“Believe in yourself.” | “Make yourself happy first.” | “Treat yoself.” | “Love yourself first. | “Be who you want to be.” | “You’re worth it.”
Do some of these look familiar? Maybe you’ve seen quotes like this on Pinterest in front of a pretty, inspiring background. They’re common things to see on posters and makeup commercials, scattered about on Twitter and Instagram, hear people say on Disney Channel, or just passed from one person to the next. They’re motivating, right? Make you feel good about yourself.
How about this one?
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” –Matthew 16:24
WHOA. Wait a minute! That doesn’t sound right. Deny ourselves? That’s not what we’re meant to do! We’re supposed to love ourselves. That’s the most important thing. Self-love. Because if we don’t love ourselves, we’re incapable of loving anybody or anything, right?
Well, that’s certainly what today’s society is trying to teach us. But you know what I’ve discovered through the year? Selfishness leaves no room for others.
A lot of people may instantly recoil at this and claim “self-love” has nothing to do with selfishness. I realize that, I understand where people are coming from with it. (Which I’ll discuss more in a bit.) But the thing is: Humans are selfish beings. Why do you think these self-love quotes capture us? Because we’re selfish. We want to be told it’s okay to focus on ourselves.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5
That looks awfully familiar to today’s society, doesn’t it?
Selfishness is rooted into human nature from the very beginning. Think about it, little children have to be taught how to share because it’s their natural instinct to claim everything for themselves. To have their way. We have to fight the urge of selfishness from the very second our brains are capable of understanding what that is. Aren’t we all still toddlers, desperately wanting our own way? It’s a fight, every single day. And when the whole world is telling you to “love yourself”, it makes that fight a whole, whole lot harder and, eventually, seem pointless, wrong even, to deny self.
But self-love can be so destructive. The selfishness of our society makes me sick. Sometimes I can’t even watch TV because you can physically see the self-centeredness on actors’ faces. And it’s not attractive, let me tell you.
You know what is attractive? What makes a person beautiful and truly shine? Humility. Selflessness. Love for others.
Have you ever had one of those conversations where the person ends up solely talking about themselves and doesn’t even seem to acknowledge you? Do you walk away thinking, “Wow, what a wonderful person. They’re so confident in themselves. How admirable.” Prooobably not. It’s usually pretty annoying, am I right?
Now what about those individuals who ask you questions about yourself and shows enthusiasm for your passions? Aren’t those the beautiful, admirable people in this world? The people we want to be like?
Self-love says we can’t truly love anyone until we love ourselves. But focusing on one’s self makes other people fall by the wayside.
I struggle with selfishness daily. It’s one of my worst problems. My vanity is a big, ugly thing I’m constantly trying to fight, and constantly finding it creeping back in, taking over everything. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from it, it’s that the more I focus on myself the less I see others.
Being a writer makes it harder. Because we’re supposed to promote ourselves. It’s literally our job to draw people to us and praise our work and gain as many followers as we possibly can.
This used to be very hard for me. Over the years of blogging and immersing in social media, it’s become easier, natural even. In fact, I rather like “promoting myself”. Maybe too much. Because, yes, it’s definitely my job to grow a platform, but God gave me this passion for writing to use it to glorify Him. And I fail at that daily. I get so caught up in gaining followers and trying to prove I’m a good writer, that God gets pushed behind me, me, me.
But when God gives you a gift, it should never be kept for yourself. We are supposed to take it and then pour it out for others. Show people God’s amazingness through us, show what He has done.
Now, I think a million and one people would get on me for saying these things. Because isn’t denying ourselves unhealthy? People hurt themselves and commit suicide every day because they hate themselves, feel unworthy and unloved. It’s heartbreaking. I love people. People is my jam. And it tears my heart in two when I see others hate on themselves. So I absolutely get this self-love movement.
I’m a huge believer in confidence. I have spent almost my whole life working on being a confident person and few years back something clicked with it. Ever since, I have been much more satisfied. We should be confident in ourselves. But there is a fine line between confidence and selfishness. And our human nature does so love to slip into that selfish behavior more often than not.
It’s a tricky thing. Sheesh, I agree with some of those “self-love” quotes. And there is a time and place for self care and to focus on our own pursuits. We can pour ourselves out too much and need time to refuel. And we should leave plenty of room to pursue our own passion. Lately I’ve been realizing I spend so much time helping other writers, I haven’t really left any room to work on my own books. And thus I have had to learn to say no (which is hard because I love supporting all my dear writer friends!) and take time out each day to work on my personal projects. I’m not saying we should pour ourselves out until we’re dry to the bone and don’t ever get to chase our own dreams. Again, I get what we’re trying to do with this “self-love” movement, but I think we’re going about it in the completely opposite way we should be.
You know what brings true joy and happiness and satisfaction and love?
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” –Philippians 2:3-4
Value others above yourselves. Now that is quite the different tone from these motivating self-love quotes, isn’t it? Because that’s the thing with those quotes—there’s a pattern. Can you see it?
Every single one of them acknowledges YOU. Love yourself. Make yourself happy. You’re worth it.
But God’s Word tells us over and over again to deny ourselves, to die to self, to seek humility. The answer to happiness and love can never be found within ourselves. It’s through GOD. But there’s absolutely no room for Jesus if we’re filled up on “self”. But if we fill up on Jesus, we will never run dry. We will find that His goals for us are our dreams and passions, and can chase them all the farther because He is the one driving us, not ourselves.
I’m sick and tired of this world of focusing on self, self, self. It’s a sickness that grows larger and larger the more we feed it.
To truly shine, is to put “self-love” away and accept God’s Love.
He is all the beauty and love in this universe. And when He is within you, you will shine more brightly, live more confidently, find more joy, and love more deeply than any amount of inspirational self-love quotes can ever give you.
Self-love is a shallow love that will eventually lead to bitterness. God’s love is true love that will lead to fulfillment and satisfaction. If we honestly want the best for ourselves and to “treat ourselves”, we will stop glossing over our sins and instead hand them over to Jesus and accept His love for us.
“Believe in yourself” is the big slogan Disney is very fond of using. Well, I don’t know about you but I’d much rather believe in the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving Creator of the Universe than myself.
“And all these things shall be added unto you.”
TALK WITH ME!
Hope you guys didn’t mind the rant! I know this is a bit of a different post from normal, but it’s been on my mind for…a long time. And, as writers, I do think it’s extremely important we keep centered on Him and use our gifts for His glory. SO LET’S TALK! What are your thoughts on this issue? I know it’s a tricky one and I’d love to debate it with you all and bounce ideas off of each other!