“You need to love yourself before you can love someone else or allow someone else to love you,” said every other article, book, TV show, movie, etc. Seems simple enough, right? But that’s easier said than done. Growing up, I always saw this concept as a fantasy. The happy ending we’d all like to believe in, but usually doesn’t come true. I probably sound like a pretty pessimistic kid, but my anxiety made it hard to understand how you could love yourself without the love and approval of others.
My anxiety kept telling me that I was the problem if someone didn’t like me or treat me the way I deserved to be treated. After spending years trying to change myself to be someone people would like, I thought I had a good idea of who that was. I thought I was good at reading people and what they wanted, but after awhile my anxiety kicked in and started feeding me lies. Assuming I knew what people were thinking when I was talking to them, I pictured them saying in their heads, “Be quieter. Be smaller. Stop being so obnoxious.” It took me too long to realize that I was the only one thinking those things so incessantly.
Over time, loving myself without relying on the approval of others started to seem like a reality rather than a fantasy. I spent a long time surrounding myself with all kinds of people, wanting to gain their approval so I could finally silence the anxious voice in my head that was telling me I wasn’t good enough. Little did I know, by letting so many of the wrong people in, I was only making my anxiety and insecurities worse. When you start to rely on other people’s love, thinking it’ll help you love yourself, you’re only setting yourself up to fall flat on your face.
Whether those people end up staying or leaving, you’ll either feel worthless or end up pushing people away who love you because you’re too blind to see all of the great things they see in you. It sounds obvious that you can’t make your self-love about other people, but try telling that to an anxious mind that can’t help but overthink every comment, text, or a slight change in tone. Sometimes the first step is understanding the role your anxiety is playing in all of this. After all, if you’re constantly changing yourself, begging other people to love you, how can you expect to love yourself if you don’t even know who that is anymore?