Love is a feeling sought by many. It can be an overwhelmingly positive emotion to experience no matter what age you are. Love can be filled with gratitude and happiness but it can also lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. Even so, love is most often associated with happiness — but can love truly make someone happy?
Love can make you look at the world in a brighter way with more positivity. It can make you feel good about yourself and others. Although love can make someone happy, the two emotions are not the same. Happiness can be seen in love — however, the feeling of love is not always surrounded by happiness and joyful experiences.
I believe you get from love what you want from it. Love can be viewed in many forms, such as self-love, a relationship, loving a pet, a family member or a friend. Someone can love a song or a food item or even a place which holds meaning to them. Love can be intense, giving you butterflies in your stomach, or it can be casual, like loving an ice cream flavor. The experience of loving does not guarantee other positive feelings like happiness, joy or contentment, but it may increase these feelings.
The feeling of love is not always positive. Someone you love may not love you back or may hurt you emotionally or physically. Love can betray you and make you lonely. Love can also be a lie. When you look at social media, is the love portrayed there real? Social media, movies and commercials often glorify these feelings of what love should be. We are conditioned to believe that love equals happiness, and if we do not have the romantic love of another, we believe we can’t achieve happiness.
Love starts with loving yourself and treating yourself the way you would treat others. It sounds cheesy, but the Golden Rule is “golden” for a reason. Self-love is the most important form of love. By loving yourself, you respect yourself, and you will not tolerate the abusive forms love can take.
Loving others before yourself makes you more vulnerable to the belief that others deserve more than you. You do not have to be dependent on other people, things or experiences for your own happiness. Self-love leads to compassion, empathy, kindness towards our community and our planet. Self-love creates confidence and self-acceptance. Self-love is a constant battle of growth, as no one knows themselves. Even if you believe you know yourself, there are parts of you that are a mystery.
If society focused on self-love first and all parents understood the need to nurture their child so that he or she could grow into this self-love, the world could be a better place. We would not be as depressed and anxious if we talked kindly to ourselves and trusted our instincts. We would make better choices for ourselves with the food we eat and the activities we do. Love does not equal happiness, but if we start with a focus on self-love, I believe it can lead to a healthy love of others which leads to a more genuine form of happiness.
Kate Hutner (she/her) is a freshman studying journalism and/or fashion design and marketing.