“You need to love how God made you. And Leah, one of your main problems is that you don’t love yourself” my therapist said to me one afternoon during our weekly session.
This is one of those difficult and brutal truths that need to be heard, but causes your ears to bleed and your heart to tumble down into your intestines.
“I know”. A lump formed in my throat but I slowly gulped down the guilt. “You know something *Lucy?” I said confidently; the most confident and sure words I’ve spoken in a long time. “I don’t think I’ve ever loved myself. I then let out a dry and humorless laugh. “Heck, I don’t even think I like myself”.
The words came tumbling out of my mouth as a jumble of shameful admissions. The moment, a breakthrough for sure, both stung and soothed my soul. I didn’t love myself.
I’m writing this blog post two days after Valentine’s Day. By now department stores such as Target and Walmart have since ushered the boxes of sugary chocolates, gigantic teddy bears, heart shaped lollipops and oversized Hershey kisses in to a clearance section. In moves the new neighbors, the marsh mellow peeps, chocolate Easter bunnies and Easter eggs. But I’ve still got love on the brain.
I used to think self love was selfish. The root “self”, to me, indicated a haughty and hazardous narcissism. As Christians, we’re supposed to love God above all. Love others before ourselves. Self love, in my narrow understanding, was unbiblical.
Well, that mindset is slowly being debunked through careful study of God’s word.
Of course, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to “Love the Lord with all your heart and with your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27, ESV version).
In that same verse, the Bible reads “and your neighbor as yourself”.
I did a double take (or double read in this case) of that line. A proverbial “aha” moment went off in my head like a 5 o’clock in the morning alarm that startles you with loud successions of beep beep beeps. Love your neighbor as yourself. The ending of the verse carousels around my brain and comes to a halt so I can begin to understand what God is saying to me. It’s ok to love yourself! David even proclaims that “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well”. (Psalm 139:14).
Love, I’m realizing, starts with loving God and his creation (that includes me!). If I can’t love myself, then I can’t love others. I’m starting to wonder if I can even love God, if I can’t love myself.
Such a sobering, yet enlightening thought.
My therapist often discusses retraining my thought patterns to challenge what she calls “limiting beliefs” (stay tuned for more on that topic). One of my main limiting beliefs is that I am wrong for loving myself; when, in reality, I have a sneaking suspicion that I use this mindset to cover up a truth I have long avoided.
My journey to self love is far from over. I still have a lot to learn about the topic from a biblical standpoint. However, like with any journey, starting with small steps is the best way to move forward. Here a four ways I am learning to love myself in a Godly fashion.
- At the end of each of my therapy journals I am supposed to write down two things I like about myself , specific to the day. My therapist tells me what I like can be as “small” as “showering” or “cooking a healthy meal”.
- Look for ways that God shows us love everyday. As an addendum to my journals, my therapist has me look for God’s love throughout the day. She encourages me to look for His love beyond the obvious prayer time and quiet times (although speaking directly to God and Him speaking directly to you are main ways to experience His love). For example, today a gentlemen help me find Staples when my not so trusty Google maps kept rerouting.
- Remind myself I am worthy of love, even when I’m unlovable. If humans have perfected one trait it is imperfection. However, the Bible remind us time after time of God’s unfailing love. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is from Romans 5:8 “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners , Christ died for us”. I thank God everyday that he still love me, despite my sin. Because I’d be down the a sinkhole if he didn’t.
- Look for how you are loved by others. I love my parents and my parents love me. Often, I think that they’re the only ones, besides God Himself , who truly love me for me. Again, I have to train my minds eye to look for love. An example is when my friend wrote me a lovely Valentine’s Day note. Although she is married, she took the time to write the words ” *Jack and I love us some Leah because you are a great friend and sister …we are grateful for you”. Dang, she tried to draw up wells of joyous tears from my eyes!
As I take this journey towards self love, I hope to encourage those who read my words to seek out God’s love in all environments. I’m actually planning on studying out the ways God shows us love and why we all deserve love. For Christians, find your go to scriptures on God’s love and his creation. For those of different faiths, I recommend writing down at least two reasons why you love yourself. Lets ride this love train together!
***Names have been changed to respect the privacy of the persons mentioned in the blog.*****
Scripture references come from the English Standard Version of the Bible.