When I was younger I got the advice, "You have to love yourself before you can love someone else." At the time I thought this was stupid. To me, the only way I could experience love was from another person. I thought that I needed someone else in order to make me feel whole. I thought that if I found the right person, who loved me unconditionally, I could learn to love myself. They would show me how to succeed where I fail.
But that just is not the case. And now, I find myself giving my clients the same advice, you have to love yourself first. If you don't, you're doomed to act out and repeat harmful patterns for yourself and for the other person. If you expect somebody to fill the void in your heart you will inevitably drag them into it. Because, here's the thing, you can't fill that void. But you can learn to live with it. And, with time, build a relationship with it that is deeper than anything you have ever known.
That void, that loneliness, emptiness deep in your soul. That's not going anywhere. And if it is not examined it will gobble you up. The only way to enter into a truly beneficial and loving relationship is to understand yourself, first. You must travel throughout your mind and personality and bring your own love and compassion to the places that you are afraid of. You must bring acceptance to your overwhelming emotions, fantastical desires, and deepest shame. You, and only you can do this.
The first step is to get to know yourself on a level which far exceeds anything else. You must be with yourself entirely in mind, body, and spirit. You must be willing to stay by your own side when you want to run. Stick with yourself when you feel the urge to numb out. This can take years. Years of work to really get to know who you are. And I'm not talking about who you think you are, who you wish you are; I'm talking about who you actually are. Behind all of the stories, and all of the lies that you use to structure your personality. You must examine yourself with the brutal honesty and total responsibility.
Then, once you know who you are, and what you want; you can then start to fill your own cup. You can start to pursue the things that make you happy without fear of judgment or rejection. Do you have any idea how freeing this is? To be able to accept your desires and to go after them? This is truly liberation. This is the path to happiness. It requires a level of self acceptance and self-love that many do not know they are capable of. It means being your own greatest ally and being your own best friend. Only from this place of total support and total responsibility can you live a fulfilling life.
Once your cup is full then it will naturally start to spill into others. You will find yourself radiating joy, acceptance, and freedom. Will find yourself, naturally, interacting with people and boosting them up. When you are acting from a place of total self-love then the rejection of others is no longer important. And, if you do not care about the rejection of others you can actually relate with them. It is counter-intuitive but your freedom and ecstatic detachment will be what will inspire those around you.
When you truly care for yourself you will naturally care for others because you know what the stakes are. You know just how one complement or smile can change your day. You know how a phone call can make your week. You know how to avoid creating harm for yourself and others. Living in line with your own well-being in mind is contagious. And it will inspire others to do the same. This is such a great gift. It is much better than trying, and failing, to have somebody make you feel loved.
When you feel loved by yourself it is not that you don't need others, it is that you can relate with others from an internally secure place. That way, you give others permission to be themselves just as you are. If you don't need to be taken care of it gives the other person more space to play.