“In 1956, psychologist &social philosopherErich Fromm proposed that loving oneself is different from being arrogant, conceited or egocentric. He proposed that loving oneself means caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself, respecting oneself, and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses). He proposed, further, that in order to be able to truly love another
person, a person needs first to love oneself in this way.” – Wikipedia
I would challenge Fromm. I think you can “love” someone even if you don’t love yourself. I really do. How many times have we all read about, comforted, or been that person who’s pining after some unavailable other? I think the piner is quite sure that they feel “love.” Is it true love? Well, maybe. It feels a lot like love, only mixed with a few other emotions too—like desire and sadness. So while I think we can experience some form of love when we aren’t fully in love with ourselves, I would add the word “well” to Frohmm’s statement. “To truly love another person WELL, a person needs first to love oneself in this way.”
What do I mean, you ask? Well. We can all give away our love like we throw pennies in a wishing well, putting in minimal investment and hoping for that big return that will sweep us off our feet. But does the other person FEEL loved and like the way we are loving them is valuable? Or do they feel like they just got hit in the head with a rusted copper penny that they never really asked for and that has a lot more to do with what the thrower is wishing for than it has to do with them? Good question–(am I right?)
To love another well, is a different story. To love another well, we have to be able to take into account not only our wishes, but also our needs and what is practical, while also keeping in mind the needs and wishes of another. We need to discern the timing of what we give or what we ask for based on the urgency of our own wants and needs and the readiness of another person. We have to be able to hold these things in mind simultaneously (unlike in the penny example where we simply have to remember what we’re wishing for.)
In order to do this, we have to know ourselves pretty well. We have to know what we can compromise on and what we can’t. We have to know when compromising will lead to feelings of resentment or other feelings that become silent and toxic relationship killers. We have to know that in order to really add value to another person’s life, we must know and cherish our own value. We must know what we have to add and give it when it is wanted.
I’m home visiting family for the holidays. Since the moment I arrived, my family members have been assigning me tasks and errands. I’ve spent much time today and yesterday running errands. As I finally finished and was settling at a desk about to start doing some work on my computer, my mom enters my room to ask me if I can please go with her to run an errand with my sister. I want to go to spend time with them, but I know I have several things to work on and need some time to just be by myself, rather than spend an hour driving around in the chaotic holiday hubbub. She begs me and when I tell her I have work she says “well, your sister is the most important thing. Family should always come first.” Guilllt trip, and a tricky one at that. She’s right, and she’s speaking to my values. My sister is important, and family does come first. But, she’s not taking into the account the whole picture, and that is where I must account for my own needs. I’ve spent all morning putting family first, and I will be having dinner with them in the evening. If I don’t spend this time with myself now, I won’t have time to go to my own workout class later, and I will be resentful and cranky at dinner time when I realize this. I feel the guilty tug, and I just come back to my center, and remember, the only thing I have to offer this world is my best self. Will I be my best self if I go do an unnecessary errand I’ve been pressured to do and put aside the priorities of work and health? Will I be able to contribute later knowing that I haven’t done the few things I really needed to do for myself today? Who knows…but self-love is something that continually needs to be redefined in each situation we find ourselves in.
And what does love mean in this context? And, What is Love? It means knowing when to put yourself first, because if you put yourself first, you’ll be in some way, more present, more loving, more giving, and more available to the people you are with.
And that gift is one that I wish to offer this holiday season.
What are you wishing for?
Lauren Korshak is a San Francisco-based Marriage and Family Therapist, Meditation Teacher, Dating & Relationship Coach, and former matchmaker. She has a BA in Psychology from University of Southern California (USC) and an MA in Somatic Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS.) In her free time, Lauren can be found dancing, meditating, adventuring outdoors, making music, and spending QT with loved ones.