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Love yourself first. Ever heard that before?

“Your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship of your life.” – Neil Pasricha, The Happiness Equation

What does love look like when it doesn’t point inward?

It’s a cliché phrase, said to death, and can get annoying.

You have to learn to love yourself first. The people who hate this phrase are in denial of the painful truth.


You’ve Got to Love Yourself First.

I want to be clear about something. Needing to love yourself first does NOT imply that you are not worthy of love. That’s not what I’m saying, at all. Everyone is worthy of love.

But if you don’t love yourself, how YOU show love to others will be warped, difficult, and confused.

YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE. Don’t forget that.

Moving on.

So, you’re thinking, what does love look like when it’s not pointing inward?

I know a girl who can’t seem to be happy without a boyfriend.

She goes through phases on social media where every post is of them together, of her boyfriend and how much she loves him, or just her and a note saying how much she loves/misses him. How she can’t imagine life without him.

#inlove, #love, #togetherforever

You get the picture.

The thing is, her relationships never last longer than a few months (if that).

Inevitably, something will happen and the next post you’ll see is a sad one about how her heart has been broken and she’s #donewithlove.

There is a problem here, and it’s not her string of boyfriends.

It’s her.

She doesn’t know how to love herself first, and if she does, she hasn’t been putting herself first. Sometimes it’s more selfish to make it all about the other person.

Loving yourself first is the only way you’ll EVER be able to truly show love to someone else.

Greek Love

There are six Greek words for love, but the ones I want you to understand right now are Eros, Pragma, Agape, and Philautia.

Eros is sexual, romantic, passionate love. This is your love for your partner when you first clicked. It’s your love for your spouse when you got married! It’s the love of date nights and the passion that follows. The love that burns so bright you can’t control it.

Pragma is mature love. This is the love of couples who spend decades together. It’s about patience, tolerance, compromise, and making your partner’s happiness YOUR happiness. It’s the cute love of little old ladies and little old men who grin at each other over breakfast because they’re in love with their life together.

Agape is love for everyone. This is your love for your family, your friends, and strangers. The love that has you smiling at everyone on the street.

Finally, Philautia is self-love. The Greeks knew that there were two kinds of self-love: narcissistic and healthy.

This is the love you need to learn:

“The idea was that if you like yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have plenty of love to give others. […] Or, as Aristotle put it, ‘All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.’” – YesMagazine

Okay, so what’s the point of all that?

If you don’t know what self-love (Philautia) looks like, your idea of sexual/romantic love (Eros), long-lasting love (Pragma), and love for everyone else (Agape) is in danger of being warped.

Narcissists, on the other hand, are a whole other kettle of fish, and someone who loves herself with true confidence and comfort wouldn’t be a narcissist.


Like and Love

You must always love yourself. But, you don’t always have to like yourself.

The two are different.

You can love you brother, but not like him at the moment. You can love your dog, but not like that your dog just chewed up your couch. And you must love yourself, but you don’t have to like where you are in life.

That’s where you start the change.

With that, there are a few signs to watch out for that indicate you need to learn to love yourself first.

Social Media is Drowning in Posts About Your Significant Other

You post on social media like the girl I know at the beginning of this article. You just can’t help yourself from broadcasting to your network how amazing and sexy and fabulous and wonderful and did you mention how amazing your boyfriend is? Or how much you miss him?

That’s bragging, not Eros.

That’s attention-seeking, not Agape.

You’re measuring approval for your choice by how many people like it and comment, not Philautia.

AKA: You’re not loving yourself first.

You’re Vaguebooking Like Nobody’s Business

Vaguebooking is the term for when someone posts a status update saying things like:

  • “Ugh. So done with people.”
  • “Just lost faith in my friends. You know who you are.”
  • “I hate life.”
  • “I’m so done with love.”
  • “I can’t believe that just happened. So mad.”

People who vaguebook are looking for attention. They don’t have the self-esteem or self-confidence to deal with their problems themselves. No Philautia involved.

Instead, they wait for the influx of comments saying, “You alright boo?” and then reply with “I’ll msg you” because it makes them feel better and they don’t actually want to air their problems on social media. They just want attention.

Their Philautia is warped.

Don’t be that person. Please. You’re better than that.

You Envy the Good Relationships of Others

You jealously scroll through your friends’ feeds wishing you had the good fortune to be with a dude like her dude or a chick like his chick. If you constantly envy other people for having steady significant others, it’s a sign that you don’t know what real Pragma looks like, and you have not learned to love yourself.

You need to learn Philautia.

