Home My Journey How Do You Know When You Love Someone… Or Yourself?

How Do You Know When You Love Someone… Or Yourself?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

The title question is one that I saw come across my screen the other day and, in my usual fashion, I replied snarkily.

“You know it’s love when you start giving up stuff you really like to see them happy.”

When I posted news of my engagement on the blog, a reader asked me what I meant by the following:

I know myself. The old Erika would’ve made a man like my current fiancé take off running in the opposite direction. I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate him for who he is if I were the old me.


and really, it’s easy. Sort of.

My weight problems were a result of an emotional problem I had. Love is an emotion, a volatile one, at that. If I couldn’t handle my emotions properly and believed that the answer to all of my troubles could be found in the bottom of a container of Blue Bell, please believe that my lack of communication and problem solving skills would affect any relationships I’d engage in. Please believe I’d not be able to identify when a man actually loved me because I didn’t know what love looked like. I didn’t know what it felt like. I didn’t know how to identify it. And because I didn’t know how to identify love or the feelings it brings out of a person, it affected the love I gave and how I showed affection. It affected a lot. I just wasn’t a pretty picture.

It doesn’t sound like someone that a person who desires marriage would be interested in for anything long term. Someone emotionally stunted? Yeah, not so much.

When I talked about loving myself before, I wrote that I looked at how I loved my child – what I would sacrifice for her happiness, what I would struggle to acquire for her, what I wanted to ensure she would always have mentally as well as physically – and I wondered why I didn’t love myself the same way. It was through learning that process of giving love to myself in a very deliberate fashion that I learned what it was like to love someone. I mean, my daughter? I’d never even questioned my love for her. I’d never questioned what it felt like to love her. I’d never studied how hard I work to make her happy. I’d never questioned why I do the things I do for her. But turning that love back onto myself? There lied the challenge.

A combination of love and faith in that love got me to where I am, now. The things I’ve given up for Mini-me, the sacrifices I’ve made for her and the faith I had in the fact that I was doing the right thing all paid off, because those sacrifices are beginning to pay off for me in the end. Learning to sacrifice for myself? Win. Learning what it looks like to sacrifice, and see that sacrifice pay off for the recipient? Double win. Having someone in my life who is attracted to my ability to love and commit and sacrifice? That’s everything.

Can you imagine pouring everything you’ve got into someone who can’t give it back? Can you imagine displaying a willingness to give up everything for a person, and they not give in the same way? To value someone that highly, and know you aren’t seen worthy of the same? You’d leave, and rightfully so.

Loving myself requires effort. I have to show it every day. In the face of opportunities that might feel much more rewarding (like, say, binge eating), I have to make the hard choice out of love. I did it every day for my daughter, I learned to do it for myself and now, with a third addition to my household, he’s someone else I do it for.

In the book The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck once wrote that we apply meanings and feelings to love that don’t, actually, belong there… that once we realize that love is not essentially romantic and not, essentially, a feeling, we get to the point where we realize that love is an investment that requires work and effort to grow. It’s foregoing instant gratification for the pursuit of a higher goal, which is – more often than not – some kind of growth. While Peck was speaking spcifically to the growth of another individual, it’d be years after I first read the book that I realized it could apply to the growth of your own self, as well.

I do what I need to do for me. I know I’m beating an emotional eating habit. I turn down the things that trigger it. I don’t allow certain things in my house. I don’t give myself the chance to make excuses. I make the hard decisions for me because I know that I’m not ready to find out whether I’m ready. I am on an active path of loving myself, and I feel the benefits of such. It’s how I give, and it’s changed how I love. I’m more free, and I’m more vulnerable, and I’m happy.

I know not everyone will be able to relate to that, and while there are people who don’t care to read me talking about love all the time… don’t worry. I don’t care to blog about it all the time, either. However, because I talk about body image, compassion and learning to love oneself… and because my view of “love” is all-encompassing, I think it makes sense to mention here.

Soooooo, as snarky as I was being, I was actually kind of truthful. “You know it’s love when you start giving up stuff you really like to see them happy.” And just like your body thanks you and shows you, in return, the benefits of that kind of love by loving you back the same way? I’ve learned that pouring that kind of love into other human beings causes the exact same effect. It’s a powerful cycle, and can only make life better.

