We’ve all heard the infamous saying “you can’t love someone else until you love yourself,” over and over again.
Despite the widespread notion that this is in fact true, I believe it can be a little misleading in its interpretation. Don’t get me wrong; I do very much believe there is truth to it. But where it gets hazy for me is the part where it claims you CAN’T love someone else, which argues that love is something one either does or doesn’t do. This comes down to the widespread fear of love in our society. So often we are afraid to utter those 3 little words: I. Love. You.
Most likely our fear of rejection, fear of showing emotion, fear of not knowing to what depth the extent of our love runs. Basically, it’s some kind of fear that is at play. But love is not black and white, nor logical. It is not something that is or is not. That is the beauty of it. It may start small, and grow. But it certainly is not something finite, or inherently measurable.
So back to set piece and my main argument here: one can love someone else without having mastered the art of self-love, to the best of their ability at that given time. It may not be an ideal, perfect, liberating, all-consuming love, but it is what they have to offer at that specific time. Love holds no standards, no preconceived notions, no scripts. It is not one thing and then another.
I would argue that the saying should run along the lines of “you will have a hard time accepting and feeling love from others around you if you do not love yourself,” as this seems more fitting. If you lack self-love, you likely have a difficult time even fathoming anyone else’s love for you, if you cannot give it to yourself. This isn’t to say that you don’t desire it, most of us do. Most of us crave, and long for it, even if we fail to love ourselves. But when we fail to love ourselves as we are, the task of accepting love from others around us is nearly impossible.
But love is not something we are in or out of. Therefore, we don’t “fall in love”. Love is something we are and that we give. We are loving. By being love, we are able to give love. This is something bell hooks emphasizes in her book, “All About Love: New Visions,” one of my absolute favourite books on love.
Love is an action, a choice, a participatory action and emotion, as hooks emphasizes. This rhetoric is key when discussing and conceptualizing love. It changes how we think about love and our overall understanding. If we are to choose to love and be loving, to go forth with our lives in love, it serves to understand the concept of love itself.
But it is not all together natural. It is not something we just wake up knowing how to do once we’ve met “the one”. It is learned, practiced, and developed. Because love surrounds us daily, or at least it has the potential to. When we place precedence to the notion of finding “the one,” as if there is only one true love and one person that deserves our loving efforts, we fail to see love around us in our daily lives. There is much more love than just the romantic kind of love. No wonder our society feels so lonely. We barely understand love. We rarely spend time practicing it with one another if our primary focus is on “finding” our “one true love”.
So I say we shift some of these ideas and misconceptions about love, so we learn the truth about what we as humans, so longingly desire. If only we only just dare to see love in a different light, maybe we’ll be amazed by what we find. After all, the ability to love is what makes us human.