Rethinking self-love

Rethinking self-love

Self-love is a popular concept these days. But what exactly does it mean? And what does it look like from a Biblical perspective? Annabel shares her reflections..

I remember in September 2019 before the reality of social distancing and lockdown that I walked into The Globe Church for the first time. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but as I got closer, I kept being hounded by anxious thoughts: “What if I embarrass myself by tripping down the steps?” “What if someone strikes a conversation with me but I don’t know what to say?” “What if no-one likes me?”

Unfortunately, these are my daily social anxiety thoughts which I’m sure anyone who also struggles with that or general anxiety can relate to. Although there are many different contributing factors, poor self-image and insecurity about oneself can underlie these anxious thoughts.

Self-love is a trending topic these days with books, articles and social media detailing ways to love ourselves more. The world’s answer lies in the idea that we need to learn to love ourselves through things like positive affirmations or self-care. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with treating ourselves to a bubble bath or a cheeky Nando’s, but is the solution to insecurity really just loving ourselves more? If we were really strong, capable and able to achieve anything on our own, there would be no need for a Saviour. The Bible makes it clear: For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24) Our worth comes not from reminding ourselves of how amazing we are. It comes from rejoicing in how Jesus has redeemed, justified, and intercedes for us.

In a way, self-love comes naturally to us in that we are born with an inclination to focus on ourselves first. We are all pretty familiar with the first and second greatest commandments to “love the Lord your God…” and to “love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) Yet often we are mistaken in thinking that to love others we need to love ourselves first. Rather than being commanded to love ourselves, Jesus assumes we already do. We might not always feel we do but at the core of our being, we want the best for ourselves and strive for our own happiness and well-being. Jesus calls us to take this concern towards ourselves and apply it to others. It is not that we focus on loving ourselves first before loving others. Instead, it’s through loving God and others, we can truly love ourselves. This love is not found within but comes outwardly through God who first loved us.

This is where understanding the depth of God’s love for us is crucial so that we would “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19). When we place our values in what Christ values and look to our Heavenly Father who approves of us based on a righteousness that comes from Him and not ourselves, we can find freedom from insecurity.

Self-love should not be our goal as Christians but rather the infinite value of knowing Jesus our Lord which will lead to a proper view of ourselves. True humility isn’t about putting ourselves down but instead focusing on others more. In the end, none of the fears that I had in the beginning came true. I was greeted by lovely people in orange vests, had some cool conversations and reminded myself of why I was there in the first place; to worship God. Whether we struggle with pride or insecurity, the solution is the same: always look to Jesus as the One worthy of all praise.