Self Love

christian spirtuality mental health self love therapy Dec 11, 2023

Matthew 22:36-39 NIV - The Greatest Commandment: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 


If you want to be mentally well and live life to the fullest you must learn to love yourself.

What comes to mind when you think of self-love? Some people think of self-care. This can be a relaxing bubble bath, going on a shopping spree, indulging in a sweet treat or guilty pleasure. Taking yourself out to eat, or maybe you have the ability to be alone and enjoy your own company.


Now while all those things can be great, does it really show how much we love ourselves. Some of these on the list may not be evident of self-love.

Why do I say this? Because it shows.


It shows in the people we choose to date, our lack of boundaries, the way we treat ourselves with no regard. No regard for how our current thoughts and behavior will affect our future self. No care to heal the past versions of ourselves that are still hurting. Our constant comparison brings us down and suppresses who we are. Just to impress others, be accepted and fit in.  It shows. And is a bigger problem than many care to admit.


I don’t know if this is true for every Christian, but I felt that there was a subtle message that Christians do not focus on self-love. We love God and neighbor, and it stops there. Am I wrong? Am I the only one who thought this message was prevalent?


Then one day, when I was in my late teens, reading what Jesus stated was the two greatest commandments. Something really struck me. Jesus said, love your neighbor AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF. Then I asked myself, well what if I don’t truly love myself? Does this mean I cannot love my neighbor.  And I have learned that the answer is….NO.


This doesn’t mean many won’t marry and be successful at it because many are.  Even those who have been married for decades will tell you it can take a very long time to learn how and what it means to really love someone. Being married is not indicative that self-love or love for neighbor is present.  Some marriages suffer because the individual(s) have not learned to love themselves first, before becoming one.


And it may not always be to the extreme that we hate ourselves. Sometimes we are apathetic towards ourselves. Indifferent and nihilistic as though our life does not really matter, and life has no purpose.


Firstly, let’s define what self-love is and is not. It is not narcissism.


Narcissism has been the new buzz word for 2023. Everybody thinks everyone is a narcissist.  Just because they disagree with you doesn’t mean they are. Just because they are toxic may not mean that they are either.  Some people have narcissistic traits, some have narcissistic personality disorders. Two different things.


Narcissists are very boastful about themselves. They love to talk about all their achievements, accomplishments and try to look good in front of others.  This is why many narcissists tend to hold very high positions in the workplace. They want to be above others and are very good at trying to make you feel beneath them. 


Narcissists, however, do not love themselves. They feel internally flawed. The boasting is them overcompensating. They are trying to fill a void that accolades and people likes will never fill.  That is not self-love.


Self-love is also not conceitedness, vanity, pride, or arrogance. Oddly enough, the dictionary uses self-love as a synonym for all the nouns I just mentioned, including narcissism. However, we all know that this world does not know what true love is. 


Pride is not love. The world has completely changed what the word pride means. Pride is elevating one’s opinions, thoughts and values above God and everyone else, no matter what. That has nothing to do with love.  Remember that is what narcissists do. They put themselves above others out of hatred towards others and themselves.  I can love myself without disregarding you. Pride is self-worship that is not self-love.



These are things love and self-love is not. So then…what is self-love?  1 Corinthians 13 is often read at weddings regarding the love we show to others. This is also how we show love to ourselves, 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 -  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never ends.


How many of us lose patience towards ourselves when we are trying to do our best and we make a mistake? or it doesn’t seem like it is going right. What do you do? Give up on yourself? That is not love. Be patient with yourself. 


Love is kind.  How do you treat yourself and talk to yourself.  Some people are not kind to themselves.  This seems obvious when we look at those who cut themselves. But what about those who cut themselves internally. Constantly bruising and causing wounds so deep with how they speak to themselves. 


Love is not arrogant; Does not insist in its own way. Love is not irritable or resentful.  To love yourself also means you learn how to forgive yourself. Learn from the past and be okay knowing that we all make mistakes. Let go of the anger and show yourself some grace.  Because anger towards the self can lead to depression.


It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  All the things someone struggling with suicidal thoughts may need but find hard to believe.  Hard to have hope, believe in themselves and in God that things will get better. Difficulty bearing and enduring the sufferings of life. Because they lack love for the self.   


Now earlier I asked if someone who lacks self-love can love others and I said no.  If you cannot do what I listed above towards yourself, it would make it hard for you to show it towards others. You may say “that is not true. I struggle to be kind, loving and forgiving towards myself but either way I am so loving and giving to my family, friends or significant others”. And maybe…. but more times than not that love for others may be driven by insecurity. 


Insecurity that makes you think if I do these things others will not reject me.  We feel guilty if we do not over extend ourselves. Or we do them in hopes that the person will validate us and fill the hole inside us that we have ignored. If so, is that really coming from a place of love?  That is unhealthy. And not sustainable.


The other evidence is projection. We often project what we feel onto others.  If we are hypercritical and judgmental towards ourselves, we assume others are towards us, and we most likely will be towards them. If we lie, we assume others do and will mistrust someone who may not have done anything to not be trusted. Psychologically we put onto others what is inside us. Therefore, if we do not love ourselves the love for others will be inadequate. 


To be continued….

In part 2 I will go more in depth on how self-love can improve our mental health.

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