3 Tips for Loving Someone Who Struggles to Love Themselves
If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.
Anybody who follows me on social media can easily see that as a mental health awareness advocate, I try to spread self-love as much as I can. What a lot of people can’t see, however, is that I don’t practice what I preach.
I’ve had my ups and downs in both my discovery to love myself and in relationships with people who have come and gone. I was in abusive relationships, I am a suicide attempt survivor, I was in eating disorder recovery and I spent two months in an intensive women’s behavioral health hospital program. When it comes to confidence and self-esteem, I lack the will to see what anybody could find appealing or attractive about me.
Despite an outgoing personality, funny demeanor and a good sense of style, I don’t see anything constructive that I offer to anyone because most of the time, I am quiet and in my head with anxious or obsessive thoughts. While I am good at my job and enjoy every second of my blossoming career at only 24 years old, I still struggle to achieve confidence and drive to get out of bed each day. And that’s OK.
1. Tip one to loving someone who doesn’t love themselves: Acceptance.
Accept that they won’t always want to go out and do things, that they have riddled self-worth and body image. Accept their faults, insecurities, irrational and overbearing thoughts and always reassure them every time they need it is important.
I am in love. Wholeheartedly. The kind of love you don’t think exists, where you jump in head first and experience things you only see in the movies. The “thank God, every day,” grateful love that only magic can provide because it’s too good to be true. My boyfriend and I are best friends and lovers. He’s my soulmate, and for the first time in my life, I am in a healthy relationship. I’m sure people have judged my past relationship, but if there’s anything that comes from faking a smile for a long time, it’s that when you’re truly happy, it honestly shows. So, if I am so in love and happy, how can I still feel so miserable? Fear of rejection and losing that true love. “I’m going to mess this up,” often rushes through my head.
2. This brings me to tip number two: Perseverance.
Despite common misconceptions, loving someone while you struggle to love yourself doesn’t mean it’s time to end the relationship. What I’ve found is that it strengthens the unconditional love you have for one another and true love will always find a way back. Therefore, if the fear of messing up holds you back from experiencing joy, then talk less about messing up and just enjoy life! To quote the great American playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Talk less, smile more.” It’ll benefit your life more and you’ll start to build a life worth living.
I’ll be the first to admit that loving me is not an easy job. I am crude, brash, stubborn and edgy. I do not listen and oftentimes don’t know how to express the anxiety I am feeling, so I fight and argue and that manifested anxiety comes out in anger. My unhealthy relationships in the past have been a result of me still struggling mentally, being terribly confused about my emotions and not properly knowing how to regulate them. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through treatment is differentiating “wise mind” from “emotion mind.” While that struggle is still sometimes present, it doesn’t control me anymore but rather, I control it. Loving someone with anxiety, depression or mental illness is not easy. Loving someone in general and accepting their flaws, hardships, and so on is not easy. But if it’s unconditional and true, perseverance will come naturally.
What I’ve learned in my self-love journey is forgiveness comes from understanding, and when you love someone who doesn’t love themselves, the key is patience.
3. Hello, tip number three: Patience.
When they’re having a boost of confidence and feel good about their outfit, a project they’ve been working on or even just getting out of bed, applaud them. Tell them you’re proud of them. One of the hardest things I struggle with is seeing my worth, value and physicality. I often will call myself “ugly” and “fat,” while my boyfriend tells how attractive he finds me every day. “Is he lying?” “Does he really think I’m sexy or beautiful?” Both are thoughts that will constantly run through my mind. Ignore the negativity, stand strong against bad thoughts and remain patient with both your partner and yourself.
As I still continue to struggle with loving myself, it’s made easier by ignoring what thoughts may come to my head. Now, of course, that is easier said than done, but by taking it one day at a time, you’ll start to replace those negative thoughts with “I’m good enough,” and “I am a good person.” If you love someone who doesn’t love themselves, remind them they’re worth it and they are good enough. Remind them to ignore the negative voice in their head. Don’t get angry or show frustration, but shower them in positive words, music, laughter and acceptance. Persevere, and keep patient when the going gets tough.
My biggest piece of advice to someone loving somebody who does not love themselves is remembrance. Remember that just because someone has difficulty loving themselves, it does not mean, for one second, they have difficulties loving you. You may just be the one thing they need to keep them going.
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash