“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” ~1 Corinthians 15:10
Hannah McBride, the Resident Director of my hall, once asked me, “Do you love yourself?” I automatically replied that I was “okay with me.” She looked me straight in the eye and said, “NO. Do you love yourself?” That statement sent me stumbling into the soggy swamp that I had created for myself without even knowing it. Up until that moment, I had never even considered the difference.
Have you ever thought about the concept of self-love? I certainly hadn’t. Self-love requires you to examine everything about who you are as a person, not just what you can see when you look at your reflection. It is one matter to accept it from others and a completely different one to tell yourself that when you are alone in a room. Hannah put it this way, “If you were all alone in the desert, would that change who you are and how you view yourself?”
How can you love yourself if all you do is look at the dark in you and despise it? I had spent my whole childhood convincing myself that I had better self-image than most other girls. Never mind that I spent three out of four years in high school thinking that everyone couldn’t stand me—simply because I was unwilling to befriend them. It was unimportant to mention my determination to always be right—after all, I couldn’t afford to lose my façade of being sure about everything. I didn’t need to acknowledge the lie that I annoyed everyone—or maybe that wasn’t always a lie?
Not a single thing about you—dark or light—was placed there by mistake. Thus, you have to embrace the darkness for what it is and work towards acknowledging God’s hand in everything about you. Stop trying to ignore the light in you by focusing on the dark. You are uniquely, wonderfully made by your Creator.
Until about two weeks ago, I did not love myself. Then during Sunday night Praise and Worship in the chapel, I started praying. I told God that I couldn’t do it on my own. I wanted to try, but it was an impossible task without His help. God broke me that night. The bondage I had been unaware of my whole life was now gone. At first, it surprised me that I was able to honestly say “I love me” so soon afterwards, but Hannah had something to say about that as well: “Sometimes it doesn’t take long to start believing something is true about you. You just have to make an effort to believe it.”
Unless you are willing to say out loud, “I love myself,” how will you ever come to the moment in life when you can truly believe it? No matter how many times other people told me positive things about myself, it didn’t mean anything until the day when I believed them…and agreed with them. Being able to say, “Thank you, I know,” with complete humility is one of the most challenging yet beautiful gifts. You cannot say that you love yourself if you refuse to receive compliments from others. The first time that my sister told me I was beautiful after I learned to love me, I openly agreed with her. It is so much more rewarding to be complimented when you believe the speaker and you are able to give yourself that same attention without being reminded by another person.
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” ~1 John 3:1a
The hardest part of loving yourself is acknowledging that you can’t do it on your own. I have learned that openly telling this to God is unbelievably freeing. He tells us so many times in His Word how much He loves us—and words cannot even describe this love! Trust Him to show you exactly how to view yourself through His eyes rather than through imperfect human eyes. After all, not even those with 20/20 vision can perceive every dimension.
When I was wrestling with the question of self-love, I talked to my brother on Facebook one night to get his perspective. He told me, “Loving yourself is connected to loving others, but don't let a recalculation of how you love others get in the way of learning to love you. If you do, you'll hit a brick wall, and not be able to love yourself OR properly love others.” The most wonderful part, I think, about loving yourself is that once you have learned to do so, your love for others will be so much richer and deeper. I can honestly say that the past couple of weeks since I have learned to love myself have been so much more fulfilling in my love for other people.
I want to close with another quote from Hannah; after all, she is the one who originally planted thoughts about self-love in my mind.
"What do you have to lose if all your worst thoughts about yourself are true? What would it change about who you are? It’s all real. It’s all true. And part of that truth is that it was all created in a Place where only good can come."