A topic I’m getting different points of view on is the cliché that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. I’m wondering if, rather than self-love, perhaps self understanding is a more useful goal. Natasha Lun posing the question to Alain de Botton in Lun’s book Conversations on Love

I already read de Botton’s answer, so I want to know what you think:

Self love or self understanding? Which is more important for a person who is about to embark on a relationship? Or is it a combination of both?

I guess, it all depends on our definitions of self love and self understanding. Is it being content with how you are right now? Is it that you’ve accomplished the things that you wanted to, or are on your way to accomplishing things? Is it being happy?

I could spin all sorts of stuff into this, but I’m going to toss the reigns to you all:

What is self love?

What is self understanding?

Do you need either one before you embark on a relationship? Do you need both? Do you need neither?

Personally, I think you need a combo of both, with a dash of self respect thrown in. I think you need to have an idea about your likes and dislikes. I think you need to feel good about yourself. I think you need to understand that no one person will make you happy, complete you or fill in the gaps. I think you need to have worn a few different hats to see which one fits you best. I also think you need to have lived away from parents/caretakers without their assistance for a little bit- to get a grip on adulting…

Your turn? Self love or self understanding? Both? Neither?


64 thoughts on “Love Yourself

  1. I think self acceptance more than self love, that always sounds vain, but that’s the Englishwoman in me, you know how we don’t like to brag 🙂 Also knowing your boundaries and how far you’re prepapred to flex on those in a relationship.

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  2. This one is hard to answer in a few words! I think your idea is good. I think the important thing is not exactly that you love yourself, but that you don’t hate yourself. Both self
    -love and self
    -hate can be too inwardly focused . The Bible has a lot to say on this subject. Basically, focus on being a good person who does good things out of love for God and other people, not yourself. It’s like the minute you turn the focus on self , you fall into dangerous territory; pride, selfishness, narcissistic behaviors, justification, etc.

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  3. Having a completed viewpoint of who and what you are is lifelong. Coming to the point of accepting yourself for yourself may or may not happen before the understanding. I don’t think you need to know all the answers to be in a relationship, but I do think you need to make sure the other person is aware that you are a work in progress, and even more important (because I suspect they will have “things” of their own) they need to be willing to be an ACTIVE and INVOLVED work in progress as well. This is truly in the top 3 reasons why I am divorced today.

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      1. I thoroughly dislike that word- change. I bought way to far into the concept after being assured that he was willing to seek change from his past. That never materialized. Then I was told that I was the one who had “changed” but clearly not for the better because I did not fit into his anticipated view of a wife. My evolution apparently was the downfall to our marriage totally, in his opinion.

        I am not the person to give advice to anyone on relationships, marriage, or anything regarding contact with another person. I just know what did not work in my case, but the very same things may be what keep someone else in a lifelong relationship with honest love.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I’ve learned to stop worrying about how my work on myself is seen by others. I’m still learning, it’s a work in progress, but all my life was to tryto be something, or someone, that they wanted. I can honestly say I didn’t love or understand myself at all because I was too busy being something I thought they wanted or needed..

        Now I stopped. What am I? Who am I?

        Am I happy with myself?

        For a long time I was not. I am much better at this now, liking myself, but it’s not habitual yet. But it’s a change, one I feel and one others will eventually feel as well. It’s not my business how they perceive my change, what matters is how I feel about myself.

        This is not about vanity, it’s about self-respect.

        How this affects relationships outside family is yet to be seen because I’m not out there socializing at this time. I’m happier with my company and when I feel completely secure, I will attract others to me.