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Nannette Wade June 30, 2011 - 10:20 AM

Excellent post. My weight problem is absolutely a result of my emotional problem and thinking that the temporary calm provided by “comfort food” was a solution. I struggled with learning to love myself for many years. I used to cry just thinking about that concept. I recently realized that it is impossible to love myself and not realize it includes taking care of and loving my body. Denial is a trip. Over the years, I spent enormous amounts of time taking care of my sons, men, clients, friends, church members and community. I was miserable, depressed and overeating. Only after I began to love myself enough to take action toward improving my health was I able to open my heart to receive love. I read your blog all the time and began to emulate the way you care for yourself by preparing my own food and exercising. Today I weigh 252 pounds and that is okay because I am no longer 296 and being 252 is the only way to get to 135. As long as I continue to make the right choices regarding food and exercise, I’ll one pound at a time be at every weight between 252 and 135. The joy and satisfaction I get from knowing I’m taking care of myself gives me the patience, courage and strength to continue the journey. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I wish you and your daughter much happiness when you get married. Congratulations!!

Khyla July 1, 2011 - 5:03 PM

I thought this was a REALLY great post! I can totally relate to the whole challenge of learning to love thy self. I have been on this Quest for Love (self love and romantic) for a very long time. I am 34 and I have not mastered it yet. Besides that I am not getting any younger and I would like to marry and have another kid before I reach 40. My journey has been rough mainly because I barely know where to start when it comes to learning to love myself and then love another (outside of motherly love to my child). However, reading your blog has given me a little insight and some inspiration too. It all came right on time too considering that today is day 5 of my efforts towards “clean eatting”…

Kimberly January 29, 2013 - 1:01 AM

“Today I weigh 252 pounds and that is okay because I am no longer 296 and being 252 is the only way to get to 135. As long as I continue to make the right choices regarding food and exercise, I’ll one pound at a time be at every weight between 252 and 135.” BRAVO!!!!!!!!

Kia June 30, 2011 - 11:25 AM

Thank you for posting this is really insightful and I needed to read it!
And for the record I can relate.

1beautifullymade October 20, 2011 - 11:42 PM

Thank you. I needed this.

Aliya January 4, 2012 - 11:01 PM

Loved it…. very profound and inspiring as to the intense need for my own self-reflection… You rock!

SB January 20, 2012 - 7:25 PM

Wow, just read this. Wow!!! is all I can say. Profound and right on target. Blessings to you for sharing.

Leslie March 25, 2012 - 4:13 AM

It is definitely all that you mentioned. Loving oneself and loving others. At least now I’m at the point where I know when I’m emotionally acting out with any of my indulgences or vices. I like to visualize a young me – toddler to say 17 years old – and how would I treat her. Would I want her to be unhealthy? Be unhappy with her body image? Make poor choices consistently that I knew would hurt her later about health, romance, friendships? The answer is NO. So I act accordingly….don’t date that guy date the other one (…the “good” one that seems less exciting at 1st but treats you with love and respect), don’t eat that, go exercise, don’t worry about what other people think, stop hanging out with those chics, you know they don’t really care about you (bet as soon as you do, you’ll have more peace and attract one quality person to you that would matter more that 3 of the other “friends”; don’t always be combative, it’s ok to let other people have the last word, and many others. I mother me.

MP August 29, 2012 - 10:04 AM

This was a very good post. I needed this today.

@Leslie – thank you for your reply. It really hit home for me and brought tears to my eyes.

Annette May 27, 2012 - 2:28 PM

Nicely said I know I would do it for my family yet wouldn’t consider doing it for myself. Wouldn’t consider myself worthy enough. I had to stop the tape of my mothers voice in my head and remind myself yes you are worthy. Yest you deserve the very best. Yes you are loveable or loving, and her anger for what it was

Learning to be vulnerable again isn’t easy for me, I have learned to be patient with myself and give myself the space to heal. I constantly test the waters, and speak my mind more. Of course I am a work in process. It is about loving yourself and being comfortable looking at it, it’s the place we don’t want to face. We can run to this and that program yet it is about loving ourselves and feeling we deserved to be loved back.

