Love is an expression and assertion of self-esteem
– Ayn Rand

Love is a many-splendoured thing.
Love makes the world go round.
All you need is love.

There are indeed a million love-songs out there, but what actually is love? It has many different manifestations amongst a great many different people. For some it might be bringing gifts to a loved one. For others it might be the loved one bringing gifts. It might be posh restaurants and fancy cars. It might be snuggling up in front of the fire. It might be all of these things and more. But for all that, these are just outward manifestations of love; what is love underneath all that? What is love at its heart, at its very core?

In the past I have at various times believed that to show love I needed to regularly buy the other person nice presents or to take them out for meals, or to make sure that there was a nice house for us to inhabit. For me it was all about pampering them, feathering the nest, but ultimately it was all about the material expression and giving them things. Looking back on it, I guess I was subconsciously trying to continually buy their love.

Nowadays I realise that as nice as those things are for some people, that’s not what love is. Love is something far deeper than that. It causes us to expose ourself to considerable risk of hurt if our love is rejected or not reciprocated. And that can be a very hard thing to cope with. Which means for many of us, we don’t take that risk so we never give out nor experience true love. I know I’ve certainly been there before, and I’ve been badly hurt before too, which stopped me from having any relationships for a long time for fear of being hurt again.

Nowadays I am in a great relationship with a partner who I love deeply and who loves me deeply in return, so what changed?

For me, I guess what changed was coming to accept that no matter what others felt about me, whether they loved or hated me, it didn’t hurt me unduly provided that at the heart of it all, I loved myself.
And that is very often the hardest and most overlooked aspect of our lives!
How can we love ourselves? We have all these issues, problems, bad habits, how can we love ourselves? And yet, if we do not love ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to love us? And if we can’t expect anyone else to love us, then how can we risk loving anyone else?
Which puts us in a very disempowering place where we deep-down crave to be loved, but we don’t feel we can be loved and we don’t give out love – by not giving out love we can not hope to receive love, and so the vicious cycle continues, driving loneliness and misery; a misery from which we seek solace by attempting, albeit subconsciously, to “buy” love.

What if we loved ourselves, however?
If we really, truly, deeply accepted, celebrated and loved ourselves?
Not in a narcissistic way, but in a way where we truly accepted ourselves, we loved who we are, and we felt deeply at peace with “us”.
When you feel that way about yourself, when you know that you are loveable and loved, then other people’s reactions have far less power over you; sure, it would be nice if that special someone loved you, but if they don’t then you are still great, you are still loved by you, and you can get through the day. The love of another becomes not a crutch upon which we depend, something which we must grab from the nearest candidate and cling onto at all costs; rather, it becomes something which we can cherish and develop with the right person when they come along, but meanwhile without that other person we are able to stand on our own two feet and to live life to the full, enjoying it.
And when we love ourselves, when we know that others can’t hurt us, then we no longer feel vulnerable.
And that is the point at which we can truly begin to love others and to offer our love freely and without condition. Such true and genuine love for and to others, given freely from a place of strong self esteem, makes us so much more attractive to others and stands us in a far better place from which to find and receive true love in return, for we are not oozing off-putting desperation, we are exceeding self confidence, self esteem, we have the air of someone who will love the other person because of who and what the other person is, rather than because we will get something out of it.
Would you want to be “loved” by someone who expects things in return and is treating the whole thing as some sort of transaction?
Or would you rather be loved by someone who loves you for you and doesn’t expect anything in return but loves you anyway?
I strongly suspect the latter would make you feel far more loved and appreciated!

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It is only by truly learning to accept and love ourselves that we open ourself up to the ability to love others and to even be loved in returned, loving purely for the sake of loving rather than out of any dependency or desperation or expectation.

Our of the 7 billion people on this planet, you are the only one who is you; you are the only one who can think and do the things you think and do, in your own unique way. What’s not to love about yourself? Nobody else will ever be as good at being you as you are – what better reason to love yourself and to know that you ARE worth loving?
If you don’t feel you are worth loving, nobody else will.
But when your self esteem allows you to love you, others can grow to love you too.

At the start we considered the question “what is love?”.
True love really is an expression of our own self esteem.
And that can be a very empowering realisation and a very powerful position from which to build your life!