The Bible instructs us to Love your neighbor as yourself. Sadly I think we are loving one another as we love ourself. I say that this is one of the most serious issues with our world today, we as Christians don't love ourselves. Therefore we are not able to love our neighbor as deeply as God intended us to.
‘The second is this:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no commandment greater than these.”
Perhaps self-love and care are seen as something egotistical or terrible. We’re taught we should be putting others first and that’s a biblical principle for sure – one we want to embrace.
I’m not advocating narcissism. I’m not saying to always put yourself at the top of the list – I just don’t want you to always put yourself last. If we’re always last on every list, we’re never going to be in a place where we can really show up lovingly for others.
So, what holds us back from loving ourselves and by connection, taking good care of ourselves is important?
Sadly, the vast majority of us think we can't or won't practice self-love until we lose weight, get fit, land a position, get a raise, get a sweetheart, or quit some nasty habit...
We look at ourselves and see all these reasons we’re not loveable!
I’m not going to tell you it’s easy to just decide to love yourself, but I believe self-love can be cultivated. I believe God wants you to make you a priority.
God created you and His love for you is complete – even now, even with all of your faults and negatives…
He’s not waiting for you to ‘get things right’ or be perfect.
Let’s look nine steps we can begin to start embracing a greater sense of self-love and care so that we are able to fulfill God's commandment to love others.
Step One: Stop Criticizing Yourself
The initial step would be to stop criticizing yourself. Every day is a new day, and if we do things a little differently than we did the day before we can change our life.
Give yourself permission to grow and not be perfect.
Those who have come from dysfunctional homes often have become super-responsible and have gotten in the habit of judging themselves unmercifully.
They have grown up amidst tension and anxiety. The message they get as children is:
“There must be something wrong with me.”
Think for a moment about the words you use when scolding yourself: Stupid, dumb, ugly, worthless, sloppy, dirty, or broken (Do they sound familiar?)
We are all insecure in some ways because we are human. Let us learn not to pretend that we’re perfect. Having to be perfect only puts immense pressure on us and it prevents us from looking at areas of our lives that need healing.
Instead, we could celebrate our creativity, our individualities, and appreciate ourselves for the qualities that set us apart from others. Each one of us has a unique role to play on this earth, and when we are critical of ourselves, we move away from that plan rather than toward it.
Step Two: Stop Planning For the Worst Option
The next step is to quit terrifying yourself. Huge numbers of Christians threaten themselves with unpleasant musings and aggravate circumstances much worse than they are.
We take a little issue and make it into a major creature. It's a terrible way to live, continually expecting the worst out of life.
How many of us mull something over in our own mind, considering the worst possible scenario of a situation? That way of thought resembles the little kid who envisions monsters under their bed and is terrified.
It's no big surprise you can't rest.
As a child you required your parent to come and soothe you. Individuals who are physically sick frequently envision the worst and end up arranging their own funerals in their minds. They give their energy and imagination to the negative story.
Some do this in relationships. Someone doesn’t call and they immediately decide they are totally unlovable and will never have another relationship again. They feel abandoned and rejected.
We do a similar thing in our work. Someone may make a comment at work and we start to believe we will be let go. This type of negativity is paralyzing.
There’s good news.
We can make a choice to stop all this negative thinking. It’s easy to say but a bit harder to do. Start by paying attention to what you are thinking about yourself.
Ask Holy Spirit to teach you to look for the good even in bad situations. I call this enjoying the fruit of your affliction.
Let’s be real, all of us have had bad things happen, but we can learn things, grow, or be changed.
In every situation we can find something good.
Even if the only thing that is good is this too shall pass.
My mom and I have struggled with worry, imagining the worst. More than half of what we worry about never happens. Make a decision not to waste your time and brain energy. On the small chance something bad will happen your thinking about it won’t stop it.
The Bible tells in Philippians to think on a list of good stuff, it also tells us to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).
That means diligently grab every thought that doesn’t measure to up God’s standards (His word, His nature or character) and discard it.
Choosing to look for the positive in our self and others is a big step towards loving.
Step Three: Be Patient with Yourself
We can learn to be delicate, kind and patient with ourselves – though it goes against our natural inclination in a lot of situations.
Oren Arnold humorously wrote, “Dear God – I pray for patience. And I want it right now!”
Patience is a powerful tool. It is one of the fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23). Most of us suffer from the expectation of immediate gratification. We must have it now. We don’t have the patience to wait for anything.
We get irritable if we have to wait in lines or are stuck in traffic. We want all the answers and all the goodies right now. Too often, we make other people’s lives miserable by our own impatience. Impatience is a resistance to learning. We want the answer without learning the lessons or doing the steps that are necessary.
