One relationship expert delivers tough truths on why you need to love yourself before you look for your "better half"
By Cherie Carter-Scott, Ph.D., MCC
Many people buy in to the myth that there's someone out there who will serve as their "better half. This paradigm presumes that we are incomplete and require a partner to make us whole, and feeds into the "hole in the soul syndrome," a core sense of insufficiency leading to feelings of emptiness, neediness and self-reproach. As a result, we look for a partner to fill in the holes.
More from YourTango: Bad Body Image? 15 Ways To Improve Your Self-Esteem
The irony is that the very sense of neediness that drives us to seek out love is exactly what will impede love from blossoming. Authentic love is attracted by those who desire it and is repelled by those who need it.
Wanting connotes sufficiency and desire; needing connotes insufficiency and dependency. "I need" creates a vacuum effect that forces you to clutch, grab, cling and consume; "I want" creates an openness that enables you to explore, consider, and shape the relationship you desire.
It's only when you operate from the basis of being a whole person with good self-esteem that you can find love based on want and not on need.
If you believe you're unworthy of love, you will attract partners who treat you as if you are. If you treat yourself as unimportant, chances are you will be treated as such by your mate.
If you are stingy with yourself, be it in terms of time, money or attention, you will most likely attract a lover who lacks generosity toward you. If you do not take care of your physical self, your partner can hardly be expected to view your body as a temple. If you judge yourself harshly, then your mate will follow suit.
On the other hand, if you require respect, kindness, caring, and integrity in your relationship with yourself, you lay the groundwork to receive the same in your relationship with others.
If you forgive yourself, others will know it is not acceptable to berate you for your mistakes. If you respect your needs, your partner will as well. If you listen to and honor your inner messages, your partner will respect your inner radar.
Your internal beliefs and expectations will be reflected outward and you will be treated in kind.
One of the most important things you can leam from nurturing an authentic and loving relationship with yourself is acceptance.
More from YourTango: 4 Powerful Tips To Boost Your Self-Esteem
At the root of unconditional love is the perception that whatever your partner does, says, feels or expresses will be received in an atmosphere free from condemnation. Practicing this kind of acceptance on yourself is what will enable you to extend that level of tolerance to your beloved.
If you accept your own imperfections, then you will be more tolerant of the imperfections of others. If you accept your mistakes, then you will be more forgiving of others' mistakes. If you learn from your own lessons, then you create room for others to learn around you.
Lack of self acceptance can go a long way toward eroding love relationships, since the negativity you harbor about yourself will surely bleed onto your partner. Negativity is like a cancer that grows and spreads from one partner to the other, poisoning the entire relationship.
At its extreme, low self-esteem can cause people to reject or sabotage love relationships almost automatically.
Feelings of self-disdain and shame may run so deep that some people cannot allow anyone else to love them, no matter how much someone might try.
They either cannot recognize authentic love, since they have no frame of reference to which they can compare their experience, or they reject their potential partner because they cannot imagine that anyone worth having would want them.
While the old Groucho Marx joke about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have him for a member sounds amusing, there is a familiar ring to it.
More from YourTango: 15 Ways Your Self-Esteem Can Ruin Your Relationships
We all know people whose self-esteem is so low that anyone who cares about them comes under attack for doing just that. They're suspicious of anyone who shows interest in them because they, themselves, cannot find anything within themselves worthy of loving.
This is where the work begins.
You stop looking for another to validate your existence, to complete you, to fill you up to do your work for you…you start loving yourself when you believe it is completely unimaginable.
You love your mistakes, your insecurities, your fears, your anxiety, your laziness and even your lack of focus or motivation. In short, you love the unlovable!
This article originally appeared at YourTango.com.