Here, the last thing that should happen is you trying to find a partner.

Nothing good can come from that. You’ll spend the “relationship” trying to be whoever the other person wants you to be, and in doing so you’re lying to yourself about who you are.

There is nothing more satisfying than being loved for who you are and nothing more painful than being loved for who you’re not but pretending to be.”

—Neil Pasricha, The Happiness Equation

If you don’t know how to love yourself for who you are, flaws and all, how can you expect to love someone else for who they are, flaws and all? It’s not a question of the other person’s emotional integrity, it’s a question of yours.

Love Yourself First Pinterest

None of Your Relationships Are Working

You’ve had a string of partners and they were all the same! Such jerks!

When this happens, you’re at risk of developing the idea that #allmensuck or #allwomenarebitches. This reminds me of the Reddit niceguys community where dudes lament to each other about how nice they’ve been to the women they meet and they STILL haven’t gotten any tail.

None of them know how to love themselves.

That might not be a nice thing to hear.

Why would you want someone to tell you that you’re the problem?

Well, if you’re truly interested in bettering yourself and finally being able to have a healthy, long-lasting, emotionally strong relationship, you should be.

Eros, Pragma, Agape, and Philautia.

You should be begging people to tell you when you do stupid things that throw you off the rails towards that goal, because how else will you be able to improve?

In being closest to ourselves, we often miss the biggest problems.

“Love Yourself First” Starts With Acceptance

I want my relationships to get progressively better as I get older. If I’m doing something that my husband, family, or friends can see is actively damaging my ability to love myself, I want them to tell me about it!

I want to know when I’m going off the rails because if I don’t, I will become somebody who I don’t even like.

So, the next obvious question is how do you learn to love yourself!?

It starts with acceptance.

Accepting that you are who you are, how you are, is the first step.

“Beeeeee yourself!”

- Genie

You might be able to change who you are through a lot of effort and repetition, but if you simply accept yourself for who you are RIGHT NOW, you’ll be well on your way.

The hardest part is just starting.

Wallowing in self-pity won’t get you anywhere.

But accepting your situation for what it is, will. It’ll get you started.

Thankfully, that acquaintance is posting more about putting herself first and learning how to love herself. That’s what progress looks like.

Check out Radical Strength’s post for more self-care practices!

I Was Guilty Too

This concept of self-love is important to me because I struggled with it. Sometimes I still do.

At one point I vaguebooked. I looked at the relationships of others and wondered why I didn’t have that. I posted a lot on Facebook about a boyfriend. That relationship failed, and I was sad.

I’m married to an awesome dude now and for the record, I don’t post anything on social media about my husband unless it’s his birthday or our anniversary. He might get mentions here but I don’t drown you guys with my opinion of how great he is.

I had to learn how to love myself first.

What About You?

What are you currently thinking about this? Does it make you angry? Frustrated? Do you think I’m wrong about something?

Do you love yourself?

Tell me.

Please, let me know in the comments or hit me up via email.

Always remember that you are worthy of love no matter how much or how well you love yourself.

About the author 


Life & mindset coach, writer, host of podcast This is Type 1: Real Life with Type 1 Diabetes, and full-time analyst in the power industry. I'm passionate about showing people that how we think determines our realities.

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  1. Colleen, you touched on so many important points in terms of loving yourself! Once we truly learn how to see ourselves as God does, we can love our flaws and all.

  2. I used to think I didn’t love myself. But in some ways I guess I do. I have lots of friends, a husband of 32 years and a job that I help others look better. But in others ways I have disappointed myself, am not perfect, so I don’t like myself very much as I have put others needs before my own fir a long time. It is nice to be able to distinguish between the two.

  3. The question is how do you get over the “Mind Wars” going on inside of your own head?
    And grow to love yourself? Especially when your lack of self love is coming off to your spouse as if you don’t love him or to other people as you don’t want to be friends or bothered….. THIS IS MY WAR NOW!!!

    1. I am currently down the same path, my spouse loves himself and that’s why it’s so easy for him to always be so confident and always treat me good. On the other hand, I pretty much hate myself and sometimes I catch myself treating him bad. I don’t mean to but I just have so much hate in me that I can’t help but manifest. I notice his mood change and I see how I bring him down with me. I have been trying to change for the past 2 years, but my demons just scream louder. How do I learn to love myself when I have literally hated myself since I could remember?

      1. It sounds like you are stuck in beliefs that are not serving you. I would recommend becoming more curious than judgmental about your hate. Why do you hate yourself? Keep asking why. This will be uncomfortable, but the more clarity you have around your thoughts, the easier it becomes to process them and choose better thoughts. Your past does not define your present or your future. And, you are not your thoughts. If you want to work deeper on this, please consider booking a free coaching consultation.

