These are two words that many of us do not feel for ourselves–and if we do–we are sometimes told that we simply love ourselves too much.
How can we love ourselves too much when the suicide rate among young people has skyrocketed in recent years? How can we love ourselves too much when children in elementary school are developing eating disorders? How can we love ourselves too much when we can’t stand to look in the mirror?
In my own journey with mental health and moving forward into kinder thought processes, I often felt conflicted when I was told to love myself by self-help books only to turn around and be told by Christian pastors whom I’ve looked up to for years, that the issues I faced came not from a place of low self-love but rather too much self-love.
So, what is it?
We live in the era constantly telling us that we are not enough. In fact, self-hatred is a billion-dollar industry telling us that we aren’t thin enough, pretty enough, strong enough, wealthy enough, smart enough, or disciplined enough, which gives us an unrealistic POV of perfection and selling it to us. As a result, most of us feel like we will never be enough. Who could blame us?
This is why we need self-love…or do we?
The Self-Love Movement at a Glance
Most of the time, self-love feels more like an overused buzzword rather than anything meaningful. It brings to mind the infamous image of someone hugging a tree or the cover of some cheesy self-improvement book. It’s viewed more as a “luxury” rather than a “necessity”. Psychology has shown that self-love and compassion are the keys to unlocking mental health, well-being, and keeping anxiety and depression at bay.
A lot of us chase the image of perfection and to be critical of ourselves for not reaching it. This mental “tug-of-war” starts as early as first grade when students receive their report cards. However, perfection is bad for you. Studies have revealed that it’s just as bad as smoking cigarettes.
Lack of self-love and an increase in self-hatred can lead to illnesses such as:
- Eating disorders
- Shorter life-span
- Heart disease
Scary isn’t it?
This is why we need self-love
The message within the self-love campaign on first inspection is a thoughtful one, preaching that you are enough just as you are, that it’s safe to be who we really are, and that when we love ourselves, we can help others learn to love themselves too.
We don’t have to chase perfection and can do away with what the world says we should be, instead opting to focus on our strengths in character, soul, mind, and spirit rather than the outward focus that the world has. No one can be perfect, and that’s okay because we are beautiful regardless.
As the song LOVE MYSELF puts it (produced by the k-pop group, BTS), “Not so perfect, but so beautiful. I’m the one I should love…”
This is revolutionary and also where I will show my support for the self-love agenda before rolling over into a more critical viewpoint as it appears I’m playing devil’s advocate today. 😉
But Self-Love is Unsatisfying!
Some Christians will argue that the first problem with self-love is that it holds the ideology that humans are fundamentally good and loveable, but when you look to Scripture it tells a different story, making it very clear that without looking beyond ourselves to God, there is very little to love.
Also, they state that the self-love movement encourages people to remain unsanctified by dismissing the convictions of conscience as “lack of self-acceptance and love”. Here, they argue that we run the risk of misidentifying gracious warnings from God as attacks from the devil, and in doing so, we forget the crucial difference between Christ’s invitation to come as you are and the unbiblical invitation to stay as you are.
God does not want us to simply achieve a heightened acceptance of self; he desires our sanctification
After examining both POV’s on the subject of self-love, I’d like to introduce where I stand on this topic and to be honest, I think they coexist within each other.
How so? Allow me to explain…
Biblically Recasting Self-Love
I think where some Christians get self-love wrong is when they misinterpret it as being self-consumed which is sinful by all accounts, and if I viewed self-love in the same lens, then I too would not be in favor of promoting it. However, true self-love is the acceptance of ourselves as redeemed people who have been washed clean and sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Also, self-love is not just about seeing the good within ourselves, it’s facing the bad too and taking the steps to correct those behaviors or harmful thought patterns laced with self-hatred.
Let’s be honest, we can’t love others and be there fully for them when we can’t love ourselves and extend the same grace that we give so freely to others when we can barely give it to ourselves!
I’ll even go one step further and say that self-love can be considered as an act of thanksgiving towards God. How can this be? When we choose to love ourselves and thank God for the things about us that the world tries to sell as “flaws”, we chose to rejoice in the Creator who made us in His image. We chose to worship the One who knit us together in our mother’s womb. We choose to give “give thanks in all circumstances” instead of cursing and hating the body that He worked so hard to make.
In loving ourselves, we find another thing to be thankful for. How can this be a bad thing?
Self-love looks like taking care of our physical needs: rest, nutrition, exercise, hygiene. We see the doctor when we need to, we indulge in treats within moderation, and we care for our soul and spirit by giving ourselves the tools we need to thrive.
However, we must also practice “tough self-love”. Do you love yourself enough to look deeper within yourself and face who you are at the core? Do you love yourself enough to stop abusing your body physically and mentally? Do you love God and yourself enough to turn away from sin that is destroying your relationship with Him? Do you love yourself enough to accept the free gift of love that God offers?
Yes, we are broken people, but our worth is not defined in our brokenness. We are defined through the worth that God gives our broken pieces, a worth that comes from and is found only from Him.
In conclusion, self-love is not bad nor is it sinful, but it can become sinful when we use it as an excuse to stay within patterns of sin.