Learning to love yourself before you start dating someone is wise. But what does it actually mean?
Does it mean you’re supposed to wait until you no longer have any insecurities and are 100% confident in yourself?
Even though self-love takes away some of the stings from insecurity, you’re human — you’ll always have insecurities.
So how do you know when you sufficiently “love yourself?”
Loving yourself is nebulous and subjective, but I’ve got just the thing to clear it up for you.
Learning to love yourself means becoming a good parent to your emotions.
The primary psychological role a parent plays in their child’s life is helping them understand and manage their emotions in a way that doesn’t hurt themselves or other people.
When we hire the entire job of loving us out to our partners, what we’re really asking them to do is manage our emotions. We’re asking them to be our parents, not our partners.
In healthy relationships, all partners take responsibility for their own emotional management.
This doesn’t mean they don’t get triggered or insecure, it means they are aware and compassionate enough to handle getting triggered and insecure in a healthy way.
How do you learn to do this?
You become a good parent to your emotions.
What being a good parent to your emotions looks like.
You might see emotions like fear and anger as monsters inside of you to avoid at all costs.
I mean, they do put knots in your belly and anxiety in your mind and a whole host of other bodily sensations that are all around uncomfortable.
But your emotions are not monsters waiting to bite your head off.
Your emotions are little children, throwing tantrums in your body, waiting for you to give them the attention they need.
Resisting these emotional children inside you only makes their tantrums worse.
After all, they are you. Where else will they go?
It is up to you and you alone to be the parent your emotions need. It is up to you to teach yourself how to feel and manage your emotions in a healthy way.
The way I do this is by picturing my emotions as little kid versions of me, curling up in my lap, and wailing and shaking and tensing — whatever it is the emotion needs to do while it has my attention.
I imagine rocking the frightened little girl or making soothing sounds to the wailing child inside of me.
“Of course you feel this way, sweetie,” I say, “This is so hard right now. But I’m here. I’ll stay here with you as long as you need.”
This is called staying in the “sacred middle;” the space between repression and reaction.
You’re not spiraling inward or lashing out (reaction), Learning to love yourself, and you’re not pretending everything is okay (repression). You are just staying with yourself, fully experiencing the emotion, until it is through.
And, by the way, psychologists say emotions usually take about 90 seconds to fully feel if we truly open up to them and don’t fuel it with stories.