Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Can you love someone else if you don’t love yourself?

12 December 2015


In my view, the biggest accomplishment in life is to love yourself for who you are. Certainly, not what (eg, role, position) you are as that tends to be of a temporary nature. Before writing this blog, I heard the John Legend song All Of Me on the radio. He sings: “Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections”. I am pretty sure that these words are meant for his lover. However, it could also apply to himself – or yourself. Accepting all of your imperfections isn’t easy though.

This topic is the result of a discussion with a friend. I believe that you can only love someone once you love yourself. She doesn’t. Deep down, I have always known that I didn’t genuinely love myself – or anyone else – until my early 50s. Possibly as I lacked role models. My divorce (at 50) was the start of finally standing up for myself and becoming independent – in my “mind”. During that process I also finally accepted my imperfections and learned to love myself for who I am.

The difficulty with this question – Can you love someone else if you don’t love yourself? – is the definition of love. Depending on your definition the answer is a yes or a no. Once you add the word unconditional to the definition of love then the answer gets more complicated and will – in my view – tend towards a no. In my view, unconditionality is a key word in any definition of love. 

I think and feel that people who do not genuinely love themselves, expect something in return when giving their love. Essentially, their love is conditional. Once the love is over, the self-hatred (or self-loathing) returns. However, it is easier to project that hatred – or loathing – onto the other person. Hence, the ferocity in their behaviour as they feel betrayed.

Conditional love is about receiving something that has been missing: admiration, attention, caring, respect – and even love itself. In exchange for that you give something that you may label yourself as love but which does not genuinely feel as love to the receiver. It may even feel like desperate “love”. Essentially, conditional love is unilateral love. Genuine or true love is unconditional and bilateral. 

A conditional unilateral love is doomed to fail. At least one person is likely to feel this – or worse: to find out about it – and will test its boundaries. Unfortunately, testing the boundaries of a unilateral love comes at a very high prize – a loss of respect for the other person. Actually, I have been at both sides of this equation. And one of these sides hurts a lot………

The above will continue as history usually repeats itself and we seldom learn from our mistakes. We make the mistake to view lessons in love as separate from lessons in/of life. Hence, there seems not much to learn. We ignore that our behaviour is causing our mistakes in love and life.

Love is a unique chemistry between two unique personalities. Each person brings his/her imperfect behaviour into that mix. True (bilateral) love allows for unconditional acceptance of mutual flaws. Unilateral love does not. Understanding our flaws in love and life is key to not repeating mistakes.

I’m not proud, I was wrong. And the truth is hard to take. I felt sure we had enough. But our love went overboard. Lessons in love. When will you ever learn. Lessons in love. When there’s nowhere left to turn. Level 42 – Lessons in Love

Level 42 – Lessons in Love (1986) – artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


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