Do you think you’d be happy if only something in your life changed?
Do you think your relationships, work, and health would be better if only a certain person acted a certain way, if only there weren't so many obstacles, or if only your soul mate would finally show up?
Those two little words—“if only”—they’re dangerous. They’re the real reason you’re not enjoying the life and love you want. They actually distract you from the real cause of your unhappiness.
The “if only” way of thinking sends us looking for answers outside ourselves, forever trying to change how others behave to feel better about our own lives.
It turns us away from the one thing that can actually change how we feel about our lives. And that is turning inward and addressing how we feel about ourselves. To feel at peace and fully content with our lives, we must first and foremost learn to love ourselves.
But here's the tricky part: Most of us don't even realize that we don't love ourselves.
We think "if only" we could make a little more money, we could afford the things that would make us really happy—like remodeling our kitchen, buying a better car, or booking a vacation to Hawaii.
“If only” we could get some cooperation around the house from our partner or kids, we could finally relax and do something nice for ourselves instead of wearing ourselves out keeping things tidy and functioning.
If only we didn't work such long hours or have such a long commute, we would have the energy to go to the gym and eat better and take better care of our health.
But the truth is none of those "if onlys" will make us feel happy at all.
Yes, even if you’re single and you finally met that special someone who ticks all your boxes and pushes all the right buttons—if you don’t love yourself first, you won’t be able to sustain a genuine, loving relationship with another person.
Even if you got everything you wanted, something else would eat away at your contentment because the "if onlys" are just symptoms of the real problem.
Two signs you don't really love yourself:
It can be hard to know whether or not we truly love and accept ourselves. We all have bad days. So, what are the signs that you actually don't love yourself?
These two are particularly insidious, because they lie beneath that chronic sense of discontentment that can last decades—a lifetime, even. See if you can relate:
1. You run yourself ragged trying to be everything to everyone.
Your boss sends you last-minute requests, and you always do them right away, even when it means missing dinner dates, time with your kids, or workouts with friends at the gym.
You offer to watch your neighbor's dog while he's on vacation, even though you barely have time to walk and play with your own dog.
You say yes even when you don't have the time, energy, or desire because you don't want to disappoint the people who count on you.
You think you're just not organized enough, you don't set good enough boundaries, or there's just not enough time to do everything you want to do. But that isn’t the problem at all.
The problem is that you don't love yourself, so you're always trying to prove something to someone—that you're a good partner, a good parent, or a good employee. Unless you learn to love yourself, you'll forever run yourself ragged and never feel accomplished.
2. You never feel like you're "enough":
No matter what you do for others, you don't feel like you're enough. Translation: You don't ever feel that people truly love or respect you. Nothing you do is ever enough to make others (or yourself) satisfied for long.
If you're single, this shows up in that sinking feeling you get whenever your partner is acting distant or you worry whether or not they'll call you again. They may have told you they had a nice time on the date, but you won't believe them. You're convinced that other people have great relationships but that you never will.
If you're in a relationship, it could mean that you seethe with jealousy whenever your partner talks about another person or pays attention to anyone else. You fear being abandoned, and you worry about them breaking up with you. You can't handle criticism, and you feel like your partner is constantly on your back about something.
At work, it means not feeling appreciated or respected for your contribution. At home it can be second-guessing how you treat your kids. Did you say the right thing? Is someone going to think you're a bad parent?
It could show up as never being happy with how you look or feel and, therefore, giving up on the habits that can really make a difference in your health.
You may think all of these problems are the results of choosing the wrong partner or having an inconsiderate boss or out-of-control kids. But, actually, these are all symptoms of your lack of self-love.
It can lead to strained or broken relationships, career setbacks, and a whole host of health issues.
You don't have to run yourself ragged anymore. You don't have to feel inadequate in any area of life or wonder if you'll ever be loved the way you deserve to be.
You just need to learn how to tap into who you really are and then accept yourself fully.
Do you know what you truly want in love?
The first step in ending the “if only” trap is to make a commitment to loving yourself! Make it your greatest personal growth project.
The second step is to embrace all your feelings—even the “ugly” ones. If you hate yourself for being overweight, you love yourself for hating yourself. The more you resist a negative feeling, the more it grows. But love it, and it starts to lose its power over you.
The third step is to ask yourself what you truly want in every decision you’re faced with. If you think about what other people may want for you, you will suffer in two ways: You will never live a life that’s authentic, and you will grow resentful about it.
But the most important shift you can make right now toward finding genuine, lasting love is to identify the root of the problem—which is to realize where you’re denying yourself love. Only once you cultivate a loving relationship with yourself will you be able to have a truly loving relationship with someone else.
And, rest assured, you’re not alone in this journey. The plague of self-hatred affects us all.