A thing about love: if we have never been loved well—and by this I mean having been treated with abundant care and respect by someone who is both worthy of our trust and committed to our thriving—it is nearly impossible to imagine what good love feels like, sounds like, looks like.
Overcoming the unfamiliarity of real love can require enormous effort and great leaps of imagination. We know from stories or from watching other people that love exists, but we don’t know that it exists for us.
I do not believe that self-love is a panacea for the absence of a love that we did not receive when we were wee and just learning to navigate the world. Still, my experience and observation tell me that it is crucial to *practice* loving ourselves—even in the smallest ways we know how to express care and responsibility and fondness—so that receiving love becomes a more familiar sensation, so that the experience of being loved becomes, little by little, natural and normal to us.
Because here is another thing about love: once we have been loved well, it is nearly impossible to mistake meager, irresponsible, or immature facsimiles of love for real love, for good love. We no longer wish to give or receive that which is not whole and real and true.
And once we have been loved well, and when we have received loved well, there is no going back and there is no keeping it to ourselves. We want it for everyone, not just some of us, because true love is abundant and expansive.