Why You Need to Love Yourself Before Loving Others

A satisfying relationship with a special someone doesn't happen overnight. If you're looking for love, you may wonder why it's just not happening. You may find the process much easier if you learn to love yourself first, experts say.

"If you don't put yourself first, then you are denying your abilities to the world around you," says Carolyn Bates, a certified personal life coach, or ICF. "Putting yourself first will support your self-esteem."

Learning to love yourself is a bit like going through therapy, Bates says. If you don't know yourself--who you are and what you want--it can be difficult for you to make solid, sustainable decisions about another person with whom you want to be close.

Learning to put yourself and your needs first can be especially difficult for women, says Susan Shapiro Barash, author of Toxic Friends and You're Grounded...But First Let's Go Shopping. "There is so much pressure on women in our culture, and you're pegged as a type early on," she says. "It can be hard to really feel good about yourself."

If you're not sure how to actually go about loving yourself, keep in mind:

1. Admit that there's a problem, says Barash. If you recognize that you need to become more in touch with yourself before entering a relationship, it can help prevent setting yourself up for that relationship to self-destruct.

2. Think about what your relationship style is, Barash says. Are you a pleaser? Are you a commitment-phobe? Once you start recognizing the patterns of how you fall into a relationship that does not work out it will pave the way toward a successful, meaningful relationship.

3. Work toward a goal of feeling that you are complete and whole on your own, says Lauren Mackler, author of Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. "This is much healthier than expecting another person to make you feel whole, she says. "Achieving self-sufficiency on your own builds self-esteem and confidence." Once you feel complete on your own, you will be able to participate in a relationship out of conscious choice, rather than from neediness or from fear that you can't take care of yourself, Mackler says.

4. Gain confidence in your ability to thrive. To do so, get involved in activities to keep busy. "Go to a movie, visit friends," Barash says. "You'll realize that you can get through a weekend without being lonely."

5. Know your role. It's important to recognize that you are not responsible for another person's happiness, Mackler says. "Don't permit yourself to be trapped by feelings of responsibility for another person's security," she advises. "This can breed insecurity and resentment."