Think about your life as though it were a garden. A garden is a patch of dirt. You may have a considerable amount of thorns of self-loathing and weeds of hopelessness, outrage and stress. You may have an old tree, called rejection that needs to be cut down.
Our Heavenly Father helps us as we clean up our space. He lovingly works with us as the weeds, thorns, and roots are taken out. Then you both can tend the soil so it is ready for seeds or little plants. The sun shines down on your garden, and you water it and give it supplements and loving attention.
At first, very little is happening. Be that as it may, you don't stop, you continue dealing with your garden. On the off chance that you are patient and diligent, the garden will develop and bloom.
The same with your life. You select the items that will be pruned and weeded out. You select the seeds that are to be grown. As you continue you will make a beautiful garden. Your life will be focused on the beautiful things you have tended.
Give yourself space to grow and learn. Be patient with yourself. As you begin to give yourself patience it is easier to give it to others.
Step Four: Begin Meditating
We should figure out how to be caring towards our mental and emotional state. I recommend we meditate on the goodness of God, the Love of God toward us, and His plans for us.
First, the definition of meditate is to think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time, in silence for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation. (Adapted from dictionary.com, definition of meditate).
Scripture tells us in Psalm 49:9, “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love”.
A search of the New International Version of the Bible lists 18 different scriptures that speaks of meditating.
Meditating is a biblical principle, it helps us switch our focus from our self to God. Meditation is also a great form of relaxation.
Relaxation can help us as well. Relaxation is absolutely essential for tapping into the power (Holy Spirit) within. If you are tense and frightened, you’re unable to relax and be empowered.
It only takes a few minutes a day to let the body and mind let go and relax. At any moment you can take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and release whatever tension you’re carrying. As you exhale, you’ll notice how much calmer you feel. You don’t have to go through life tense and frightened all the time.
I also recommend quieting your mind and listening to music. You can train yourself to meditate anywhere and allow it to become a habit. Think of mediation as focusing on the Lord.
Think of meditation as quieting yourself, connecting with, and communing with the Lord.
Step Five: Think and Speak Truth
Criticism breaks down the inner Spirit, and praise builds it up. We are created in God’s image and we are powerful beings. We need to acknowledge our own power.
When you berate yourself, you belittle the Power that created you.
Begin with little things. Tell yourself that you are wonderful. You are an expression of the infinite wisdom of God. Allow yourself to accept good whether you think you deserve it or not.
When we believe we’re not deserving it stops us from creating and becoming more of who we really are. It stops us from receiving good things. How could we say anything good about ourselves if we think we don’t deserve it?
Begin to say good about yourself. Begin to celebrate yourself. Begin to see the success you have already created in your life. Start with one thing good about yourself, and add to the list regularly.
You are created in God’s image. When you criticize yourself, you criticize His creation. Ask Holy Spirit, to teach you about your God created identity. Find scripture that speak to our identity. Rehearse those scriptures and come into agreement with them.
Step Six: Seek Out Your Mirror
Another great tool to assist us on our journey to love our self is mirror work. Most women react in horror when this is mentioned. It is a great tool to use to find out the cause of what keeps us locked up.
There are several ways you can practice mirror work. I like to suggest you look in the mirror and talk to yourself. Look into the mirror and say, “you are okay, you are a loving person, I love who you are”. Ask yourself, “What can I do to assist you as you become all God created you to be? How can I make you happy?”
Listen to your inner voice, and start following through with what you hear. You may get negative reactions or you may not hear anything for a few times. Both of these are ways your system attempts to keep you in your old identity or pattern. You are so used to scolding yourself, and you don’t know how to respond with a kind, loving thought.
When you speak to yourself you can train yourself to begin to recognize negative core beliefs, when they resist the good things you are saying to yourself.
Using a mirror to forgive yourself is an important step in living mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy. A friend of mine had a habit she practiced every day as she entered her car after work. She would pull down the visor and look at herself in the mirror. She would say to herself, I forgive you for every dumb thing you did today.
People who have problems loving themselves are almost always people who are not willing to forgive because not forgiving shuts that particular door. When we forgive and let go, not only does a huge weight drop off our shoulders, but the doorway to our own self-love opens up.
People will say, “Oh, such a load has dropped off!” Well of course it has, because we have been carrying a burden we were not created to carry. Forgiveness is better than any drug or antibiotic.
Step Seven: Embrace Your Negatives
Love the part of you that you feel is negative. It is part of who you are. Negatives, what do I mean by negatives? For this discussion lets define them as areas in our life that still need work.
Negatives could be a short fuse, anger issues, negativity itself, victim mentality, lying or anything else you aren’t proud to be a part of your life. Something that can be changed but just isn’t yet. You know it needs to be addressed but you haven’t gotten to it.
Embrace your negative is recognizing your issue. You have heard the biggest issue is recognizing you have an issue. Embracing your negative is much like that. It’s taking a good look and getting to work. It’s not holding up loving yourself until you get it all worked out.
