As a perpetually single person, everyone around me (and my spookily curated feed) has constantly told me one thing: I need to love myself first. In fact, they sometimes push it to a more brazen ‘Don't care about what others are saying, be your own person.’ (but that’s also supplemented with a quick ‘love will find you when you least expect it’. Yeah, I know it’s a paradox.) While a part of me always thought this was at least 60% BS, an instance from Bojack Horseman hit the mark dead centre.
In the scene, Mr Peanutbutter is talking to his ex-wife Dianne, who goes on to tell him that for the first time in her life, she's felt like she's been part of a ‘we’ in a relationship (obviously, with her new boyfriend). And Mr. Peanutbutter responds by saying that it's the first time he's taken some time for himself instead of forcing a relationship with someone to be a ‘me’. Powerful stuff, isn’t it?
We're all constantly facing this We vs Me conundrum. But I realised it's more to do with where you are instead of who you are. You can’t have just one of the two. To everyone who believes (and swears by) those ‘how will someone else love you till you don't love yourself’ posts, here’s something worthwhile to think about: how will you learn to love yourself if you've not experienced being loved?
Here’s the thing. Relational love does add to self love! If we didn't seek external validation, we'd never care about anyone else’s opinion and honestly, end up not surviving as a species. As social beings, we're wired to seek validation but what we can control is how we moderate it. Todd Baratz suggests that when you do seek validation, make sure you're not betraying your own beliefs. That’s half the battle won.
On the flipside, self-love helps you navigate relationships better; the more you love, trust and know yourself, the better you are at judging what's good for you, knowing your needs and communicating them. It simply means that knowing yourself is important if you want to have healthier relationships (with yourself and others).
So as much as your Instagram feed or friends or anyone tells you that you need one before the other, self love and relational love can help build each other. Relational love isn't just limited to romantic relationships, it's all the relationships you're a part of - friends, family, even the ones you build with your colleagues at work. In fact, you can intentionally find relational love that helps build your self-love so it doesn't have to be limited to the relationships you already have.
I remember reading a quote somewhere that we're all born perfect and throughout our lives, we experience imperfection, so the goal isn't perfection. We're here to experience imperfect love and navigate between our inner and outer worlds; and as I type this I know with certainty that I'm excited and scared for the journey, so what about you?