3 Ways to Ditch Self-Criticism for Self-love
Last month, I wrote an article about self-love. After sitting with client after client who struggles to offer themselves love and compassion, I began digging into scripture to see what Jesus says about loving ourselves. Many of you reached out to me saying how much you enjoyed reading the post. And you echoed the struggle for self-love because it feels prideful and selfish.
I know for myself, knowledge comes first and application seems to lag behind. I want to continue the conversation about self-love and offer you what I hope are practical, tangible ways to pursue love. Love is the central tenet of the gospel— God loved us so much that he gave us Christ. When you look at the Bible through the lens of love, you see the theme repeated over and over again. So why is it so hard to love ourselves?
When I look in the mirror, I laser-focus in on my mistakes, flaws, and shortcomings. You too? I think this is the case for most of us. There are few of us who don’t see the flaws. Instead, pride and arrogance take over. So if this is you, I would contend you aren’t really loving yourself— instead you’re masking over your flaws with your performance and the approval of others. But if you dig down a little bit, you’ll likely find yourself with the rest of us, struggling with nagging feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.
Just as a refresher from last time, Jesus says to love others as well as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37, MSG). Paul adds to this in Galatians 5:14, saying this is a “true act of freedom” (MSG).
Therefore, it would seem that loving others as much as we love ourselves is pretty important.
Let’s get to how we can actually achieve self-love so that we can love others the way Christ intends.
In order to love yourself, you need to see yourself as the creation that God created.
God is perfect in every way. Most of us can agree with this statement. But can we agree that God is perfect in every way, including the way he made you? I would argue that most of us struggle with that statement. We can give God credit for making a famous author or pastor. But the person looking back at you in the mirror? Not so much.
The reality is God made you in his image (Genesis 1:27). If you grew up in church or have been saved for a while, it’s too easy to skip over this foundational truth. Read that again. Let the magnitude of this truth sink in. God, the maker of the universe (think about Hubble space images), took the time to make you in his image. When you look in the mirror, your reflection bears his image.
Because you are made in God’s image, you possess innate worth and value. This is not because of anything you could ever do, but simply because you bear the reflection of the One who made you. Your worth hinges on him, not on you.
It doesn’t matter if you are the President or a homeless person, a doctor or a drug dealer, single or married— you are worthy. Because the maker of the heavens and the earth took time to make you, to design you, to craft you, you possess worth and value.
It’s just that simple. The truth is easy to say but much harder to believe.
1. Celebrate yourself as a creation of God.
Here’s how David puts it:
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God— you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration— what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Psalm 139: 13-14, MSG
2. Think about yourself how God sees you
Think for a moment. Consider how would your life be different if you began seeing yourself as someone who is made in God’s image, someone who is a creation of God, someone who is a masterpiece.
I’m not saying you should overlook your imperfections. Believe me, I’m still aware of my imperfections. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m still undergoing a process of transformation and becoming more like Christ.
3. Remind yourself of your identity in Christ
But when I only focus on my shortcomings and flaws, then I become crippled with shame. Shame makes you believe you are bad. If you believe you’re bad, the why would you ever love yourself? But when I admit my failures and flaws, bring them to God, and remind myself of my identity, then it becomes easier (but still not easy!) to love myself.
Today, take a moment to reflect on what God is saying about who you truly are. If you can really discover your true self, it becomes so much easier to love that person.
Love is supernatural. So supernatural that true, perfect love can only come from God.
“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 fails.”I Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)
Blessings to you,