Searching for Love Outside of Yourself
At the core of every individual is the desired to be loved. At our very foundation, as social beings, is the need to feel a sense of belonging, that we matter. There is no greater sense of purpose or belonging than the security that accompanies our knowing that we are indeed loved.
In my years of working with clients, I have witnessed all too often, individuals who believe that if they could just find love—that special person that is meant for them—that all that troubles them and prevents them from living as their authentic selves will be washed away. They believe that their soulmate, if they could just find him/her, will cure them of their loneliness, fill the emptiness in their hearts, and heal the wounds of the past.
Any yet, in those same years working with my clients, I have found this flawed and wishful thinking to be an absolute recipe for disaster. Rather than find that one true love that will fix them, individuals who have not engaged in the important task of working on themselves, attract the sort of relationships that often exacerbate the insecurities and the negative core-beliefs they carry with them from the start.
Instead of hoping and wishing for someone to fix us, we must engage in the sometimes difficult yet rewarding task of first fixing ourselves.
All those feelings of low self-worth or personal insecurity grow from the same source: low self-esteem. When we cannot conjure healthy feelings of worth such as self-care, confidence, and self-respect, we look to other sources to provide those feelings for us. Even when we receive a positive emotional boost from others—particularly from those we love—it is not our self-esteem that we are boosting, it is something else entirely.
Renowned clinical consultant and educator, Pia Mellody, describes needing the approval and love of others to feel an individual sense of worth as codependency. Writing in her international best-seller, Facing Codependency, she highlights what is at play when our emotional value is reliant external sources.
If codependents have any kind of esteem, it is not self-esteem but what I call other-esteem. Other-esteem is based on external things… Getting satisfaction or enjoyment from [external sources] is fine, but it is not self-esteem. Other-esteem is based on either one’s own “human doing” [such as a job, material possessions, or status] or on the behavior of other people. The problem is that the source of other-esteem is outside the self and thus vulnerable to changes beyond one’s control. One can lose this exterior source of esteem at any time, so other-esteem is fragile and undependable. …And yet other-esteem is all many of us have.
When I developed the MaxxMethod program—based on my years of engaging clients as a licensed therapist and coach—I wanted to tackle this subject because I have seen its negative consequences far too many times. I have witnessed many well-meaning people fall into the pattern of seeking out loving relationships, not for the sake of romance and compatibility, but as a means to fill in the missing pieces in their emotional puzzles.
Enhance Your Emotional Intelligence, Enhance Your Self-Worth, Enhance Your Relationships
Having spent years observing and examining this pattern of behavior, I am of the firm belief that the absolute best way to avoid the pitfalls of other-esteem and relying upon someone to fix us, is to bolster our emotional intelligence as means to organically build-up our true self-esteem. When we take the time to be mindful of what is inhibiting our progress, to see ourselves outside of our negative thinking-patterns and engage in the practice of self-care and self-empathy, we are able to find value in ourselves that is not reliant upon external factors.
While most of us would prefer not to be alone—it can awkward, uncomfortable, and, obviously, lonely! —working on our emotional intelligence and building our self-esteem while we are single will lay the foundation for stable, healthy-functioning adult relationships in the future. It is far better to take the time to sort ourselves out first, rather than to plunge head-first into a relationship we are ill-equipped to navigate in a beneficial and respectful way.
When we increase our emotional intelligence, we become better at identifying our own emotions and managing them appropriately. We are better suited to identify the emotions of others and offer genuine compassion and understanding. When we are in tune with ourselves, we are more capable of being in tune with others and to clearly articulate our needs and desires without being petty or manipulative.
As our emotional intelligence grows, we begin to identify negative core beliefs and become aware that not all thoughts, feelings, and impulses are true, necessary, or relevant in the external world. This heightened sense of self-understanding allows us to be more stable in our temperament and interactions with others. It allows us to show compassion for others and to truly be invested in their lives without desiring a specific outcome or reward. From this state of emotional well-being we move closer to becoming our authentic selves and can enter a romantic relationship without much of the hang-ups and insecurities that will most assuredly sabotage our efforts.
Before we can find that meaningful relationship that we have long dreamt about, we must first fix ourselves by truly becoming aware of who we are; our shortcomings, our insecurities, and our fears. When we labor in the pursuit of increasing our emotional intelligence and building our self-esteem we are laying the ground work for a healthier and more fulfilling future.
If my years of work and experience have taught me anything about the pursuit of meaningful relationships, it is the assurance of knowing that if you make an effort of healing your present self, you will ultimately be making an investment in your future self and—believe it or not—your future partner.