        All this introspection is hard. 🙃

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Hmmm self love or self understanding? I think. They go together. It’s a combo of both and includes everything in between. I liked pkadams answers about not hating yourself. I think self acceptance is really, the most important. In today’s world it’s more acceptable to think out of the box. It used to be frowned upon.
    As a child I often wondered why I was so different from my classmates. . Why in elementary school ( in the 1950’s) when our assignment was to draw an elephant everyone else in the class drew a gray creature and mine was a mix of rainbow colors and sparkles. The art teacher yelled at me. When she sternly asked why on earth did I make mine full of colors I told her because mine was a magical elephant with powers . Yup, I got yelled at. But, fortunately, I had a classroom teacher who appreciated my creativity and hung it up in class anyway.
    I spent a lot of time in the corner for seeing things differently. In 4th grade when I did a planet report on Mars I accompanied my research with my vision of a Martian. My teacher that year didn’t appreciate my drawings of Mars creatures. But fortunately my father liked my renderings. As I child I used to wonder why I was so different and always got in trouble in school . I never set out to be different. I just always danced to a different drummer and that wasn’t allowed in school in the 1950’s.
    By the time I became a teen my creativity was suddenly appreciated and I was recommended and put in advanced classes (by a wonderful English teacher named Mr. Wilson in 7 th grade). Suddenly my life changed. I realized I wasn’t a weirdo after all. I was just smart and creative. So I could breathe easier in my own skin. Accepting that my vision of the world was filled with colors and music when everything around me appeared in dull black and white, made me realize the way I saw things was a good thing.. Once I did that I became happier. So self acceptance is key. “To thine own self be true”. And I gravitated to friends who were musicians, artists, actors etc. others who saw the world in technicolor too.

    So certainly, loving someone who has similar interests can be a plus. But opposites attract as well. I’m not an expert on relationships. I could never live with someone who was politically opposite from myself. That would drive me crazy. But understanding your strengths and weaknesses can Certainly help in managing a relationship. My two husbands were as different as night and day. But both were politically progressive and musical. I think at different stages in our lives we think slightly differently and have different needs. Self love is important. Self understanding comes with time as we evolve. And hopefully couples evolve and can grow together. It takes patience and caring. Hats off to those who master that skill. When we are young hormones take priority . As we mature, intelligence and experiences leads the way.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. To be different, and to know and accept this about yourself, was much harder in earlier decades than it is now. To continue to be different, creatively or otherwise, despite of others reaction is how one stays true to themselves.

      I think back to some of my European teachers in the 70d and now think “wow, they did my Psyche a lot of damage”. It was always more important to appease others, or follow ridiculous rules, than to foster my own creativity. But in those days obedience was expected so, as an obedient child, I followed the rules and curbed my creativity.

      Didn’t do much for my self-love, self-respect or confidence…

      Now I’m in my 50s and finally letting that go. So, I understand much of what you illustrated. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. If you’re of a certain age, you probably were in an environment where creativity was stifled to a certain degree. My mother always exclaimed why do you want to do that. It was a hard thing to get past and had my own child..

        Liked by 2 people

  5. To embark on a relationship I don’t think you need either. Many people enter relationships that don’t have self love or self understanding. In order to have a healthy relationship and to have love grow you need a bit of each.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. That’s a mistake – I learned this the hard way, multiple times. Don’t expect others to fill your gaps. Fill your own gaps. Allow others to participate, and let them invite you to do the same. But if you expect them to fill your gaps, many times this will disappoint. (Spoken from personal experience, others may have a different one )

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I completely agree. I think people looking for gap filling have the hardest times in relationships, because no one is capable of doing that for someone all the time

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I think of a chain…self understanding goes to self acceptance which in turn could lead to self love. Now, with some people the chain can get skewed by understanding only limitations and not accepting them, or resenting them.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I know that I didn’t have either one of these when I met my husband oh so many years ago. It took me years to understand myself and I still struggle with self love in the form of low self esteem. Ideally, I would say self love on the side of self confidence along with a healthy dose of self understanding in order to be able to stick up for what you believe in.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve always pondered this theory. So, I am fat and in this never ending cycle of loss and gains . I must hate myself because I can’t seem to plateau after a loss. Does that in turn mean, I hate my partner ? I call bullshit on that. If there was nothing but hate derived from self loathing how is there so many years of happiness and contentment ?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are things about you that you love, right? You love your creativity. You love your ability to love your partner. How does it make you feel? Take that feeling and keep it close, let it feed and nurture you. It will grow and slowly, the other stuff will become less consuming. I’m practicing this myself and it takes time but has worked for me by degrees.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. There’s no correlation between not plateauing and loving yourself. Those are two different things. You can love yourself, your partner and still have emotional issues regarding food. It’s accepting that you have trouble maintaining a weight that you probably need to think about. Not plateauing doesn’t make you incapable of anything other than not maintaining…


  9. If you love yourself you radiate this outward in the form of self-acceptance. This attracts others to you. They want to be around a seemingly confident, happy person.

