Saturday, July 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The Journey to Self Love

Surely we have all heard the myth about how you can’t love somebody else if you don’t love yourself. As much as self-love is something everyone needs to work on, healthy relationships can actually become a solid foundation for your journey towards self-love. 

When in a romantic relationship where there is good communication, genuine friendship and companionship, intimacy, sex and affection can become a source of confidence and reassurance. When it comes to sex or intimacy a majority of people find it hard to be naked in front of their partners, it is very common to feel uncomfortable with nakedness for a variety of reasons (like traumatic experiences, purity culture, beauty standards and body dysmorphia) that usually come in hand in hand. Healing your relationship with your body and self-worth is a long journey that comes from within. However, there is no reason why one should do it alone if they wish not to. External validation can help make you be kinder to yourself and begin helping you validate yourself, which is the ultimate goal.

However there is a danger that comes with receiving external validation when you are incapable of validating yourself, and that is dependence. The moment a person becomes your only source of validation and you don’t promote independence in aspects of your life, hobbies, friendships, etc… it is nearly impossible to extract yourself from the other person meaning you won’t love yourself because you won’t know what is independently yours.

Jade Berkley, a student at Royal Holloway, makes a very good point regarding relationships and codependency: 

“It’s important to be aware of the complexity of sexuality and self-image, we live in a world where social media constantly highlights the need to be perfect and hypersexualizes the body, it’s hard to escape this routine of internalized self-hatred.”

Having a good support system (through romantic relationships or just friendships) can help to separate yourself from these negative thoughts. When in a relationship, communication and independence are crucial. Creating an individual presence outside of your partner is essential for self-development and individual growth. The relationship has to feel like a safe space where you are allowed to be vulnerable, rather than a source of validation.

For a lot of people, sex is a vulnerable thing and can be emotionally draining. When sex is thoughtful, respectful, mindful and something outside societal structure (such as capitalistic ideals of beauty that objectify the body) it can help self-kindness as it reinforces positive concepts that will hopefully be internalised.”

Jade’s excellent point leaves me wondering, what makes a good relationship?

I believe you don’t need any experience for relationships, just a certain degree of emotional maturity, respect and communication.

In the end it all comes down to how willing are you to become the best version of yourself, there has to be a want in order for things to change, to stop repeating the patterns from the past and focus on healing yourself. Another point that comes with this self-love journey that not many people realise is the need to see other people as individuals. If you focus on yourself too intently you can lose sight of what other people around you are experiencing. So putting yourself above all else in the name of healing can also be damaging to your relationships.

There is no correct way of loving yourself but there is a certainty that you don’t need to embark on this journey alone if you don’t want to. Find good people to surround yourself with, people that you love and will help you love yourself.

Written by Cecilia Muñoz Fernandez

Photo by De’Andre Bush on Unsplash