One of the most common pieces of dating advice is, “no one can love you until you love yourself first.”
If there’s one thing I’ve heard the most in my years of dealing with mental illness, it’s that statement. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard it.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t want to be in love right now. To have someone on difficult days to comfort me and keep me in tune with reality would be wonderful. It would also be nice to share my life with someone who cares enough to want the same. Still, people like to tell me the reason I haven’t found anyone yet is because I don’t know how to love myself.
This advice is a completely and utterly false statement, and is an absolute slap in the face.
For people like me who are now in their 20s but have dealt with mental illness from a very young age, it feels like our chances of fully recovering dwindle the closer we get to 30. Individuals in this position, like me, have to accept the fact that there is always a chance that they may never get better. For me, part of the struggle is not being happy with myself. However, I know for a fact that we are not destined to be alone just because mental illness makes us doubt or hate ourselves sometimes.
This whole — “you can’t let someone else love you because you don’t know what love is,” or “you can’t be in love until you love yourself, because if you don’t love yourself, you won’t know how to love anyone else,” — logic is completely cruel. If anything, mental illness has taught me more about loving other people than self-love will ever teach me. Just because someone doesn’t know what it’s like to love him- or herself, doesn’t mean they’re incapable of loving other people. In fact, I’ve been in love while still feeling an incredible amount of self-hatred.
Mental illness prevents me from fully loving myself. But does that, or anyone else’s condition, make me or them less “ready” for love? Heck no. Don’t listen to that trope. It’s not good advice.
Someone is going to come along someday and love every inch of you. They’re going to be in love with your mind and the way it works, even though you may hate the way it works. They are going to love who you are as a person, and what you stand for. This person is going to love what you love just because that’s what you love.
They’re going to love what you hate, just because it’s a part of who you are.
They’re going to love you despite your mental illness, because they are going to know mental illness does not define you or anyone as a person. They are going to provide the love you were never able to provide for yourself. Someday, they’re going to find you, and I guarantee you that it’ll happen even if you don’t love yourself 24/7/365.
You deserve love just as much as the people with healthy minds and self-love do.
If you are struggling with mental illness, self-image or self-hatred, you deserve love just as much as the next person. The next time someone tells you that you don’t deserve the kind of love that takes your breath away, tell them those things do not make you any less deserving of love. Ignore their “advice.”
Maybe you’ve chosen to pass on the opportunities that have come about in the past for romance, because it didn’t feel like they could give you the love you deserve. And that is completely OK. You deserve to be loved, but you’re not obligated to take any opportunity that presents itself. I am deserving of love. My mental illness does not make that any less true, and the same is true for you. It has taken me a long time to come to this realization, because with so many people telling me the same thing, I almost believed it. I don’t, though, and you shouldn’t either. Everyone is capable of being loved, no matter their mental health.