The concept of self-love is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society. Most admit it’s become a bit extreme, like sologamy, the practice of people marrying themselves because they love themselves.
While the idea of loving oneself isn’t the worst idea in the world, it does lead to a downward negative spiral of unfulfilled expectations in life. It causes us to become increasingly self-absorbed, which leads to many undesirable results and unfulfilled dreams.
Enough with the Self-Love
In this series, we are discussing America’s obsession with “self.” Today, we are focusing on self-love. Dictionary.com defines self-love, “the instinct by which one's actions are directed to the promotion of one's own welfare or well-being, especially an excessive regard for one's own advantage” as well as “conceit, vanity” and “narcissism.”
Now, when people throw around self-love talk, they often avoid the definition of “narcissism.” Why? Because we intuitively know prioritizing ourselves over others is wrong and self-centered.
For example, most religions, especially Christianity, frown upon being selfish and encourage their followers to care about others.
Caring for yourself is natural and automatic. Caring for others takes effort and intentionality.
“No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
– 1 Corinthians 10:24
The Ways We Focus on Loving Ourselves
With all the talk of loving yourself and self-love discussions, it’s important to highlight some of the ways people are being taught to practice self-love. For instance, the concept of self-love is tied together, and often interchangeable with the following ideas.
- Self-Compassion: According to the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, “Self-compassion involves responding in the same supportive and understanding way you would with a good friend when you have a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.” This relates to self-forgiveness, which we discussed last week. You don’t need to forgive yourself when you have a Savior who has already forgiven you!
- Self-Acceptance: Merriam-Webster defines self-acceptance as “The act or state of accepting oneself: the act or state of understanding and recognizing one's own abilities and limitations.” Here’s what we can know for sure: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-24. We don’t have to accept ourself. If you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ his son, you are already accepted by God himself. In fact, you are a child of God (John 1:12).
- Self-Talk: There’s tons of information you can find about self-talk, which refers to internal dialogue, whether it’s positive or negative. The problem with self-talk is the emphasis on what you think versus what God says. Instead of relying on yourself to positively uplift you, why not read the authority on the subject? Read and study all the ways God loves you in the Bible. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are (1 John 3:1)!"
- Self-Worth: Closely related to self-esteem, your self-worth refers to your sense of value or worth as a person. Again, those who put their faith in Jesus Christ find their value in Him – not apart from Him.
- Self-Affirmation: Merriam-Webster defines self-affirmation as “the act of affirming one's own worthiness and value as an individual for beneficial effect (such as increasing one's confidence or raising self-esteem).” You have probably heard people talk about using positive This is when people believe speaking positively will influence attitudes and outcomes. Again, rather than trying to find your value in yourself on your own merits, find your value in Christ. The most life-changing, attitude-shaping affirmations are found in the authority of the Bible.
- Self-Image: Self-image is how you see yourself. Depending on the day of the week, if you focus on you, then your self-image will change like shifting shadows. Sometimes this happens hour by hour or minute by minute. However, here is something that will never change – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).” You were made in the image of God. Why should anyone focus on something less than that?
By focusing on self more than our Savior or others, we lose our perspective on God’s love and opportunities to worship him and love others well.
And We Already Love Ourselves!
Plus, we already love ourselves! You may have days where you’re disappointed in yourself, but you generally still try to take care of yourself, right?
“After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body.” – Ephesians 5:29
Even when we think we “hate our bodies,” don’t we still eat and take care of our basic needs?
Note: If you are struggling with your mental health and are not taking care of yourself or harming yourself, get help.
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
- Ephesians 3:16–19
Why focus on self-love when you can focus on God’s great love for you? If you haven’t accepted His love, the time is now. Receiving God’s love will change everything. You will find all the “self-needs” fulfilled in Him – compassion, acceptance, worth, affirmation, words of life, and so much more.
So, What Now? Put Others First.
Now that you understand the type of love that really matters, it’s time to live in a way that honors God’s tremendous love for you. The best way to do so is to put others first. Instead of focusing on self-love, love others! As 1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Starting today, say NO to self and YES to opportunities to “Count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).”