One of the most dangerous myths in our culture today is that you must love yourself first before you can love someone else.
Do you believe this is true?
If you do, you’re probably worried that no one will want to be with you unless you’re confident. You might even be concerned that you’ll fall for someone narcissistic and toxic for you if you lack self-confidence when you start dating. If this myth is a part of your relationship belief system, you’re probably going to put off the dating process until you are more successful, happier, ten pounds lighter, insert superfluous metric here.
But what if we told you that this popular modern myth is just that; a myth! In fact, current research thoroughly debunks it.
But what bearing, if at all, does self-esteem have on relationships? After all, this myth had to come from somewhere, right?
Yes, it’s true that self-esteem and confidence do play a role in relationship satisfaction. While a person’s confidence levels can influence their relationship satisfaction, a lack of confidence doesn’t mean you can’t find and secure a nurturing relationship. Studies show that self-esteem can affect a person’s perception of their partner and that a lack of it can make a person feel anxious about their relationship. Basically, a lack of self-esteem can cause you to worry that your partner doesn’t love you as much as you love them.
But, there is a fundamental character attribute that has nothing to do with confidence or lack thereof that significantly influences whether or not someone can find and sustain a good relationship. But first, let’s let science do the debunking.
While studies show that a lack of confidence can cause problems in a relationship if you let it, scientifically-backed conclusions say that you don’t need to wait until you’re ‘super confident’ (whatever that means) before you can find and keep a good relationship. In fact, studies show that the primary driver of long-term relationship satisfaction is AGREEABLENESS, not confidence.
For you to find and sustain a healthy and positive relationship, you don’t need to be super confident (although that helps). What both partners need to stay together is to be pleasant and cooperative.
It makes sense if you think about it. You don’t want to share your life, your home, family, and finances with someone who is contentious or negative, right?
Being agreeable doesn’t mean you won’t have disagreements. Disagreements, arguments, and ‘intense negotiations’ are a normal part of any relationship. It’s how both partners fight and how they resolve disputes that are important.
Can you discuss and solve a disagreement in an amicable way?
That’s what you need to ask yourself when it comes to relationships, not if your new hairdo, job, or house makes you feel successful and confident.
Confidence and self-esteem are not required to find and sustain love. If you believe this soul-crushing myth, that you need to love yourself before you can look for a partner, it’s not your fault. Millions of people like you believe it, and if they didn’t, the myth wouldn’t be so popular and destructive.
So, how did this myth start? And what does it have to do with repelling or attracting narcissistic partners?
Well, in the last 50 or so years, our culture has started to place a lot of emphasis on self-admiration and self-expression. In fact, doctors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, authors of The Narcissism Epidemic, think that narcissistic traits and personalities are increasing in the U.S. and western culture. Reasons? Because people in this part of the world are bombarded on a 24/7 newsfeed that it is desirable to be materialistic, self-centered, and vain.
Just look around! On social media, television, online, and at home, our culture applauds, rewards, and encourages narcissistic thinking and behavior. Our messed-up culture sends messages to perfectly normal, sweet and healthy people who’d make great romantic partners that they aren’t beautiful, wealthy, successful, or ‘shiny’ enough to be in a relationship. Healthy relationships are only for the pretty people with tons of money in the bank who live in swank places.
Friend, you don’t have to feel bad about yourself because you can’t live up to these unrealistic and toxic ideas.
And if you’ve ever experienced the pain of falling for a narcissist, these unhealthy cultural ideals are part of the reason.
Our cultural obsession with wealth and beauty can make us believe that the narcissist is a great catch. He’s shiny! Successful! Has a great job and drives a nice car! Everyone will be impressed and happy for me for snaggin’ this marlin (who’s really just a bottom-feeding river catfish in disguise). So, on outside, skin-deep appearances, we mistakenly overlook character flaws that scream loud and clear, warning us of the impending danger of falling for someone so self-centered.
Also, the flip side of the myth is that a narcissist will only want to be with a person with low-self esteem. Not true. If you’ve fallen for a narcissist, don’t let the culture lie to you and say it was all your fault for having low self-esteem or no confidence. Chances are, that wasn’t what drew the narcissist to you. Most likely, it was your good traits and values that the narcissist wanted to associate with.
Don’t take this the wrong way and think that you shouldn’t work on your confidence. Becoming more confident is a worthy goal and a healthy pursuit. And having higher self-esteem levels, especially if you’ve struggled with this in the past, will help you gain more satisfaction in other areas of your life.
How can you begin to attain healthy self-confidence levels?
You can start the process by noticing how negative or critical you are of yourself. Instead of having a critical tape playing in your head, take it out and put something better in.
If you find yourself thinking along these lines, “I’m not smart enough, rich enough, pretty enough, etc. for anyone to love me,” find a better way to look at yourself.
Think of it this way; would you say those kinds of things to your friend? Sister? Mom, or daughter? And, what would they say about you? Would someone who loves you tell you you aren’t enough of whatever and therefore don’t deserve a romantic relationship?
No, they wouldn’t. And no, you wouldn’t say those things to your friend either.
Instead of automatically turning on the critical tape in your head, switch out that disc into something positive and TRUE, like this:
“Yeah sure, I’d like to lose a few pounds, but I’m agreeable, and that predicts success in a relationship far more than my weight or satisfaction with my weight does.”
Think about how you talk to yourself, and how you can be kinder to yourself. Think about what your friend or mom or loved one would say about you instead of what the negative tape has on record about you. Take action today by committing to change your inner voice now.
You can do it!