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  • Published: 17 October 2023
  • ISBN: 9781761341892
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $39.99


Answers to the conundrums that keep you up at night • Advice from Ask Shameless


'What if I never love myself?'

‘Nobody will love you until you love yourself.’

I’ve heard this message on repeat since the age of 14. It has beenso drilled into me that I have 100 per cent learned to believe it and have therefore been working on myself since that age.

I’m 25 years old now and would love a partner. I’ve never had one as I’ve been waiting until I am happy in my own skin. Yet, that day is still not here. I’ve told myself repeatedly that when I am self-confident and show self-love, I will allow myself to open up to someone else. But now I feel so much pressure on me that I constantly shut myself off from people. I’m scared of not being good enough for anyone else because I am not good enough for myself.

I know this saying came from a good place – it’s so important to encourage people to love themselves instead of falling into destructive patterns in relationships. But it has become something toxic for me.

Zara McDonald:

What a letter. (I don’t play favourites, but if I did, I think this would be the one.)

You are absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, 100 per cent bang on to question the toxicity of a well-worn mantra like this one. Don’t get me wrong, the saying has done its job. It’s reminded a whole host of us that self-love is more important than romantic love. There will always be merit to the idea that we must find comfort in who we are and not rely on another person to fill any void within.

However, here’s another thing I know to be true. People (or, in this case, someone) will love you no matter how you feel about yourself. I don’t know many people who feel wholly at peace with the entire constellation of who they are. We all have stuff we’re insecure about and parts of our personality we hold in disdain. Finding a salve for insecurity is an almost impossible task.

With that in mind, I can understand why you feel shamed by an idea that’s sold as something empowering. But maybe it’s worth getting a little granular here. If so many of us don’t experience total and unconditional self-love, what does it mean to love yourself at all?

Well, in this context, I’d argue loving yourself means understanding what you’re worth. It’s going into the dating world with a firm idea of what you deserve, what you value and exactly what you need in a relationship to feel fulfilled. It’s feeling strong enough not to settle.

The minute you have a sense of that, you’re absolutely ready to love and be loved.

One thing I learned a little too late is that we all need people to remind us that we are lovable. We’re not actually meant to move through the world relying solely on ourselves – we need to be cared for by others. It’s crucial that people tell us, from time to time, why we are here and what we are worth. I think so many of us have accidentally swallowed the idea that it’s some kind of failure of feminism (and ourselves) to rely on others for our sense of self. But it’s more nuanced than that. Sure, we should have our own backs, but we need others to have them, too.

Your self-awareness is pretty incredible. And if I’m honest, being self-aware is probably one of the most important traits to have in a relationship – knowing your strengths and limitations is crucial to being a good partner.

You are more than ready to find someone if that’s what you still want to do. So maybe it’s time to get out there and try.


The Reply:

I submitted a question a few months ago which was answered beautifully by Zara. My dilemma was around the saying, ‘Nobody will love you until you love yourself’ and the way I struggle to integrate this positively into my romantic life. Zara’s response raised goosebumps and got the tears flowing (in a good way!).

In response to what I’ve done since reading this reply . . .honestly, so far, not a whole lot of action. There’s been lots of reflecting and re-reading the reply and discussing it with my close friends and sister. But, there has also been goal setting! Zara helped remind me that I have a lot to give and also, that I’m worth receiving. So, my plan for this year is to aim for one date a month! I’m excited, and so curious to see where it leads.

4am Zara McDonald, Michelle Andrews

The creators of Shameless and bestselling authors of The Space Between bring you a collection of their most popular advice columns from Ask Shameless.

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