Love and Our Self-Image

Love is complicated. No kidding. Therefore all I am trying to do is answer the following: Can a mental illness make us fall in love for the wrong reasons?

This answer seems to be a simple “yes”. Because with a mental issue like self-harm oftentimes comes self-hate and we end up relying on someone else to give us the approval and validation we cannot provide for ourselves. Here is the problem: while self-harm enhances that issue it is not the reason. In fact it is the other way around: self-harm and seeking validation from others both are a manifestation of our low self image.

Does this mean that we are not allowed to fall in love? Does it mean we have to get healthy and confident before we allow ourselves to fall in love? What would the natural consequence of that be? Say we never really recover, does that imply we never may give in to love because we could be doing it for the wrong reasons? If we have experienced falling in love and completely depending on that person, it may be understandable that the fear of falling for the wrong reasons might keep us from falling at all. But just because we made one mistake in the past does not mean we have to make another one in the present.

Depending on one’s loved one is natural to some degree. But I find it important to remember that we still are individuals. And as such it is crucial that we keep improving. That we keep working on our self-confidence. I think it is also vital that we talk to our significant other about these issues. A relationship is supposed to make us better as individuals. But the moment we stop improving we are getting worse. So if our relationship makes us dependent on the other person. If the relationship is the only reason we can love ourselves, it is not making us better. On the contrary. And that’s the point where it has to end.

How do we know if our relationship has turned into this? Because it may very well be that it started out as a healthy relationship. I think the best indicator is how much we are depending. And this however is individual. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to make a decision once and just go with whatever the loved one decides. But if the other one makes every single decision that is a clear indicator for dependence. Another one is when one is miserable without the other. And I am not talking about the normal missing someone. I am talking about that moment where you are constantly waiting for the other. The moment where your world is limited to the relationship we need to work on our independence. And this does not mean we need to break up. By no means. But it means that we should take action in some form. Most likely it is also a good idea to talk about it with out loved one. Because looking at it from the other angle putting this pressure onto someone is not fair just as much as it is unhealthy. No one is even remotely capable of being someone’s only reason to be happy. I am not saying that our relationships don’t make us very happy. But the point is that they add to our lives and are not the sole purpose of them.

One more sign would be that the relationship has become purely physical. And then we might just be holding on to it for the physical comfort. Which means we are not dependent on a person but on hugs or sex. Again: as long as we have a life outside our sex-life (my apologies for the explicity) that’s fine. And we have to decide whether or not that is a relationship worth having. Now, I am saying this because I never wanted a purely physical relationship, but I did not notice that I was in one until I got out of it. If we are in such a relationship we often do not see what is going on. And we cannot see because we are depending on it.

There is the possibility of being in a relationship for the wrong reasons. Or having a relationship conflict with us building self-confidence as an individual. But usually that is no reason to end our relationships or forbid ourselves to engage in one. As long as we don’t feel like our relationship is the only good thing in our lives. As long as we have other hobbies and passions, we are fine. In a good relationship we will always be safe and supported when we need it but at the same time we will be encouraged to have our own lives and we will be better as individuals just as much as we are better as a couple.

Hating ourselves

Self-hate is a problem. For some it is a reason to self-harm. For some it is a contributor. And for some it is just something they bury deep inside them. It devours them. And comes to the surface every time they feel that they failed.

Let’s take a step back. Where does self-hate come from? Why do we hate ourselves? Why? I think there are a variety of reasons. But a prerequisite to hate ourselves is that we believe that we are in control. Because if we have no control, we do not get to hate ourselves. Because if we cannot do anything, we cannot be guilty. And if we aren’t guilty, why hate ourselves?

That’s good news, isn’t it? We are in control. Which means that there is something about us, that we do not like. And we can change that. But what if we make the same mistake over and over and over again? What if we fall day after day? And we reach that point where we feel like it has no point. We do not want to get back up. We want to give in. We just want to hate ourselves for falling.

Again. Why? Why do we keep failing? We do we seem to be resistant to learning? There is no simple answer here. There are a few points that can be intertwined with each other. There are however a two major ones:

  1. We do say it is a mistake, but we do not actually believe so.
  2. We have not found the right way to avoid the mistake.

The first one is pretty much equal to lying to ourselves. It means that we are doing something that we like, but for some reason we think that it is wrong. Our believes collide with what we want. Well… sadly this has happened to me before. Several times. This can happen and sometimes we do not even know it is happening. We are not trying to lie to ourselves. But I think there is one crucial step we have to take, once we notice what is going on: Either we need to adjust our believes, to match our actions. Or we have to adjust our actions to match our believes.

And this is the second point: We might just have not found the right way to make sure we do not fall back into the same old traps. We need to develop strategies and techniques to trick ourselves into not making the same mistakes over and over. And it is fine to not find the right way immediatly. We all have to go our own ways. We are indviduals. We need to figure out what works for us. And often times that is a trial and error process. And that’s alright, as long as we keep going.

Now coming from someone who did self-harm and who has slipped down into the addiction of self-harm before that might sound very hypocritical. And yes. I have struggled with self-hate. Of course. I hate myself for cutting. And I hate myself, if I don’t. So yes. I might always be disgusted with myself, no matter what I do. But I also know that I do not have to hate. No one does.

Again: Failing is part of living. Falling is part of living. But Life is not about our failures. It is about how we got back up again. It is about how we grew from our failures. How we managed to go another day without cutting. How we lived our lives smiling a little bit more every day.

We do not have a reason to hate ourselves, for our mistakes. Not as long as we honestly fight them. Not as long as we try to become better. To not make them. Make plans to avoid them. Take action. Know that we are the ones forging our future. Or choose to make those mistakes. And then deal with the consequences. The choice really is ours.

But no matter what we do: There is no reason to hate ourselves. Because hate is only destructive.