Iconic drag queen RuPaul once said, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else!” These legendary words perfectly encapsulate the importance of self-love in relationships. From Instagram influencers to your advice-savvy friend, self-love is a widely preached and revered concept. But what exactly is self-love? The definition is subjective — some people would say it’s giving yourself a couple hours a day to watch Netflix, while others would suggest it is brewing a cup of your favorite tea as a nighttime ritual or giving yourself a spa treatment at home. Whatever it means to you, self-love is meant to uplift and empower you. Although it may seem like something reserved for alone time and personal care, self-love is also crucial in relationships and sexual health.
From hopping on long train rides late at night for one former partner who refused to pick me up, to consoling my next partner constantly and essentially being their therapist with no empathy in return, I’ve had my fair share of toxic relationships. Identifying warning signs is extremely challenging when you are head over heels for someone, especially when they are manipulative and controlling. Your reality becomes their reality, and suddenly you are trapped. Unfortunately, many people end up getting into toxic relationships and feeling stuck or even being physically stuck in an abusive household.
In relationships, it is all too easy to forget and neglect your own needs. Relationships are about giving selflessly and caring for the other person, right? In actuality, that’s not quite the gist of it. Without understanding your self-worth and having a sense of self-respect, one can often fall down the rabbit hole of sacrificing all of one’s mental and emotional energy for a partner who is undeserving of their time and effort. In the words of Ari Lennox, “Life is too short to be blockin’ your blessings like that.” It is important to get yourself out of toxic situations as soon as possible and, if necessary, to be aware of the resources that are available for leaving such relationships.
So how can we prevent toxicity in relationships and instead pursue healthy ones? The key is setting an expectation for ourselves and having a complete understanding of it before delving into a relationship, and doing that independently without anyone else’s biases. Whether that means avoiding relationships with people who tend to get jealous or possessive or who may radiate negative energy around your friends, you must ultimately stick to your instincts and decide what is best for you. Relationships are about growth and development as a human being. If you find yourself frequently making excuses for your partner’s actions or experiencing worsened mental health, that is where you must draw the line. This can mean setting new expectations for the relationship and vocalizing them with your partner, or simply ending the relationship in favor of finding a partner who matches your energy better.
On a similar note, self-love extends not only to relationships but also to one’s sex life and health. For me, self-love has been pivotal in the acceptance of my identity and sexuality. Coming to terms with your sexuality is something that takes patience. It took me years of confusion and internalized shame in high school to finally accept my sexuality as I entered college. Above all, accepting yourself is the ultimate priority before coming out. For people of some backgrounds and lifestyles, it may not be the right moment to come out, or perhaps they may only feel comfortable sharing that information with their chosen family. Either way, reflecting on your identity and learning to love and cherish it is deeply important. This process is extremely freeing and vital to maintaining one’s mental health, and it is one manner in which a person can practice self-love in a tremendously impactful way.
Just as acknowledging your standards and levels of comfortability is crucial in romantic relationships, it is necessary to apply this principle to your sex life as well. Sex takes a lot of confidence and familiarity with your body; it is an act in which you bare all and share your body with another person. Being unashamed of self-pleasure is one step toward self-love in sex. Knowing your turn-ons and what you enjoy alone can help you set boundaries and expectations for sex with someone else. It also takes a level of bravery and confidence to voice these desires sometimes, and this is why it is critical to find a sexual partner with whom you feel safe and heard while vocalizing these preferences. You want to be with someone who does not make you feel like you are asking for too much or prioritizing their pleasure over yours.
Body positivity is another way to practice self-love in sex. Insecurities and body dysphoria are real challenges to self-love, and in sex these insecurities can manifest themselves very prominently. However, it is important to remind yourself that you are good enough for anyone and that your body is attractive the way it is. Tackling these negative thoughts will allow you to feel comfortable in your own skin and accept the love and attention of other people (if it is wanted, of course).
To close, I once again quote Ari Lennox when I say “Self-love is the best love.” You are the most important person to take care of in your life, and you have to accept and love yourself before anyone else. Amen to that!
Contact Luna Khalil at [email protected] .