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“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,

And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”

― William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream Dream

Love is dependent on your perception of another, but it also hinges on your own self-perception. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Helena’s line follows the idea that love is an activity that takes place primarily in one’s mind. What the characters feel throughout the play can be described as infatuation, a type of love which depends more on the constructed mental image of the other and less on reality.

Love has been the fascination of writers, singers and philosophers for centuries, from the first love poem, written on a clay tablet around 3500 BC, the time of the Sumerians, to present day hit songs and romantic comedies. In Legally Blonde, for example, Elle Woods sets out on her personal development because she believes that she loves the male protagonist, Warner. However, she is in love with her own constructed image of him, an image with which she becomes disillusioned as she discovers herself throughout the film. Romantic love is thus often a mystery, and many struggle with understanding whether their feelings for another person are genuine, or whether they are simply in love with the idea of love.

What does it mean to be “in love”? Love can take on so many different forms, from family and friendship to self-care, but romantic love is often the most complex of them all – as it tends to be accompanied by self-discovery. When you are in love with the concept of love, your feelings take on more of a psychological dimension, as the other person becomes mainly a target for the love that you want to give. Rather than loving a physical person themselves, many people are in love with this feeling of giving love, and receiving it in return. In the Disney fairytales we grew up with, such as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the princesses often don’t even know their princes before the last page leaves them to their happily ever after. Most of these endings feel like love for the sake of love, causing people to chase this single spark until it fizzles out, and then beginning anew. 

The problem with searching for this type of love is that you risk fixating on a checklist of what you want your partner to give you. Being dependent on someone else to soothe problems that you need to work out with yourself can only lead to disappointment as you are not beginning the relationship on equal ground. All of us have the basic desire to be loved and perceived for who we really are, and being in love is often a way of feeling “worthy” of love. Love for the sake of self-worth is, however, not the healthiest path towards healing, and it is important to remember that self-love is a crucial prerequisite for being able to love someone else.

Love is a complex emotion. It is what makes us human and yet, despite the centuries of thought around it, no one has figured it out. While you are waiting, respect yourself and others, and make sure that you love yourself before you seek that love from anyone else.

Dakota Bennett

St Andrews '24

Dakota Bennett is a third-year at the University of St Andrews, studying International Relations and Social Anthropology. As an Australian that grew up in Paris, Dakota loves to debate different perspectives and is excited to discuss everything from the latest world news to the history of fashion trends. In her free time (see also: procrastination), Dakota is most likely baking cupcakes, facetiming her dogs, or dancing around her room to Hozier.
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