Have you ever heard the phrase “you have to love yourself before you can be loved by another”? It’s an idea I passionately disagree with. 

This phrase implies that those of us who struggle with self-love don’t deserve love from another person. That, or we are incapable of being in a loving relationship. This sentiment also hints at it being our fault when we get into an unhealthy relationship. I know I’ve been victim-blamed like this before. It’s the old “if you cared about yourself, you would have walked away sooner” idea, and all. We are all deserving of love just as we are right now, even when we’re a work in progress.

I won’t deny that compassion for others deepens with greater self love, but when we struggle with self-love or empathy, it doesn’t make us an inherently bad or unworthy person. 

Conditional Versus Unconditional Self Love

Very simply, conditional love is the kind that requires certain circumstances to exist. If someone says to you “I’ll love you if…,” that’s conditional. Unconditional love comes with no strings attached. It’s more of an “I’ll love you no matter what you do…” This is regarding love from others, but (show of hands) have you ever said these conditional “if”s to yourself? I definitely have. I still do sometimes.

A surefire way to limit self love is by giving it conditions. We naturally crave and want total acceptance and compassion and we’re the only people who can give this to ourselves. We do it by letting go of the internalized restrictions on the love we’re allowed to feel.

What Does Unconditional Self Love Look Like?

Unconditional love relies on three qualities: respect, acceptance, and compassion. The ways in how these manifest are infinite, but these are the three basic traits.

Respect means that we honor the existence of our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They have formed to help us in some way (now or in the past) and all of these are ultimately trying to assist us. 

This is just like respecting another person. We don’t have to love their actions, but we can accept who they are innately. With our emotions, we don’t have to love how they feel, but we can respect their existence.

Acceptance comes next. It means, when we feel something, we let it be. We don’t try to stuff it down or deny it. Instead we say “I’m still valid, even when I’m angry.” Or, when examining a past mistake, we accept that it happened and recognize that our past actions do not dictate our future reactions.

Lastly, compassion. This one is pretty easy once we have the other two. Since we’re no longer fighting ourselves for who we are, we instead realize that it’s easier to love ourselves than fight. Compassion is all about choosing love to fill the void that self-rejection used to fill.

Unconditional Self Love Exists in Any Situation

Like I mentioned earlier, saying “if” means our love is conditional. Unconditional love is love without any “if”s. This means it can exist in any situation, no matter what we’ve done, will do, think, or feel.

Let me guess what you just thought there. I bet you felt a bit of “but what if I (insert intense situation here)?” I knew this because, even as I was typing this blog, my own love-limiting voice chimed in and said “Arien, but what if you turn into the people who hurt you?” And a handful of other “what if”s.

The answer to my own question, and the question that probably popped into your head, is yes. Yes, you still are deserving of unconditional love. Unconditional love is something you deserve because you’re a living being and that’s the only prerequisite needed.

You have a consciousness? You deserve unconditional love. It’s as simple as that.

Cancel Out Your Love-Limiting Voice

I want you to try something. Think of a really difficult moment you had, something recent where you can still feel the emotions a bit, without them totally overwhelming you. Aim for something where the emotions are vulnerable, uncomfortable, or maybe even a bit painful.

Now I simply want you to say, aloud or in your head, “I am worthy of love even with (this feeling).”

How do your emotions shift? If some tears show up, that’s a great thing. It means the compassion really got down to your core.

If you feel like it, try this simple exercise with a small mistake you made. Something that triggers a tiny bit of guilt, but not a whole flood of it. This time, after feeling the guilt, say to yourself “I am worthy of love even though I (made this mistake/did this action).” That’s the beginning of self-forgiveness. This simple action, of consciously saying that we’re worthy of love, is the most effective way to cancel out your love-limiting voice.

The truth is, you already have all you need to fully love yourself. And, if you love yourself while reading this blog, then struggle after, that’s okay too. It’s a process, a constant one. And it’s a beautiful journey, too.

Originally published at uncoveryourjoy.com