The moment narcissistic and emotionally clouded, Jerry Maguire uttered the words, “You complete me,” women and men swooned at the notion that love and self were fully realized when two fated-lovers decided they couldn’t live without each other. Though before the human head weighed eight pounds, both fiction and real life idolized this concept. The act of abandoning ourselves to another feels so powerful that, for centuries, we have mistaken this experience as the most desirable form of love. However, this love is inevitably unsustainable,personal humanity needs growth and no growth can occur in the shadow of another.
This loss of ego has fueled psychologist over the last several decades. Freud, while a leader in his field, never gave much thought to the psychology of women beyond biology predetermining destiny. When the housewives of the early 20th century heeded their civic duty by achieving house to Hoover vacuum, they still found themselves strangely lacking. It wasn’t until Betty Friedan titled the problem that has no name, ‘the feminine mystique,’ that abandonment of self and absorption in another proved fatal to the soul.
Now that women have liberated themselves from the confines of the home and find themselves tax-paying workers, how does this apply to modern day? To start, our media still reveres intoxicating love stories, even songs reverberate that love cures all with lyrics like “…all you need is love…” [Beatles] and society still places love (and marriage) as a shining achievement. We are enamored by love’s influence and so we fail to properly step back and see the big picture clearly. There are different relationship forms that exist today supporting a weakness of self. To name a few, there’s the overprotective relationship that objectifies rather than accepts a person for who he or she is. How many times have you heard someone referred to as “my man” or “my women?” There’s the 24/7 relationship, where separation anxiety controls interaction and eventually any exterior relationships suffer. Love is wonderful, but there is also a reason why we say it is blind.
Psychologist, A.H. Maslow discovered that people who succumbed their own identity in order to amalgamate with another, stunted maturity. The prevention of an independent self caused a person to be controlled by the emotions, opinions and actions of another. Their identity was defined through the eyes of someone else and not him or herself, thus insecurities and dependencies are either formed or perpetuated.
However on an opposite spectrum he realized that self-actualizing people could equally love themselves and another, both selfishly and unselfishly. While each appears contradictory, the dichotomy can co-exist and when it does, love is even more powerful and certainly healthier. Friedan stated in The Feminine Mystique, “Love for self-actualizing people…was not motivated by need to make up a deficiency in the self; it was more purely ‘gift’ love, a kind of spontaneous admiration.” In short, when one can love him or herself purely and love another for the same reasons, barriers are broken, trust is built, and as a result, intimacy is more rewarding.
The adage of, “You must love yourself before you love another. By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy,” has always rung true. When we seek and imitate grand gestures of love that promote assimilation over sustainability, we suffocate the self. And while dependent love seems to elevate us in the heat of the moment, we prohibit our natural capabilities in the long term. When we truly learn to trust ourselves, to love ourselves, there’s nothing to hide and that is why autonomous people make the best lovers.