Kendra May 31, 2012 - 4:55 AM

I really love this blog. Like many I can relate with the things you write about. I have been overweight most of my life, my highest weight being a little over 300 pounds. I lost about 110 pounds and still working hard to lose another 40 before I reach my goal weight. I still struggle with my body image. Sometimes I catch myself in that 300 pound-type-of-mindset, I do not look desirable,therefore, I do not love myself and nobody could love me.
It is hard to start loving yourself if you hated the way you looked for a long time.

marie August 16, 2012 - 12:40 PM

” I know that I’m not ready to find out whether I’m ready.”
You are so right and that can be applied to a lot of things. I noticed that it is really important to give yourself some time to learn how to manage some stuff ( like cravings)
As per love, I am on the path of loving myself because all my previous relationship where a mess and even my ex have a part of responsibility I still have some issues to fix and only me can do that.
Thanks for the post, really that make sense now ( yeah I read it a while ago but I have to admit I didn’t not understand it LOOL)

Kahja August 28, 2012 - 8:15 PM

What do you do when your eating issues are not emotional, but social? I don’t eat out of depression or any void or unhappiness. I’m dating, meeting and socializing with friends, going out for drinks, traveling, and all of these things seem to be indicative of someone who is enjoying life and having fun, but they all include a component of eating out, which I believe is a big part of the reason that my weight is where it is. My girlfriends and I debrief over coffee and dessert. I reconnect with old co-workers over brunch. Dates always seem to include sushi, or thai, or drinks, and are almost always occuring at night. How do I make the adjustment without feeling like you have to give up all of my social outlets?

Erica August 28, 2012 - 8:35 PM

Your post is awesome!!! I too have been on a journey myself. Finding me!! Loving on myself unconditionally!! Weightless. In a few months I will be celebrating 2yrs of a new me. Year one down 120lbs.. Year two maintaining the weightloss. It all starts from within clearing the demons out and recognizing what got you to a certain point over weight, low self esteem etc.. Being balance and having a strong faith base is the key to loving freely… Even when it’s not reciprocated all the time… Girl I start to ramble … Love you blog and appreciate you for inspiring me … There are so many that have to be reach young and grown

Melva September 1, 2012 - 3:43 PM

I first want to say thank you lady!!!!!!!For sharing your stories and letting me know that I’m not the only one in the world struggling with my weight and self love.This blog was not only POWERFUL but UPLIFTING as well.Thanks again lady 😉

Valerie October 24, 2012 - 2:38 PM

Let me start off by saying thank you!! You are such a great inspiration. Today I have been reading a lot of your blogs (even when I am suppose to be working) lol and I have to say this particular one had me in tears because it truly spoke to my heart and soul. I never looked atthe fact that I am really loving myself more now because I have decided to give up things/foods to make me/my body happy. I just recently decided to start this journey of losing weight and it has been hard but during this time I am taking care of me in the process!! Thank you for everything you have posted rather it’s articles, blogs, pictures or recipes…you are such a blessing !!!!

Carol King January 27, 2013 - 2:54 PM

Such a fantastic post and I could not agree more. Having gone through my own weight loss journey I now fully believe that it is impossible to love another without loving ourselves and it is also impossible to lose weight without learning to love yourself AND your body.

Ericka September 13, 2013 - 7:22 AM

Thank you, as always, for being so vulnerable. It is helping so many people delve deep into their own souls to find healing. I am still looking for the reason I allowed myself to be 80 pounds overweight for 8 years. I’m sure it is emotional, but I still have not pin-pointed the exact reason. I’ve never been an emotional eater, I just didn’t give a hoot what I ate and I wasn’t active.
I’m seeing myself as being more outgoing now than what I’ve ever been, even though I have at least 20 more pounds to lose. I’m feeling like a much better person and I’m ready to BE that better person. And yes, I want to make sure I love myself before putting myself out there for someone else to love me. First things first!

marie July 4, 2014 - 8:52 AM

Thought you would like this blog post about Esther Ekhart

By the way her Yoga classes are AWESOME. I even moved to a subscription on her site. But she has a lot of free videos on Youtube as well.

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