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What is the powerful secret to loving ourselves that almost none of us get taught? Why do our efforts to love ourselves often feel like they lack the necessary leverage? Learning these lessons changes the way we date and the way we live. In this episode, Ken Page helps us work with two questions and approaches that will help you reclaim self-love.
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How To Love Yourself First
What is the secret to learning to love ourselves first that we are almost never taught? Stay tuned to this episode of the Deeper Dating® Podcast to learn more.
Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Deeper Dating® Podcast. I’m Ken Page and I’m a psychotherapist. I’m the author of the book Deeper Dating® and I’m the Cofounder of DeeperDating.com®, an environment for single people to meet in a way that’s inspiring, positive, fun and emotionally safe. Today, I’m going to be speaking about how to love yourself first, and in this episode and every episode, I share with you the greatest tools and insights that I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing, and heal your life through that process, because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love, and we know that the skills of love are the greatest skills of all for a happy life.
If you want to know more about the Deeper Dating® path to real intimacy, just go to DeeperDatingPodcast.com. You can sign up for my mailing list, get information about free workshops that I do, events that I lead, and you get some free gifts, and you can learn more about how to use these ideas to transform your own intimacy journey, as well as transcripts of every single episode.
I just want to say that this podcast is educational in nature. It’s not medical or psychiatric advice or treatment, and if you think you need psychological help, please seek that kind of help. It’s such an important thing. Finally, I just want to say that if you like what you learned here, I’d love it if you could subscribe and leave me a review. It’s just a joy to see your reviews and to have you subscribe and to spread the word as well, so let’s jump in.What is the powerful secret to loving ourselves that almost none of us get taught? Click To Tweet
Everyone has heard this self-help platitude. You need to love yourself before you can love anyone else. That may sound really wise, and in some ways it is really wise but in another way, it misses a really great truth. If we want to experience true intimacy, we actually need to be taught to love aspects of ourselves, probably again and again, by the people around us. As much as we want to control our own destiny, the humbling truth is that sometimes the only way to learn self-love is actually by being loved, and often precisely in the places we feel the most unsure and the most tender.
When that happens, there’s a feeling of freedom and relief and permission, and permission to love in a deeper way and live in a fuller way. No amount of positive self-talk can replicate that exact experience because it’s a gift of intimacy. It’s not a gift of willpower, but that vulnerability, if we share that vulnerability with the wrong people, and if that vulnerability is met with derision or disinterest, something very tender shrivels and retracts and contracts inside of us. We start to think twice about ever sharing that part again.
I love this episode of The Chipmunks where Simon, for those of you who don’t remember The Chipmunks, but I guess a lot of you do because there have been these new movies, but anyway, Simon fell head over heels in love, but he had no idea how to win this chip girl’s heart. Dave says to him, “Just be yourself,” and Simon just wails, “I tried that already.” That’s what it’s like for so many of us. We start out innocent and fresh, and we try that at first, just being our unadulterated self, and we get shamed, we get humiliated, we get rejected, and we learn that that was really kind of stupid and shameful and embarrassing thing to do.
When our authentic self doesn’t work in the world that surrounds us, instead of working to find a world where that authentic self does essentially work, we instead create a false self that lets us feel safe and accepted in whatever world we’re placed in but at really significant cost. Donald Winnicott, the great psychoanalytic theorist, said, “Only the true self can be creative and only the true self can be real, can feel real.” I also think that only the true self can bear the risk and the profundity of deep intimacy.
Every time we face the choice to share our deeper self, it’s like standing at a precipice and often, it’s just too scary to take that next step forward. An image that’s a little bit intense but I think really captures it is this. Imagine taking a pet that you love and putting it in a yard with an invisible electric fence. When this pet moves outside its allowed space, it gets stunned by an unexpected shock. It’s only going to take a few jolts before your pet gets the message. If it goes too far, punishment is instantaneous.
In a short period of time, your pet will actually not even act like the borders exist. It will simply avoid them. Its world will become small enough that it doesn’t get close to the fence, and if it’s pushed to the danger zone closer, it’s going to exhibit increasing signs of anxiety, because the world outside the fence just is not worth the pain.
Now, imagine turning off the charge from the fence and then placing a bowl of food outside the perimeter of it. Your pet might be starving but it’s going to be terrified to enter into this newly freed up space and when it finally does, if it does cross the line, it’s going to be trembling. It’s going to be anticipating the pain of a new shock, and it’s the same with us.
