30 years ago, I believed that finding a romantic partner was hard work. I thought I had to change how I looked, how I behaved and what I liked or disliked in order to attract a mate and have a successful romantic relationship.
I didn’t think I was enough, so I became a master at chameleon-like behavior and could morph into whoever I needed to be depending on who I was with. I kept my opinions to myself. I didn’t rock the boat and went along with whatever my significant other wanted to do. This worked for awhile. I did find what I thought was love, but how could it truly be love when my partner didn’t really know who I was? Who had he actually fallen in love with? How could I truly love anyone else when I didn’t love myself?
Each time I molded myself to become someone else’s idea of how I should behave or what I should think or feel, the real me faded away a little more just like an image in an old photograph. I didn’t know what the real me thought or felt any more. With each passing year, I lost touch with my authentic self. After years of silencing my inner voice, I couldn’t tell the difference between the real me and the “good girl” I had become to please others.
A few failed relationships later, I finally started to understand that pretending to be something other than myself was sabotaging my relationships before they even got started. I learned that when I allow myself to be myself, I attract lots of terrific people into my life. These people love me for who I am. They don’t try to control me and I don’t try to control them.
In my coaching practice, I work with people who struggle with all sorts of different relationship challenges. Some of them are trying to hold on to love, others are trying to find love and some are trying to decide whether to stay or leave a relationship. In nearly every case, the common denominator is non-existent or low levels of self-acceptance.
Lasting love became a reality for me when I learned to love myself first and when I allowed myself to relax and be true to myself. Most of the time, my relationship with my spouse feels effortless. Whenever we do have disagreements, we are able to resolve them without destroying each other in the process. This is a far cry from my earlier relationships.
Self-acceptance or self-love is the foundation on which all good relationships are built. I’m not talking about conceit, but I am talking about having a quiet assured knowing that you are enough. Loving yourself is the solid foundation that you must have if you expect to have a loving relationship with someone else. One that will last through all the ups and downs of life. Why? Because when you respect and love yourself, you increase the chances that you will attract and be attracted to someone who feels the same way about himself or herself. When you feel good about yourself, the people you attract will not be looking for someone to complete them because, like you, they are already complete. A relationship between two complete people is relatively free of the neurosis that plague relationships in which one or both partners are insecure and needy.
Whether you are looking for love or trying to hold on to love, stop working so hard. Let go of whatever it is you are trying to make happen in that arena. Take the focus off the other person and concentrate on you. What could you do today to start loving yourself a little more?
Here are a couple of things you can try today:
Make a list of 25 things you love about yourself. It’s okay if it takes you a few days to come up with the list, but once you have it, post it where you see it every morning and every night before you go to sleep.
Another helpful exercise is to list the characteristics or behaviors are you looking for in your partner or potential partner. Here’s the twist…instead of looking for those ideals in another person, look for those characteristics in yourself and begin to strengthen those “muscles”.
Lasting love with another person can only happen if you have a deep love and respect for yourself first. It may take a little time and effort to get to that place of unconditional love of self, but the rewards far outweigh the time it takes. Self-acceptance not only makes lasting love possible, but it can stave off loneliness and it opens the door to success in all areas of life.
“People who do not love themselves can adore others, because adoration is making someone else big and ourselves small. They can desire others, because desire comes out of a sense of inner incompleteness, which demands to be filled. But they cannot love others, because love is an affirmation of the living growing being in all of us. If you don’t have it, you can’t give it.” ~ Andrew Matthews