I recently posted something on twitter to the effect of, you can’t actually fully love another, until you fully love yourself. I preach that gospel a lot. I’m sure you’ve all heard it. However, for some reason this post set one of my followers off to such a degree that I got several direct messages, 140 characters at a time, and a follow up email telling me how I was wrong. @angrytwitterfollower wanted to inform me that true love is selfless and that any other model of love was ridiculous.

Honestly, @angrytwitterfollower isn’t the first to buck the idea of self love being the most important ingredient in any relationship with another. Mothers call me on it all the time. “I put my children first. I always have and I always will.” Or, another one of my favorites, “The fact that I love my husband more than I love myself is what makes our marriage work. I put his needs before my own, and in return he does the same for me. That’s God’s plan.”

So, for the record, I’m going to lay it out here.

When you do not love yourself completely you are very vulnerable to the drifting opinions of others. You are quite likely to outsource some if not all of your self worth to other people who’s opinions shift and change in the wind. You can never be fully secure. Therefore your loving another can never be fully selfless. It’s always tied to a need to get something back in return. It might be approval. It might be feeling important by feeling needed. It might be needing to feel loved in and of itself. Whatever it is, it’s about getting a feeling from someplace external and when we’re dependent on the external we are always playing a risky game with our hearts.

When I am in a state of fully loving myself, fully at peace with who I am and what I have to offer others, I can love in a very big way. I can pour out the kind of love that changes things and and most importantly changes me. When I’m tight, unsure, and uneven I can do behaviors that might seem loving, might even be intended to be loving, but they are still just that, behaviors. That’s not the real deal kind of love I want in my life.