible to do those things and be in a serious, committed relationship because I wonder if holding those things back is akin to only giving 75 percent of ourselves when a serious, committed relationship demands nothing less than 100 percent.

I honestly don’t have the answers.

But what I do know is that the solution doesn’t involve trying to be perfect. What I do know is that waiting until everything is perfect is a great way to drive yourself insane. And instead, perhaps the best way to proceed is working to build ourselves up while also working to build a relationship with someone else at the same time.

I wanted to write about this because I thought it might yield some grand conclusion that would lead me in the right direction.

But what I’m realizing is that I’m scared. And I don’t want to end up getting hurt or hurting another person because I don’t think I’m in a place where I can be with someone else.

Perhaps, above all, what I’m discovering is that perfection truly is the enemy of progress. And in this case, perfection is the enemy of trying to make the best of being an impossibly imperfect human being in an impossibly imperfect world.

Can you love someone else when you don’t love yourself? I really don’t know. But at some point, I think we have to try. At some point, it seems like we don’t have any other choice unless ending up alone is a viable option.

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