“Love your neighbor as yourself. – Galatians 5:14 NIV
That’s a powerful verse and it’s found a few more times throughout the Bible too. And I’m betting you have no problem loving others. It’s ‘easy’ to love others.
But how well do you do when it comes to loving yourself?
“That was a dumb thing to say.”
“How could I have been so stupid to do that?”
“I’m so fat.”
“My nose is too big.”
“I’m so ugly.”
“I’m so stupid.”
“I’m not smart enough.”
Those words, or similar ones, are often spoken over and over inside our heads. They aren’t words we would ever think of saying to those around us – friends or family – but we can speak them to ourselves without hesitation. Why is that?
Sadly, society has trained us to fall into the trap of believing we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc. It’s taught us that if we aren’t a certain height, weight, and skin color (just to name a few) that there’s something wrong with is.
Why do we fall prey to those things and think those things about ourselves? Especially as Christians. God doesn’t want us believing those lies! Just look at Psalm 139: 13-15:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. -Psalm 139: 13-15 NIV
Did you catch that? Fearfully and wonderfully made.
But let’s face it, we’re human and it’s not always easy to fight the self-sabotage and negative self-talk which makes it difficult to show ourselves love and grace which is right where the devil wants us – ‘hating’ ourselves.
What Is “Self-Love”?
First, let’s get clear on how we’re defining self-love. If you look it up in the dictionary, it has a negative connotation:
The instinct by which one’s actions are directed to the promotion of one’s own welfare or well-being, especially an excessive regard for one’s own advantage. Dictionary.com
That’s not what we’re talking about here. In this case we’re using the word self-love in a way that means not beating yourself up for past actions, or for looking in the mirror and loving what you see regardless of skin color, size, or number on the scale. We’re talking about self-love in terms of accepting ourselves…faults and all, just like He does.
So, how do you accept that God loves you even when you don’t love yourself? It’s not always easy, believe me I know the struggle. But, it gets “easier” as time goes on if you’re willing to put forth the effort to work on it.
Here are some tips you can follow to start accepting God’s love even when you don’t love yourself:
Look up, not around you
We’ve already discussed, briefly, how society has caused us to believe if we’re not a certain height, skin colour, etc. that there’s something wrong with us. When we look around and compare ourselves with how much money a friend makes, the fancy car a neighbour drives, the exotic vacations a colleague takes, it’s easy to get down on ourselves and start believing we’re not good enough.
But that’s not true! God doesn’t love us based on how much money we make, the vacations we take or the car we drive. In fact, none of these things matter in the grand scheme of things.
Stop looking around and instead look up and remember who you are in Him.
Mediate on His word
The best way (and easiest) to accept God’s love is to immerse yourself in His word. Pick a topic on what you’re struggling with, in this case loving yourself, and seek out the answers He gives through His word.
A quick Google search using a tool like biblegateway.com will let you search for a keyword. Or most Bibles even have an index where you can find verses based on a topic. If you don’t have a specific topic in mind, I recommend just opening your Bible and reading some verses on the page you opened to. Trust that whatever you needed to hear that day was shown to you in those Words.
Do something for yourself
Contrary to popular belief and what some of society says, it is not selfish to take time for yourself. In fact, God wants you to take care of you and that includes time to yourself. You decide what works for you – once a week, 15 minutes a day, whatever works, just choose it and make it happen. This time can be used for something as simple as a quick walk, reading a few chapters of a book, listening to music, writing in your journal – whatever you feel like doing!
Follow a healthy diet
What does this have to do with accepting God’s love? Everything! In fact, His word even says:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV
Wow. There you have it in black and white – even something as simple as eating is to be done to bring Glory to God. But aside from that, think about how you feel when you’re feeding your body “icky” stuff like candy, cookies, chips, fast food, pizza, soda, etc. Does it make you feel energized, refreshed, mentally aware? Or does it make you feel tired, sluggish, crummy, and mad at yourself for eating junk once again?
I’m guessing you chose the latter because that’s usually what happens when you eat that stuff. Not to mention all the health issues that can result when you’re eating all that unhealthy, non-nourishing stuff on a regular basis. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m indulging in that stuff (occasionally it isn’t bad. It’s all about balance) it adds to the negative feelings I have towards myself!
This one goes hand in hand with the above follow a healthy diet recommendation. Exercise doesn’t have to be a long gym workout or 60-minute exercise class. In fact, even just 20-30 minutes of exercise a day can be beneficial. It’ll help your mood which in turn will help you feel better about yourself. After a quick search I didn’t find any Bible verses that specifically mentioned physical exercise (although I’m sure there are some somewhere) but this (exercise/being healthy) goes back to treating your body as a temple.
Seek counsel from a pastor or leader
God will not be mad if you need to talk with someone else. Sometimes praying on our own isn’t enough and we need help from those around us. That’s alright! And it even says in His word that where two or three are gathered He is there with them (Matthew 18:20). Our pastors, elders, and leaders of churches are there to minister one-on-one too.
Sometimes taking care of yourself and accepting Gods love means to reach out and ask for help. Besides, gathering with someone or a few others for prayer and ministry is a wonderful way to soak up God’s love.
We know the importance of forgiving those who have hurt us and not carrying resentment or anger towards them. God’s word even says that we’ll be forgiven if we forgive others who have sinned against us (Matthew 6:14).
So, doesn’t that mean we need to forgive ourselves too? Sometimes we’re going to give in to the self-hatred, not feeling satisfied with what we have and comparing ourselves to others, negative self-talk, and more. But accepting God’s love mean that we forgive ourselves when we do these things and move along. Can you do that? Don’t you deserve to do that for yourself?
Join a Bible study
Again, one of the best and easiest ways to accept God’s love is to immerse yourself in His word. Joining a local Bible study is a great way to do this. Not only that, but it’s a good way for you to get involved and get to know others on a more personal level – even more important if you attend a large church and it’s hard to make connections just by attending Sunday services.
If you can sign up to volunteer within your church – helping in the office, taking care of babies, playing with toddlers, leading kids church, ministering to the youth, being a door greeter on Sunday, etc. – that would be ideal. Because after all, how else to embrace and accept God’s love than to be of service to Him within His place of worship? But if not, any type of volunteer activity is a fantastic way to get outside yourself and stop focusing on you/your problems.
Remember, loving those around you as your neighbor is one of God’s commandments. Volunteer work is a fun, but sometimes challenging, way to not only show love but receive love too.
These nine tips are merely suggestions. You can choose one or two to focus on and start there. Maybe none of these things mentioned appeal to you. That’s ok too. Create your own list. Come up your own ideas of ways you can let God love you even when you don’t love yourself.
I promise you, you can’t immerse yourself in God’s love and not eventually start loving yourself too.
Don’t ever forget who you are or who you belong to. You are God’s handiwork just like it says in His word:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV
He loves you unconditionally. He doesn’t expect you to be perfect. He made you for a reason and has a plan for you. He knows you’ll make mistakes and sin along the way, he knew that way back when He created you! But that didn’t stop him, did it?
Knowing how unconditionally loved you are, how he has a plan and purpose for your life, doesn’t that mean you should show yourself a little compassion, grace, and self-love too? After all, you are worth it!
If you need some more encouragement, check out these Bible Verses:
- But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV
- God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 NIV
- He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 NIV
- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
- Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5 NIV
- But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV