Self-love is a difficult thing to achieve. In my experience, I have struggled with self-love ever since I can remember. After being classified as overweight starting at age 11, I could not ignore the constant reminder that my body is not the ideal norm. When you’re surrounded by advertising, media and celebrity culture that praises a certain kind of body, you’re always reminded that you are not seen as desirable. If you don’t meet the status quo that these images perpetuate, self-love can become harder and harder to accomplish.

There’s a saying that I’m sure many of us have heard before: “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.” It’s problematic in many senses, but I didn’t realize until recently how much I had adopted that mindset. I don’t seek out romantic relationships for fear that I will not be seen as an ideal partner. It made me wonder just how many people are feeling the same way.

After a lot of thought and an uncomfortable journey into the depths of my own insecurities, I began to despise the statement “you have to love yourself before you can love someone else” more and more. Right off the bat, it implies that self-love is a concrete destination to which we can travel. Once you have “achieved” it, then you can try loving someone else. In reality, every single person struggles with something that they may not love about themselves. It’s a journey from which no one is exempt.  If we are waiting until the end of that journey, then, well, it seems like we would all be single forever, right?

Even though I’m still in the midst of a very complicated self-love process, I feel love for people. I feel love for my friends, my family, my pets. I think limiting our idea of love to romantic love is harmful, and I, like many others, am just beginning to realize this.

This is not to say that anyone should settle for anything less than what they deserve simply because they are in a complicated stage of their self-love journey. It’s more to say that we shouldn’t stop ourselves from looking for love, no matter how much we think we don’t deserve it.

I truly believe everyone should work on loving themselves and should prioritize their self-love before anything else. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you cannot love someone until you love yourself. Finding the things that are holding us back from living as our most authentic, whole selves sucks and takes time, but it may help us go from “you have to love yourself before you can love someone else” to “I deserve love no matter where I am in my self-love journey.”