In my Mars in Leo post, I briefly hinted at the slightly problematic nature of the ‘self-love movement’ mantras; since this is a post about Venus, the planet of Love and relationships, entering the showy, exuberant sign of Self-love par excellence (on August 26), it’s perhaps the case to elaborate more eloquently on the subject.
The notion that you can’t love someone else unless you love yourself (or the variant: ‘nobody can love you until you love yourself first’) has become so popularized and normalized, that we mostly accept it at face value. We’ve all stumbled on this affirmation plenty of times; we have seen it on social media, heard as a word of advice after venting about the ups and downs of our love life, perhaps even uttered it ourselves. The way it’s worded, this phrase makes the correlation between self-love and healthy relationships seem simple and linear, while, in truth, it’s anything but. It also conveys the idea of a serious, loving relationship with someone compatible as some sort of privilege that only people who get to the point of full-blown Self-Love can have access to.
Self-love is inordinately helpful and important when it comes to saying “No” to harmful and toxic relationships, or moving on after a painful break up; it does make things easier when we’re trying to put ourselves out there and open up to those with whom we wish to cultivate intimacy; Self-love is, quite simply, a birthright. For many of us, however, Self-love is also a (lifelong) struggle.
People can struggle with loving themselves for a number of reasons, a fair share of which have to do with trauma, repeated abuse, and mental illness (whether or not the latter is a direct result of said abuse); many of us (yes, this includes yours truly) have been programmed to think we are “worthless”, “less than”, “not good enough”. We have grown to find it easier to love and forgive others, than to love and forgive ourselves. And, although we deserve to see ourselves as worthy of Love and affection, such deeply ingrained pattern of self-hate is hard to eradicate from our psyche, even after years of tirelessly working on ourselves.
Reality is a lot more nuanced and complex than those sayings want us to believe; there are individuals who are confident and accomplished who cannot seem to find a compatible partner, and broken, damaged people who have finally started making baby-steps towards Self-love after seeing themselves through a loved one’s eyes. The potential to embrace ourselves, and Love ourselves, no matter how fucked up we are, is in each and everyone of us – but it’s not some kind of prerequisite that determines our chances of finding that special someone that sees us for who we are, and still cherishes us.
Here are some excerpts from an excellent post written for Ravishly by Matt Joseph Diaz:
<<Let’s make something very clear: You do not need to reach a certain point in your own personal recovery before you deserve to be cared for.
Claiming that you “have to love yourself before anyone else can love you” is rooted in an important idea — that you should prioritize your own self-care and emotional wellbeing before trying to pursue a romantic relationship.
However, this is not the same as the idea that you need to love yourself before you deserve to be loved.
The most important distinction between the two is that one tries to portray self-esteem as some sort of finish line, while the other addresses the significance of making sure you’re whole.
A romantic relationship shouldn’t be an end goal. You shouldn’t pursue self-love and better self-esteem because you want to feel worthy of being loved someday — you should pursue self-love because you deserve to love yourself. You should prioritize your own mental and emotional health over romantic love because it’s your life, and it deserves to be protected.
You aren’t half a person trying to qualify to be worthy of finding your other half. You’re a whole person with your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences that wants to find someone to add to it eventually.
Furthermore, claiming “you have to love yourself before you can be loved by someone else” puts forth the myth that there’s some sort of finish line to self-esteem. It promotes the idea that eventually you’ll reach a point where you can say, “Well, I love myself now,” and everything will be sunshine and lollipops.
Your self-esteem may be sky-high one day and hit rock bottom the next. This doesn’t mean that you’re “taking steps backward” because the journey to better self-esteem isn’t a straight line down a road. It’s an uphill climb, and sometimes you lose your footing.
This doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself, and it doesn’t mean you’re undeserving of love. It just means you’re a person.
You can build and maintain a meaningful relationship while in the first stages to better self esteem. While this isn’t always wise (sometimes we use our affections for others to direct our feelings outwards in order to avoid addressing the issue), there are some very real and important benefits that can come from having a romantic relationship during this time.
Having someone to motivate and inspire you to better yourself is a resource that can’t be overlooked. When you’re in the beginning stages of learning to love yourself, you constantly need to reaffirm why you’re doing what you’re doing and why you’re so important. Having someone in your corner, someone who cares for you and wants what’s best for you, can push you to work harder in a very real way.
You don’t need romantic love in order to want to be better. You don’t need to reach a certain degree of self-esteem in order to qualify to be loved, nor does not having a partner say something about the content of your character.
You deserve to be cared for. Not because you’ve reached a certain of level of self-esteem, and not because you “finally deserve it” — but because you’re you.
You deserve to be cared for because you have value, because you’re unique, and because you’re so worth loving.>> Read the whole article here.
Nor the concept that we need fixing before someone else might fall in love with us, neither the idea that we depend on the appreciation and acceptation of another human being in order to feel whole, but, rather, the realization that we have value, regardless of our struggles, emotional baggage, and the systemic disadvantages we’ve been subjected to, is the healthiest expression of Venus in Leo and the whole point of this post.
We shouldn’t feel pressured to love ourselves completely and unconditionally in order to experience what loving and being loved feels like. But we can allow ourselves to accept where we stand in terms of healing and personal growth, acknowledge our progress, prioritize self-care, and, at the very least, validate our own feelings and let more of what makes us feel good about ourselves into our life.
Our feelings matter. Our perspective matters. Our needs matters. Acceptance is perhaps an even more radical act of Self-love than Self-love itself, and Venus in Leo, with her focus on dignity and respectability, can help us expressing the value and legitimacy of our experience – a solid foundation to our sense of self-worth.
But there’s more.
Another thing that falls under the domain of passionate, exuberant Leo is creativity; the kind that fills up our life and lights up our world. The sign of Leo retains the life-giving symbolism of the Sun its ruler; it symbolizes self-actualization through biological, sexual, artistic creativity, the act (and Art) of pouring personal energy into something that becomes an extension/projection of the Self – children, books, songs, any product of human self-expression. We don’t just create books, songs, paintings, lives, objects – we can also create platforms, human connections, safe spaces, life-enhancing activities of various kinds.. Wherever our bliss lies, whatever it is that makes us feel proud, alive, vibrant, whatever makes us fall in love with life all over again, can also make it easier for us to fall in love with ourselves, one step at a time.
Venus in Leo encourages us to enhance what makes us special, and to develop our unique strengths and talents in a way that reminds us that we, too, bear the divine nature of Gods and Goddesses within us. And since Venus is also the principle of attraction, the more we shine as beacons of Light, doing what we love, and loving what we do, the higher the chances the Love we need and deserve will gravitate towards our glare.