By: Kim Womack
Self-love is definitely a term we hear a lot about on social media, and you can find hundreds of books on “how to” be your best self. Type in self-love on Pinterest, and you will be flooded with hundreds of quotes, affirmations, and articles that point you in the direction of loving yourself. But, what is self-love? How does the world define self-love?
The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation defines self-love as: “A state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve. Figuring out what self-love looks like for you as an individual is an important part of your mental health.”
I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled with this term “self-love” and what it means because the world has distorted what it is to love yourself. For instance, the quote above starts out with what I would consider to be a very accurate statement for growing in self-love: by growing oneself in body, mind, and spirit. That is a very important practice of self-discipline everyone should be trying to achieve daily. I found the three lines that follow to be true if we are practicing those self-disciplines in body, mind, and spirit. But if you're looking at them through the lens of an unbeliever, they have a strong tendency towards putting oneself and one’s own needs above everyone else in a self-centered way. If you love yourself according to the world, you do what you want, when you want, and how you want. It’s all about me, me, me! It’s my life, and I’m going to live it my way. This is exactly the definition of being narcissistic according to WebMD: “Narcissism is extreme self-involvement to the degree that it makes a person ignore the needs of those around them.” I’ll admit, for a period of ten years, I was narcissistic. I lived a life of “it’s all about me.” I truly thought I was loving myself because I was putting myself and my needs first. If you didn’t like what you saw, it was good riddance. I didn’t care how my words and actions affected other people. I did what I wanted for myself. I thought I was living my best life. On the outside, I looked like I had it all together and my life was a dream. However, I was missing something in my life. In fact, I was unhappy, depressed, and desperately searching for something.
What does the Bible say about self-love? A very well known scripture comes to mind: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27b NIV) Simply put, we must love others as we love ourselves. When I came to know Christ and turned my life around from being self-centered to giving of myself, my whole world changed. I found out that being the daughter of the most High King was the biggest honor one could have. I no longer needed to continue pursuing my self-ambition of being better than everyone else, instead I wanted to help others who were also trapped in not knowing who they truly are in this world. By biblically loving myself, I actually started thinking less of myself and more of others. This transformation, however, did not happen overnight and is still a work in progress. Self-love is a daily reminder of who I am in Christ. It's digging deeper to know Him and to be more like Him. It’s not only studying who He is, but who I am in Him. In order to love myself, I must love Christ first. And, in order to love Christ, I must dedicate my whole body, mind, and spirit to Him.