Dear soft hearted people,
Some people say “you have to love yourself before you can love someone else.” I like to think of love, including self love as a practice. This love practice is not linear or stagnant. We can continue to work on tapping into the love that resides within us and find new ways to give ourselves what we need over time.
You may have heard of secure and insecure attachment styles. Many people who grew up in inconsistent, abandoning, or neglectful homes have insecure attachment styles. These people do not necessarily need to wait until they declare love toward themselves. Hey. It’s not the worst idea to take time to ourselves, date ourselves, and heal wounds before dating others. About half of people in general land in the insecure attachment style group and do not always have a stagnant, linear path toward self love. Literature states that there is not strictly and only the “you have to love yourself before you can love someone else” approach (“Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and how it can Help you Find and Keep Love”, by Levine and Heller, 2012). This book indicated that people can actually love before their attachment stye is healed.
Additionally, in a study conducted in Germany, they found that people with anxious attachment style (one of the insecure attachment styles) had correlations between a decrease in their anxious attachment* with a partner who expressed and showed gratitude (Perceiving gratitude from a romantic partner predicts decreases in attachment anxiety”, by Park, Johnson, MacDonald, and Impett, 2019). When the people in this study had partners who expressed and showed gratitude they reported less anxious attachment and even less a year later.
So while it’s great to take time to love on yourself before inviting in romance, it’s also helpful to start practicing more deep, genuine gratitude with a partner you have now. We can all start with implementing this research into our self love practice and in our love of others by expressing a word of gratitude or showing gratitude daily.
*Folks with anxious attachment style may feel unworthy, unsure of their attachment person loving or caring for them, and need reassurance.