Have you ever been told, “You just need to learn to love yourself,” after pouring your heart out to a friend about how discontent you are with yourself?
I was recently talking with a couple girlfriends about real life aches and pains that left us feeling inadequate and empty, when one friend offered up the self-love philosophy as sincere, heart-felt advice to the other. She had personally experienced the crippling impact of self-hatred, and she was determined to make her outlook more optimistic and uplifting by exchanging her self-hatred for self-love. Since intentionally changing her thoughts to be more loving and accepting toward herself, rather than harsh and disapproving, she began to improve her own mental state, and she believed this could also be the solution to our other friend’s discontentment in singleness.
I can hear the chorus of women all around the world eagerly affirming my friend’s advice to “learn to love yourself,” emphasizing that self-love is the recipe for triumphing over all kinds of insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. It sounds so simple and profound that it must be the sure way to be free from self-hatred, right? At one time, I may have joined the chorus of women shouting, “self-love is the answer!” but sadly I have seen the ideology fail too many times to put my hope in it.
So many friends and loved ones of mine have struggled with depression, anxiety, and/or self-hatred, and they can never seem to give themselves enough grace, love, attention, care, or nourishment to be fully content in their own skin. I notice that they exhaust all their efforts trying to become someone they could possibly love only to end up falling short of their goals and loathing themselves even more than before. I’m sure all of us can relate, because all of us have experienced that vicious cycle at some point. Only once we hit rock bottom do we discover that we are simply inadequate to love ourselves the way we so desperately need to be loved.
I may have joined the chorus of women shouting, “self-love is the answer!” but sadly I have seen the ideology fail too many times to put my hope in it.
Calling all women of faith to hear this: only your heavenly Father can pour enough love into your life that will completely satisfy all your yearnings for love. More than that, He delights in lavishing His extravagant love over us even to the point of excess where we have no option but to pour out the abundance of His affection into other peoples’ lives. We don’t have to learn to love ourselves before we can love others; we can love others out of the overflow of love that we receive from the Lord. In light of this truth, the question then becomes “How do I live loved” rather than “How do I love myself?”
Living loved may be easier said than done, but I am going to give you three tips on how to jump-start your new journey in actively receiving the love that God has poured over you.
1. Memorize and meditate on Scripture that reflects God’s love for you.
We become the product of what we feed our minds. How many times a day do you speak words of destruction over your life that tear you down until you basically feel unlovable? Women especially tend to fall into the habit of self-deprecation while all at the same time offering Scripture-inspired positivity and encouragement to others. It is time we start speaking God’s life-giving words over our own lives that we usually only offer out to our friends.
The only way to know the magnitude of God’s love for you is to know God’s heart for you written in the Scriptures, and to continually read, recite, and recall the truth. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to begin meditating on and memorizing Scripture! Start small if this intimidates you. Pick out one or two verses from your favorite Psalm or another passage that leaves you awestruck by God’s love for you, and then make a point to read it every day until you can say it by heart. Maybe write it on your mirror, or on your hand (I always have ink on my hands for reminders), or add a sticky note to your computer screen. Do whatever it takes to cement that small nugget of truth of God’s extravagant love for you into your mind and your heart.
If you still just don’t know where to begin finding a verse about God’s love for you, then I would suggest reading through Psalm 103. You will be hard-pressed to find a verse in that passage that doesn’t leave you breathless over the boundless love that God has for you. My favorite phrase is, “but from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him.” But you will have to read the Psalm yourself to know what speaks to your unique soul.
2. Write a personal creed to recite daily that reminds you of how God’s love shows up in your life.
Giving yourself a pep talk every day might sound a little silly, but trust me, this works! The power of words is incredible; Solomon wasn’t joking in Proverbs 18:21 when he said, “the tongue has the power of life and death.” If so much power truly lies in the words we speak, then we may want to think twice before we speak words over ourselves that are only good for tearing us down. Instead, replace all those words of death that you let infiltrate your mind with words of life that you declare each morning!
Every creed is going to be unique to your unique person, but to give you a better idea of what a personal creed should sound like, here is one that I wrote for myself:
I, Emily Rose Valentine, am a daughter of the One True King. I am deeply loved and treasured above all other creation, and I have been anointed with a special purpose. I am strong and I am brave because I am surrounded with songs of deliverance, and my God will not let me sink beneath the waves. I am blessed and I am grateful because I have a Father who loves to give me good gifts. And since I am confident of God’s faithfulness to love me unconditionally, I will not hesitate to pour out the excess of this great love lavished on me to those around me.
Feel free to tweak my creed to make it your own! Or if you would rather start from scratch, awesome! But always make sure your creed is rooted in Scripture so that you can be confident you are only declaring what is true.
3. Admit to God the areas in which you struggle to feel loved and ask God to fill the void.
Don’t discount the power of prayer and vulnerability. Sometimes the only way we can change our toxic mindset or break free from our nagging self-hatred is through the intimacy with God that only prayer can provide. Jesus offers us his light burden in place of our heavy one that is making us weary, but to trade burdens, he says, “come to me.”
The only way to close the proximity between us and God is to go to Him in prayer, offering up all our insecurities, fears, anxieties, and frustrations. Think of a dear friend of yours. Did you grow to a deep level of intimacy with them by reading a book about them? Of course not! You grew into a mutual, loving friendship by spending long hours talking with one another, laughing with one another, listening to one another, and even crying with one another. Our intimacy with God is quite similar. Just as a close friend knows all our deepest aches and pains, our Heavenly Father wants to know them; more than know them, God wants to take the heavy burden that those aches and pains bring and give us His sufficient love, peace, and comfort in its place.
Don’t keep building that wall between you and the One who loves you most. Go before Him with confidence—dirt and all—as a daughter of the good Father. He loves you more than you can fathom, and He is not afraid of all your mess. He is the only one who can love you adequately to fill the void in your heart.
If you commit to faithfully incorporating these three practices into your everyday life, then I can guarantee you will have love to pour out in waves from the excess. Jesus commanded His disciples on numerous occasions to “love others as I have loved you,” (John 15:9, 12 and John 13:34) and we know that Jesus was not stingy when it came to love. Jesus’ love had no limits, even to death on the cross.
Instead of wasting time trying to sufficiently love ourselves when we will always fall short, let’s learn together to receive the love that our Father has in infinite amounts. By learning to receive God’s infinite love rather than attempting to inadequately love ourselves, we will build a society that is teeming with the kind of love that fully satisfies and never fails.
For more articles on faith and self-worth, start here:
In a World of 7 Billion People, Does God See Me?
Have You Ever Said It? “I’m Not Good Enough.”
From a Therapist: This Is Why Your Self-Talk Matters
How to Become the Woman You Want to Be
Does God Really Love Us?
Never Question Your Value — Jodi Schultz (video)
Don’t miss these popular articles:
Every Homeless Person Has a Story; Emily’s Changed Me Forever
Helping Your Child Develop Their Own Voice
Remember This When You Take Your Marriage For Granted
What Do You Do When Faced With the Impossible?
Castle Ladyhawke, Where Fairy Tale Dreams Come True; Meet the Inspiring Hero of the Castle
You’ll love this podcast from This Grit and Grace Life: If You Want To Grow in Faith, Try These Simple Things – 144