“Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely, that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.” – Josh Billings

I hate to say it, but the above quote isn’t all the way true. Sometimes your dog loves you more than you love yourself.

And that sucks.

Everyone who wants love may sit up and wonder if it’s them. They may wonder why they’re still single when “less than desirable” people have somebody. And while a little bit of self-reflection is good, envy never is.

Sometimes it is you. But it’s not your weight, or your hair or the fact that you don’t look like you belong in GQ or on the cover of Elle. Sometimes it’s the fact that you do not love yourself.

Before anyone can even begin to appreciate you, you have to understand your value and what you bring to a relationship. No one else will be able to compute your worth if you do not know how to do so. You might be walking around in the latest threads, have a solid six-figure gig and be blessed with good looks and popularity. But what does that “core” look like? How well do you rest at the end of the night when you lay down after the day is done?

We can walk around and tell ourselves that we love ourselves, but there’s a very distinct difference between those who just say versus those who actually do. For those who wish to develop and nurture that thing called self-love, here are five ways to tell if you may have a little more work to do before finding love.

1) You validate your self-worth through the lens of other people.

We all care about what others think to a degree. It’s human nature to want to be accepted. But if you are constantly concerned about what others think, then your self-love meter needs to be amped up a notch or two. When you love yourself, you are confident in your being and recognize that perfection does not exist. You are secure in who you are and are confident in facing the ugly parts of you, because you are working on YOU. When you are cool with your less flattering aspects, then others will learn to focus on the good that you bring versus the bad. If they do not, then that is their loss and you know it.

2) You always have to have somebody.

Some serial monogamous beings are resilient, but a large chunk of those who can never be single have dependency issues. Similar to those who have issues with commitment, the serial monogamous individual literally needs to be in a relationship at all times. Why? Because they fear being alone and often do not wish to confront the ugly parts of who they are. With solitude comes reflection. With reflection comes perspective. With perspective comes change. In order to find and keep the love that you deserve, you must have resilience and not dwell in the past. But you also must be bold enough to stand alone and allow the universe to work in your favor.

3) You don’t feel like you can be yourself in relationships.

I believe that anyone should be free to be who they are. Unlike popular opinion, I don’t view relationships as a means of confinement, but freedom. The mate who you’re meant to be with should accept you for who you are, without any expectations other than you evolving into your best self. Either you meet their standards or you don’t. If you find yourself holding back parts of who you are in relationships, there’s an issue at bay. By not showing up as you in a relationship, you not only rob yourself of a chance at true happiness, but your mate of the chance to know the real you. Self-love allows you to fully embrace who you are because you know that others will as well with no consequence.

4) You live to please your mate at the expense of your own happiness.

What if I told you that you can please others and please yourself? What if I told you that there was such a thing as being happy without expensing your own joy? Those who have discovered the joys of self-love understand that they cannot and will not ever be happy living for other people. This isn’t to be confused with selfishness. I am not telling you to be an uncaring individual. What I am saying is that happy people make others happy. It is literally that simple. Before finding someone to spend your life with, spend time discovering what makes you happy and hold on to it.

5) You feel there’s nothing to love about you.

This last point is critical. In fact, it is the basis for the above four points. If you do not love you, if you do not respect who you are, if you do not cherish ONE thing about yourself, then you will forever be at the mercy of others. Take control of yourself by choosing to love who you are and what you are becoming. Celebrate the small steps towards your evolution. Realize that you are in fact worthy of love and that someday, the right one will recognize it.

Self-love is a practice that you will have to commit to for the rest of your life in order to see results. But it is better to love yourself than to spend your life wishing and hoping that other people loving you will change how you feel. No matter how much you may deserve love, you must first be, and give it to yourself.

Shantell E. Jamison is a digital editor for EBONY.com and JETMAG.com. Her book, “Drive Yourself in the Right Direction” is available on Amazon. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @Shantell_em and Instagram @Shantell_em.