    2. The great news is that your spouse is responsible for his own thoughts and feelings. But that also means you’re responsible for yours—not him. There is no “getting over” mind wars, just understanding them, acknowledging them, and not making them mean anything about you. It’s a long journey for some people, and it’s hard to do it alone for most.

      I’m curious… how does it feel to label what you’re going through as a war?

  4. Wow , your article is really inspiring and powerful . But at the end , having to play that out in reality is really difficult. Because you’ll always compare yourself to others, and when you do that everything automatically fails.

    1. Why would we always compare ourselves to others? There are people in the world who never compare themselves to others, or if they do, they don’t make the differences mean anything.

  5. I did not realize I didn’t fully love myself until now. I want love myself but i just don’t know how to . I read your blog and acceptance is what i need to do but I am just so angry and frustrated with myself that its almost impossible to do. Please help me , I am really struggling and very depressed .

  6. This makes so much sense! Im currently on a break with a guy and i realized that during the relationship i was losing myself and pretending to be something im not. He says he loved the beginning and he loves who he fell in love with but i never loved myself properlly, so we had a lot of ups and downs. Weve been on a break for about a week. If we settle things, ill be happy. But if we don't im happy to say that im ok alone now. I dont need love anymore if i show love.

  7. I really loved reading what you had to say and it totally resonates with me. I have never loved myself, my inner voice is constantly horrible to me and I have to say my poor husband gets the rath of my miserableness! I need to change and fast!

    Been struggling with drug addiction, trying to figure out the “why”, spent so much time trying to uncover the reason…racking my brain and digging deep into google.. then come across this golden article, explains it all for me. Thank you Colleen for your wise words. 🙏🏽💗 now I can fix myself.

  9. I agree with all of these things you have written here. I feel as if I do not have the ability to truly love myself or live for me not because of partners or anything superficial. What if you feel responsible for not being there for someone when they needed you most? What if that person was your mother? And then.. she died, a very traumatic and slow death. I was 15. How do you even begin to live life for you or dare to love yourself for you after that? Im 36 now. I live my life for others, to be who I can be for others. I dont even know or remember when I did or thought about doing it for myself. If I do think of that, I immediately feel selfish. I feel as if I'm here to feel pain and give love, give as much as I can to who I can because when I didn't, when I thought of myself or let someone down, the worst experience and death was what came of it. I have no more room for anymore guilt. I wish I could unsee, undo and redo that moment but I can't. Loving me feels like something that is unattainable and impossible. I appreciate your points and agree with what I've read here. I couldn't really relate to a certain one of these though..

    1. That sounds like a painful place to be. I’m sorry you’re in that pain. If you don’t mind my asking, what is the upside of not loving yourself?

  10. I’m exactly at the stage where I realized I wasn’t living myself in my current relationship. Things got pretty bad because sometimes it seemed like I didn’t love him and he would often ask me if that was the case. I was always really confused by the question but I can see that he would ask me that precisely on the times that I was struggling with myself the most. I just couldn’t see it that way sometimes. This relationship was the one that opened my eyes to a lot of things, especially how you mention the 4 Greek types of love. Mine were all warped!! I’ve never learned so much about myself and about love as I did by being in this relationship with him. Thankfully we are still together but we are separated and I take on my new quest of loving myself and not projecting out my own lack of self love onto him. I show up when I’m at my best now. Have you ever been in something like this? Or do you know anything about it? Any advice? Thank you for your article!! Cat

    1. It’s something I see with coaching clients. We tend to make any problems in a relationship the other person’s fault, but as soon as we take ownership of our part, the relationship can get better.

  11. The greek words for love were really great insight. Every word you said is so true. Accepting ourselves is the first step to self-love. Loving ourselves is very important if we want to make our relationships better. Thank you for sharing such kind and lovely words.

  12. After giving birth to my first child, I didn’t really expect my body to go through changes with my appearance. So when I noticed how I looked…the stretch marks, my stomach and how loose it looked…I felt insecure. I didn’t feel attractive enough, I told myself no one would want me looking like this. I started working out but since COVID happened it’s been tough to work out at home. I want to feel like myself again, but I always get nervous about my body.

    1. I’m sorry you’re going through this. While I haven’t had a child, I know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable in my body and go from feeling ugly to a more neutral state of acceptance that this is how it is right now. I promise that the latter feels much better than the former. I can help you learn how to feel like yourself again.

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