Hear that? Listen real hard,
That my friends, is the sound of a well-meaning human telling someone else that in order to feel better or be loved by others, they must first learn to love themselves.
For many this phrase is the go-to advice to be given whenever they have a friend who is suffering from depression. And in theory, this advice makes sense and should be followed. However, life is not a theory. Learning to love yourself is no simple task, and I, for one, am sick of hearing this phrase thrown about like a cure all for people's problems.
Telling someone who hates themselves that their life will be better if they learn self-love is about as helpful as telling a penguin it can fly if it just flaps its wings. Sure it sounds good, but no matter how hard a penguin flaps, its feet will never leave the ground. Just as there are birds that can't fly, there are people who can't love themselves. But, if you told that penguin to jump in the water and flap its wings, that little guy would be swimming circles around you. I'm not saying that self-love isn't important, only that it is not the only way to feel whole as a person.
Drawing from my own experience, I need the love of others to feel good about myself. When I'm told that no one will love me if I don't love myself, it does a lot more harm than good. That is telling me that I will be alone until I have learned self-love, but when I am alone, there is no one to point out the good things. When I'm depressed I am not in a rational state of mind. When I am depressed, I am incapable of doing even the simplest things correctly. I need someone who loves me enough to remind me that I am not a stain on the underwear of society. It's almost the opposite of the saying in fact. For me, I need others' love to love (or at least not hate) myself.
Some people may think that this is an unhealthy state of mind, needing the love of others to feel whole. In reality, it is just an alternative way of surviving. I know that I love a lot of people who think poorly of themselves. It would break my heart if they were to think that I would suddenly stop caring about them because of their perceptions. People with depression/anxiety disorders feel alone enough as it is, without being told no one loves them. That's what it feels like when people use that phrase. It feels like you're saying no one loves them and it is their fault.
All of that being said, I would like to reitterate the fact that self-love is important on the road to fighting depression and anxiety. Just don't forget about all the other paths out there. And if this saying is your go-to advice, please don't stop trying to help others. Maybe just add a few more things to your advice bank. Below is a link to a list of things to say when are you trying to help someone who is depressed.