    My struggle is, are those who are attracted to you right for you? Will they elevate you or drain you?

    I have experience with both.

    In terms of understanding yourself, that’s part of self love. I understand that I have some obsessive-compulsive behaviours, that I act or feel like a HSP, but learned I love this about me regardless of whether others do. “You’re too sensitive” or “why do you this this, relax and roll with it” or “don’t sweat the small stuff so much” were at one time interpreted as needing to change to appease to them.

    Learning to do this – accept yourself wholly – not because you want to attract certain people to you but in spite of it is the trick.

    To love and understand oneself is to accept oneself. What others do is out of your control. But how you react to their action is within your control. So, if you love your quirks, their comments aren’t going to affect you regardless whether they are positive or negative.

    It gets easier with maturity…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are vampires who suck everything out of you….but so far the garlic and mirrors tricks don’t seem to work for catching energy vampires…and spot on to this whole comment

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sometimes, on a bad day or in a weak moment, I have to remind myself that there are things about myself that I love. I have a partner and other people in my life who love and cherish me, but essentially, it’s up to me to accept myself, warts and all, and to appreciate the things about myself that I do love. Somewhere along the line, I think that this kind of self-acceptance adds up to loving myself in totality, and not just loving certain things about myself. I think self-acceptance comes first (for which a certain degree of understanding is necessary), and then self-love.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I used to proofread Professor’s manuscripts who were trying to get tenure. I was amazed at the topics that were so boring and how they went on and on for 1,000 pages with no real conclusion. I find this topic is one of those that is over used, over discussed. If someone is sad, immediately, YOU DON’T LOVE YOURSELF. I find that if you love yourself, you don’t need anyone, because everything is under control, you are happy. So, if you love yourself too much, your ego is huge and you don’t need anyone. Someone in the news comes to mind. LOL

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  12. I agree with you on all the “self” perspectives. I like that you added you should live on your own as an adult for a minute before partnering. I wish I would’ve done that. I would probably have ended up with a whole different life.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree. I actually did both because I married at 20 and divorced 5 years later. I didn’t remarry until my mid 30’s. I was much better prepared for a partnership by then because I knew who I was and what I wanted for myself and in a relationship. Getting married too young rarely works these days.

      Liked by 3 people

  13. I see self love as nurturing your wellbeing–physically, emotionally, spiritually. Loving yourself enough to not get stuck in unhealthy patterns, habits or behaviors. This can be critical in having healthy relationships with others. And I see self understanding as knowing what you want and why you want it. What makes you tick, or how your past plays into your present. It’s an awareness of who you are, what made you become that person, but also how you can improve.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I believe one needs both. Self understanding helps a person know what they need/want and why. And, if a person doesn’t love themselves and see themselves as worthy of love and respect, how can they give it? 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hmmm. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this question posed just like this. I think to love oneself, one must understand oneself. It is in the understanding of who we truly are, and the acceptance of all facets of our humanity (the “good” and “bad”) where self love blossoms.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I don’t understand half the things I do (like, uprooting my whole life and moving to Wisconsin just for fun), so I’m going with self-love. Although every time I hear that phrase, my mind goes somewhere else, ha.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I started typing my response before the weekend, when the week from hell was crowned by a power cut. What I wanted to say has now been said by Jeff Flesch, and probably briefer and more concisely than I could’ve managed. Thanks Jeff! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. From my own experience, self love is a combination of self love, self respect, sense of worthiness, self compassion, self acceptance. I have very much loved people before my healing journey, but I loved them from a wounded place. From a place of no boundaries and people pleasing. I can love people, but I love myself now more and am able to walk away from people and situations that aren’t in my highest good. And aren’t in others highest good either. Staying in a co-dependent relationship is not good for either party.

    Liked by 1 person

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