Relationship Counseling: Why You Need to Love Yourself First

What to Know About Relationship Counseling

Relationships are Messy

We post a lot of content that mentions how detrimental isolation can be for your mental health, and one of the reasons for that is: we are built to be in relationships. We are relational beings, created to give and receive love. If only it were as simple as giving and receiving. Instead, relationships are often messy, complicated, draining, and even hurtful. What do we do then? If you’re feeling less than happy in one of your relationships, especially a romantic one, it’s a great idea to seek relationship counseling.

Though you’ll likely learn a lot of helpful things in relationship counseling, one of those things is likely to be that in order to give your best to any relationship, you need to be prioritizing yourself rather than the other person. At first glance, that advice does not make sense! If you’re trying to make a relationship work, your first impulse is probably to try harder to give your partner everything they need, making sure they feel loved and appreciated at all times. From the time we’re in preschool, we’re taught sharing, generosity, kindness, and we’re given messages from a number of sources about how good it is to be selfless. That’s not exactly conducive to learning to prioritize yourself, is it?

The Problem with Our Understanding of The Golden Rule

Potentially the most famous saying when it comes to how we should treat each other is known as The Golden Rule, which says, “Do unto others as you have done unto you.” Another Bible verse echoes the same sentiment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Most of us use these phrases as a fancy way to say that we should be nice to people, and that is a lovely thought, But there’s a HUGE piece of that puzzle missing when you just take these messages as a mission to love others well. Both verses presuppose that you already give yourself the love and respect that you think other people deserve. Do you?

Why You Need to Love Yourself First

You can’t treat others as well as you would like to be treated if you aren’t already treating yourself well. Without self-love, it’s as if every time you give love, you’re pouring from a cup that’s never being refilled. Eventually that cup will run dry, and you can’t pour from an empty cup. Without self-love, your self-confidence and self-esteem will falter. Without self-love, you may wonder whether you’re enough for the people you love. Without self-love, you may even struggle to believe that you matter at all. Without self-love, you’ll struggle to have self-compassion when you make mistakes or don’t perform the way you think you should. Without self-love, you may not even be able to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments or accept compliments. Because that cup is empty, you’re left exhausted and dissatisfied, which means you’re not able to show up the way you want to for the relationships that are important to you. 

How to Love Yourself More

How do you go about filling that cup so that there’s plenty of love for you to pour into the lives of the people you love? The term “self-care” gets thrown around a lot these days, and it’s easy to dismiss it as an occasional evening where you light an aromatherapy candle, do a facemask, and take a bubble bath. Self-care really is the answer here, however, because ultimately prioritizing yourself means that you are taking good care of yourself in several key categories. Check out this TikTok from TED Talks on the 7 different types of rest you need, and look at these categories of self-care you can’t ignore:

1. Physical health. If your body doesn’t have the fuel it needs, your brain can’t function properly. In order to love yourself, then, you’ve got to tend to your physical health. That entails sleep, rest, exercise, hydration, nutrition, and so much more. Have you paid attention to your physical health lately? Make a plan to do one big thing for your physical health in the next few days.

2. Social health. How long has it been since you hung out with your friends? Your family? Are the people you spend the most time with treating you the way you deserve to be treated, or do they leave you feeling bad about yourself, small, and exhausted? Consider taking some time away from the people who don’t fit in with your self-love goals. Take a moment to shoot a text to someone you love but haven’t spoken to lately, and maybe even make a plan to hang out soon.

3. Mental health. What even is mental health? It’s a combination of the way that you think and how your brain is functioning. Your brain falls into patterns based on how you use it. What are your brain’s thought patterns and habits? What are you doing to keep your brain in shape, and what kinds of things are you feeding your mind? Challenging yourself with games or puzzles that make you think can be an incredibly healthy habit, so keep playing Wordle! Maybe add some offscreen activities like an old-school sudoku booklet and reading to keep your brain working. Identify any negative thought patterns that you’d like to change.

4. Spiritual health. Whether you subscribe to a particular religion or not, we all have spiritual needs that need tending.  You can take the time to nurture your spiritual self by attending a service at your church, spending some time in prayer, journaling about recent experiences or future goals, and meditating on what makes you feel connected to the world.

5. Emotional health. Processing feelings is hard! How are you making sure you’re not constantly overwhelmed by them? Do you have trustworthy friends you can talk to about big feelings? Do you have healthy activities that help you feel calm when your emotions are running wild? When your emotions start running your life, you can easily get stuck in a cycle of shame or poor self-esteem. This is where therapy or counseling can be helpful as well, especially if you’re feeling drained and aren’t sure how to go about getting your emotional energy back. 

If it helps you conceptualize how to care for yourself, imagine you have a child whose care is completely your responsibility. What needs would you make sure are met? You would make sure they have a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast. You’d take them to the park and teach them to ride a bike. You’d help them with their homework and make sure they’re always safe. You would also comfort them if they felt sad or scared, and you’d celebrate with them if they were happy. What else would you do to make sure this child has everything they need to be emotionally and physically healthy? Now imagine that child is you.

The New Golden Rule: Love Yourself as You Would Love Others

Once you’ve realized that self-love is a key element of any functional relationship, you can start implementing it in your own life and reap the benefits. When you’re rested and well cared for, you’ll have more to give to the relationships that are important to you! As much as those people matter to you, you also matter. And just as you’d hate to let your loved ones go without essential care, your care is also essential.

If you’re looking for other ways to explore how to love yourself, check out other THL resources on self-worth and self-esteem:

If you’re not sure how to get started on a journey toward self-love, or if you don’t feel like you’re worthy of it, please reach out to TheHopeLine today. We’re here for you when your cup is empty because Christ called “all who are weary and burdened” to come and find rest, and that includes you. 

For a free consultation and help with relationship counseling, visit our partners at Focus On The Family

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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