Return Journey To Intimacy And Authenticity
Even though we yearn for the freedom of our true self, some deep reflective instinct reminds us of what that shock felt like, and it tries to protect us from being hurt again. The kind of breathtaking return journey that we take to that self is the journey of intimacy authenticity. It’s a magical and powerful journey, and it’s kind of what I devote my professional life to helping people move through.You need to love yourself before you can love anyone else. Click To Tweet
When we can go back and see the treasure in those parts of us, what I call the Core Gifts in those parts of us, and we start to name and honor and champion those gifts, our world changes. It truly, truly changes, and our dating life changes, and the way we protect ourselves changes. It stops being that we protect ourselves by hiding this part based on shame and fear. Instead, we start to treat this part with honor and create language that allows for its needs, its fears, its desires, its passions, and its sensitivity.
We learn words to educate the people around us, and what those needs are, and it also learns, and we learn, how to protect this precious and often pretty traumatized part of ourselves, by looking for those people with whom we feel deeply seen and safe, which is a shift too because the old pattern that goes hand in hand with that shame is to look for people who are not like that, and try to convince them why we’re worthy of love. It’s the path to hell that many of us have been on many times in our lives.
How do we learn about this true self and the full self we create? Thinking about the two following questions will help you do that. I encourage you to pause the podcast. It’s wonderful to listen to this podcast while you’re driving or walking because you just have time to reflect while you do it. First, a rich and important question. What parts of your authentic self did you have to hide or camouflage or airbrush in order to survive in your childhood? Again, you can pause the recording.
The parts that you thought of and articulated are parts that I call Core Gifts, and they are central to your empowerment and your emergence into the world, and into healthier intimacy. They are treasures, often orphaned treasures. Here’s the next question. In your current relationships, where are you confined to too small of a space? What parts of yourself are you not expressing? You can pause there and think about that.
In my work as a psychotherapist, what I’ve found is that we tend to be ashamed of our most unique, passionate, sensitive and iconoclastic parts. Those parts of ourselves threaten our safety, but as I talk about in all of my work, they’re the direct path to love and not incidentally to our personal greatness. When we suppress these challenging gifts, we’re left with a sense of emptiness and aloneness. Suppressing these qualities is an act of quiet violence against our being.
This shame though, that we feel around our most vulnerable attributes, is almost universal, and even our best thinking barely budges it, so how do we free ourselves from this thrall of learned shame, fear and reactivity around our deepest gifts? I think that often the best and sometimes the only way out is through relationships. Relationships that instruct us in the worth of our most vulnerable self, and help it find a language to express itself, appreciate itself, protect itself, and give of itself in the world.
Relationships Of Inspiration
Often, people in my intensives and in my group talk about that experience of feeling like all of this sounds great but, “I can’t even picture a romantic relationship like that. Maybe I have that with some friends, some family members or maybe not, but to picture it in a romantic relationship is too hard. Do I have to be able to picture that before I can have it?” I say, “No. Absolutely not.”
You can get to the point where that’s possible by A, making a choice to only look for those people because that is profoundly self-healing. That very choice is incalculably self-healing, and then second, to look for those people and when you find them, to practice trusting and to practice speaking, but it’s natural to do it with those people as opposed to in a vacuum.Only the true self can be creative, and only the true self can feel real. Only the true self can bear the risk and the profundity of deep intimacy. Click To Tweet
Who of the people you know sees and relishes your true self? Who isn’t too afraid of your passion or judgmental of your sensitivity or envious of your gifts? Who has the generosity of spirit to really encourage you toward greater expression of these parts of you? Those people are your gold in dating, in friendship, anywhere. Practice leaning on them more and also giving more back to them. That’s kind of like a recipe with safe people for deeper intimacy. Swing out in terms of what you ask for, and swing out in terms of what you give, and swing out in terms of what you receive.
These relationships are quite simply the way out of shame and the way into richer, deeper love, and the possibility of that kind of love. They are what I call relationships of inspiration, and we usually need to start building these relationships into our non-romantic lives, our friendships, our social connections, before we actually start finding them in romantic partners.
When you date someone who has those qualities, celebrate and recognize the progress that you have made, to let them in, to not run away, to not push them away, or maybe you run away a little bit and you push them away a little bit, but not fully. I encourage you to celebrate that because really, that’s a huge point in our evolution toward finding healthy love.
Don’t think that you need to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps to kind of learn self-love,0 because that’s kind of an isolated way to do it. It’s a wonderful way to do it in part, but we also need to do it by choosing those people, connecting more deeply with those people, and little by little learning that those parts of us are absolute treasures to the right people. That’s an incredible kind of personal liberation. Thank you so much for listening to this episode, and I’ll see you on the next episode of the Deeper Dating® Podcast.
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Pure gold, Ken. Thank you so much!
Awesome advice Ken! I enjoyed the insights in your book and practicing in the breakout rooms in your recent gay men zoom webinar!
Thanks so much, William. I truly appreciate that. I’m also so glad you were part of the event!