I am not giving you a license to stay in your negative. You and I have all made negative choices, and if we keep punishing ourselves for them, it becomes a habit pattern and we’ll find it threatening to let them go.
If you keep repeating, I hate my job. I hate my life. I hate my house. I hate this relationship. I hate this. I hate that, very little new, good or any kind change can come into our life.
No matter what negative situation you are in, it’s there for a reason; otherwise you wouldn’t have it in your life. We need to ask our self what is the payoff for allowing this in my life? What am I getting that is positive?
Most of the time we don’t like the answer to that question. However, if we really look within and are honest with ourselves, we will find the truth.
I encourage you to find humor in the negatives as well.
When we can truthfully look within and embrace our-self. We can in health laugh at our self, not in a degrading way. We can acknowledge, yep, that is an area that isn’t perfected yet.
When we can see our lives as a play, or as a soap opera drama. We get a better perspective and we are on the way to healing. Humor enables us to pull back from the experience and to see our circumstances in a different light.
We can find the positive out of our negatives. We can find positive ways to get the same or better results. When we begin to love our self, embrace where we are now, and recognizing our need to change.
Step Eight: Take Care of Your Body
Loving yourself includes taking care of your body. Let’s imagine our bodies as this marvelous house in which you live for a while. If you lived in this fabulous house you would take care of it, wouldn’t you? If that is true, we need to take care of our physical body (our temporary home).
I can think of three ways we should care for our bodies as a starting point. We should get enough rest, and we should eat healthier and we should deal with any abuses of our body we may be involved in. Let’s take a look at all three of these examples.
God created the world and rested on the 7th day. He instructed us to do the same. Science has proven in several studies the importance of rest to reduce stress, increase productivity and creativity. It seems our creator knew what He was doing when He instructed us to rest one day out of seven.
I understand we tend to think, if I just get this done I will get ahead for next week. I get it, I struggle with rest myself. I have to remind myself, put it down, let it go, come back later. When I follow those instructions and make room for rest, the work I do when I am back it at work is so much better. Self-care includes resting.
We can’t talk about taking care of our bodies and not mention eating. We stuff our bodies with food, we starve or eat unhealthy. We have obesity, bulimia or the opposite anorexia. We can’t live without food because it fuels our bodies. I do love to eat yet if I want to love myself I need to take care of my body. We need to find a balance between love of food and long term love of self.
We need to deal with any addictive behaviors, and I believe drugs or alcohol are two if the biggest. I think drug and alcohol abuse is so prevalent because they are two of the most popular methods of escape. Please disregard if you have become addicted to drugs due to a prescription that was mismanaged medically. If you are into drugs or alcohol it doesn’t mean you are a bad person; it means you haven’t found a more positive way of fulfilling your needs.
Drugs coax us: "Come and play with me, and we'll have a decent time." It's valid. They can influence you to feel awesome. Or as some in my family wanted they cause you not to feel at all. In any case, they change your world, despite the fact that it isn't obvious at the beginning. After taking drugs for a while, your health deteriorates and your family relationships usually get harmed. You have to wonder what made you start taking drugs in the first place. Peer pressure, curiosity, stress relief or a medical prescription may have compelled you to abuse drugs or alcohol in the beginning, but continued and repeated use is another story. I have yet met to meet anyone who really loves himself or herself and is hooked on drugs or alcohol.
I think of the scripture in 3 John 2, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”
God wants us to experience health in all areas, mind, body and spirit. He is interested in our complete wholeness. I have always thought the reason we as Christians are not effective and healthy is exactly as the scripture suggests our mind and body health effects our spiritual life. We need to take an inventory and begin to be conscious of what we are putting in our bodies and minds for both reasons of self-care and our effectiveness as Christians.
Step Nine: Embrace Yourself
We laughingly say about someone well, there isn’t anyone like them. How true even identical twins are different in some way. We as humans try to create sameness, God created diversity.
Spend some time exploring who you really are, get a journal and put it all in one place. Ask the Lord to show you who He created you to be. Give permission to yourself to celebrate and embrace yourself. What you feel is positive and what you feel is negative.
I had years of struggle coming to terms with the boldness, single purposed, aggressive, strong, forward pushing part of who I am. Years later as I began to lead people through inner healing of past issues and deal with demonic oppression I am so thankful for those parts of who I am.
Who knows some of those things you don’t personally care for are necessary for what you are called to do.
These ten steps will get us started as we learn to love our self. As we grow in love within we are better prepared to be able to love our neighbor. As we are healed and become healthy, those we love will be affected. Those we encounter will be affected. If we change the world around us changes.
I would love to hear if you are comfortable with loving yourself, how you got there, or if you are working on it.
Blessings to you and yours