More and more I am hearing about the importance of self-love. It's everywhere. Whether it's a 30-day self-love challenge, 10 steps to loving yourself or another person marrying herself on Facebook, I'm over it.
You've probably heard it too, and like many, you may subscribe to these ideas:
"Love yourself first, and then you'll get the man."
"You don't need anyone, you just need to love yourself."
"Happiness comes from within."
We have gone too far with this.
They do not use solitary confinement as one of the worst forms of punishment because someone can find happiness alone.
We simply weren't made that way as humans. We are interdependent as a species and we need each other. Our brains and bodies are regulated by each other and we can only thrive in relationships with each other.
Let me be clear: I'm not saying we shouldn't love ourselves.
I may be over these ideas about self-love, but I agree, it's a beautiful thing!
I actually happen to love myself, but if I never had anyone in my life who loved me, I wouldn't be able to. Because I'm human.
No 30-day self-love challenge would help me love myself if I lived in a vacuum and was never loved by another.
The point I'm making is that self-love is not the starting point, but it is the result of being loved.
We need to start where love starts: In relationships.
Psychic healing never occurs in a vacuum. It occurs in relation to another - usually a human, but sometimes another mammal will do.
Many people who teach and reach self-love may take for granted the relationships that have helped them achieve it for themselves in the first place.
A quote from Dr. Sue Johnson's latest book, Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships, debunks this myth that self-love comes first:
Equally amazing is what the new research reveals about the impact of emotion in our closest relationships. The message touted by popular media and therapists has been that we're supposed to be in total control of our emotions before we turn to others. Love yourself first, and then another will love you. Our new knowledge stands that message on its head.
In Dr. Johnson's words in a recent HuffPost Live interview on this notion of self-love: "the bottom line is that that's not how people work."
"You learn about who you are by looking in the eyes of people you love."
The message that is being shared about how it has to start with self-love is simply off the mark. Biologically we are not wired to be alone. In Dr. Johnson's words, "We cannot define ourselves inside our own skin."
And when we continually try to do this, we fraction ourselves off from others, believe in the myth of co-dependency, witness scary rates of divorce, and suffer as a society from skyrocketing rates of depression and anxiety.
We disconnect, when what's needed for ultimate health and wellness is integration and connection.
We learn to connect with others before we can connect to ourselves.
Dr. Johnson asks, "How does a baby know he is delightful?" The baby knows he is delightful because when he looks into his mother's eyes, he sees delight.
Sadly, not all babies have that experience.
Until that baby sees LOVE in the reflection of the eyes into which he is staring, whether they are his mother's, father's, an aunt's, a teacher's, a coach's, a mentor's, a pastor's, a rabbi's, a lover's or a therapist's, there is no way to start a foundation of self-love.
So be open to fiercely loving others and letting love in yourself.
The myth of self-love is a dangerous thing.
Don't assume your partner should always be able to provide his own solutions to his emotional problems, and withhold taking care of him or reassuring him by showing him how much you love him. He will only be stronger with heartier doses of your love.
Don't be afraid of being "enmeshed" or "co-dependent" if you want to spend all of your time with your partner. He's the person you chose to live the rest of your life with - why wouldn't you want to be with him?
And don't hesitate to go to your partner to ask for reassurance if you have a big or scary project coming up. You don't need to go it alone; you weren't built that way, and you'll do much better with his support.
Let's set things straight: Love starts within our relationships, not within ourselves.
So the next time you're up to some endeavor in self-love, first remember who has loved you and who you have loved. The vivid images in your mind of those who have loved you will take you to your place of self-love much faster than whatever else you are being taught.