Ways to cultivate self-love when you look for it elsewhere
Question: My new boyfriend isn’t ready to have sex with me yet; he wants to take things slow.
I’m finding it very hard emotionally because I feel unattractive, and I’ve always valued myself through sex.
What can I do?
We all want others to like us
It’s normal for you to want people to like you. To a certain degree, we all want people to like us.
Maybe your caretakers never gave you the love and validation you needed growing up, so you seek validation from others to make yourself feel valued and wanted. That makes sense to me.
Or maybe you’re used to being in relationships with people who told you they loved you all the time and showed it by having sex with you, early and often (also the rule of salting food, I think).
But not everyone shows their love the same way, and some people need time to open up to you (which sounds healthy to me).
Can you sit with the discomfort of being in a new relationship with someone who wants to take it slow?
You might be thinking that there might be something wrong with you because they don’t want to have sex with you.
And if you felt better about yourself, on the whole, you wouldn’t need validation from your new boyfriend or girlfriend.
Taking things slow is healthy and part of the natural ‘getting to know you’ stage of relationship-building.
Taking things slow keeps means you get to make sure you’re entering into a relationship with someone loving, caring, and kind.
It also means having to sit with the discomfort of not knowing exactly how someone feels about you (unless, you know, you asked them how they felt about you).
We all want external validation
I do it too.
Deep down, I’m a people pleaser. I like it when people like me.
And I can’t stand it when people don’t.
I still turn to people to make myself feel better. When people like me, I feel good about myself. When people don’t like me, I feel bad.
Over the years, though, I’ve started caring less about what others think of me and started caring much more about what I think of myself. I don’t turn to outside sources of happiness, love, and validation as much as I used to.
Because in the end, what’s more important? How others see me sometimes, or how I see myself all the time?
My favorite quote on the subject is,
“What others think of you is none of your business.”
It a challenging concept to wrap your head around, but once you get there, you’ll reap the benefits of living your life doing what is right for you rather than what is right for others.
Self-love is an inside job
And deep down, you know this too. It’s called self-love for a reason. It comes from the self, not from external sources of validation.
Sure, it feels good when someone tells you that you’re doing a great job at work or that you’re a fantastic and sexy person, but it’s a fleeting reward.
What isn’t fleeting is cultivating the kind of love for yourself that is unshakeable and that you can count on day in and day out.
And even when you can’t, you know deep down that you’re a valuable human being. You don’t need someone to tell you or show you that you’re wanted.
I know this to be true, yet I still fall into the trap of looking outwardly for love.
Sometimes it comes out in seeking validation through sex, like you. Other times it’ll be through dating apps. The more I match, the better I feel.
But it’s always a temporary fix, and a weak one at that.
Because the solution to self-love isn’t to seek it from an outside source, self-love comes from within (it’s called self-love for a reason).
So, my dear friend, I have a question for you.
How Can You Give Yourself the Love You Seek From Others?
Think of anything that you can do yourself, which will support you feeling the love you seek from others.
- Do you have a yoga practice that you’ve wanted to deepen?
- Do you want to move your body more?
- Is there a work project that will bring you satisfaction and fulfillment?
- Are there activities that used to bring you love that you can pick back up?
- Can you spend more time with friends and family who bring you happiness and love?
- Can you find other sources of love that aren’t romantic or sexual and will bring you love, care, compassion, health, and happiness?
The better I feel, the better I feel about myself, the more attractive I feel, the more confidence I have.
Here’s a snapshot of my self-love routine
- Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Go on long walks a few times per week, without my telephone
- Activate my body with running, hockey, skiing, yoga, stretching, and playing outside
- Play with, pet, and cuddle my dog as much as possible
- Try to get 6–8 hours of sleep each night
- Try to help people through my work as much as possible
- Volunteer when I can
- Meditate for 5 minutes a day (let’s not set the bar too high!)
- Call a few friends every day to say hi (sup, bro?)
- Spend time with people who want to spend time with me
- Check-in with a family member
- Try to find the funny side of sad situations
- Read anything in paper format (thus reducing my screen time)
On a good week, I manage about half of these.
On a not so good week, I’m happy if I get through a few of these every day.
Life is hard enough as it is without beating me up over any of it.
Eating well, moving your body, surrounding yourself with people who support and nurture us, saying no when your habit is to say yes, are all helpful tools are starting to take care of yourself.
Taking a bath instead of calling that person back, putting the phone down (after liking this post), going for a walk, eating something you don’t usually allow yourself to eat, and being sickeningly kind with yourself can help bolster your self-love routine.
What can you start adding to your self-care routine this week?
You are enough, just the way you are
It’s common for people to look at outside sources of validation when feeling unloved and attractive. To a certain degree, we all do it.
At the same time, we’d feel better about ourselves if we focused on cultivating a self-love practice that came from within.
Brené Brown nailed it in her book Daring Greatly when she said that we often wake up with a feeling that someway, somehow, we’re not enough.
The day hasn’t even started yet, and we’re already late to the game.
And I can completely relate. Sometimes I wake up, and the first thought I have is,
That’s a shitty place to start the day.
However, she goes on to tell us that we’re 100% enough the moment we wake up. We’re not late. We didn’t fuck up already.
Even if we do nothing that day, we’re where we need to be. We’re full of love and deserving of the best kind of love that is available. Loved, loving, and loveable. That’s a killer combo right there.
None of this is groundbreaking stuff. You know what you need to do to take care of yourself. But sometimes, it’s easier to have someone show us love than for us to do it ourselves.
Ultimately, your self-esteem, self-worth, and how attractive you feel should come from yourself, not from an outside source.
Because the love that comes from within is something you can count on, day in and day out.
Finally, talk about it
If you’ve been following my work for any length of time, you know that my catch-all solution to nearly every problem is to talk about it.
Can you muster up the courage to talk to your new partner about how you feel?
Can you open up about how unattractive you feel because they aren’t ready to have sex with you?
One of my favorite podcast guest, therapist, author, and professor Dr. Alexandra Solomon, talks about the concept of naming the shame to tame it.
When we share what’s happening inside, we allow shame to exit.
Name what you’re ashamed of, to tame the beast.
“Honey. I have something challenging to share with you. I’m not sure how to bring it up, but it’s important that I do. I’ve often valued myself through sex, and not having sex is making me feel unattractive. I’m not sure how to proceed, and I’d love for us to talk about it. Are you available for that?”
I’m not going to pretend for one second this is an easy conversation to have — it’s not.
But if you can find the courage to have open and honest discussions with your partner about the stories you tell yourself, you’ll find more closeness and intimacy with yourself and your new partner.
You got this, babe.