It can be hard to love ourselves.
Many of us are afraid that loving ourselves will make us narcissistic and selfish. Many others of us have too hard a time getting past our inner-critics to even try to figure out what it means.
Despite popular fears to the contrary, loving ourselves is an essential ingredient in being a truly moral person. As Jesus, himself, observed, the Golden Rule states that we must love others as we love ourselves (Mk. 12:31). Perhaps the reason the people seem to struggle so mightily to love one another is that most people don’t have an adequate sense of what it means to properly love themselves
To love someone means that we are committed to working for their good. To love ourselves is to be similarly committed to working for our own good. St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body teaches that authentic love must be free, total, faithful & fruitful. This usually refers to the love between man and woman, but I think these terms can also be applied to a healthy love of self as well. The following description of the four keys to loving oneself properly are taken from my new book, Broken Gods: Hope, Healing and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart (in stores June 2, PRE-ORDER TODAY!). I hope you find them helpful in your journey toward greater self-acceptance.
4 Keys To Loving Yourself
I will love myself freely. I commit to working for my good without reservation, without grumbling. I will not hold back in my efforts to challenge myself to open my heart wide to receive the transformation God wishes to give me and to cooperate to the best of my ability with his grace at all times.
I will love myself totally. While there are parts of myself that are hard to like, I will not turn away from them. I will celebrate the fact that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), that I am good (Gen. 1:31), and that God has great things in store for me (1 Cor 2:9). I will fearlessly cooperate with God’s grace and strive for greatness so that every part of me, especially the parts of me I like the least, may be transformed and bear witness to the wonders God can do.
I will love myself faithfully. Even on the days I want to give up on myself I will continue to fight the good fight (2 Tim 4:7). I reject self-criticism and false guilt and any movement of the spirit that tries to separate me either from the love of God or his ability to fulfill the incredible plans he has for my life (2 Cor 10:5). On the days I can no longer believe in myself, I will cling to the knowledge that God believes in me. On the days that I cannot count on my own strength, I will rely on his. I will not beat myself up for my weakness. Rather, I will boast in the power of God (1 Cor 1:31) to raise me up from weakness to glory.
I will love myself fruitfully. I will rejoice in the good things God does in and through me. I will look for ways to be a blessing to others. I will share the blessings God has given me and I will proclaim the good he has done for me (Ps 116:12) that others might be inspired by the wonders God is working in me.
Be Not Afraid!
This is the attitude we aspiring mystics must adopt as we face even the darkest parts of ourselves and our frustrated efforts to heal. Not fear, anger and condemnation, but the free, total, faithful and fruitful Love that enables us to rejoice in our failings because of God’s immeasurable mercy and love and, in turn, be transformed by the power of his infinite grace. To learn more about how you can learn to love yourself as God loves you, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.
Popcak masterfully reveals how even our darkest desires ultimately point to something beautiful, to a destiny beyond our wildest dreams, and he offers a powerful, practical plan for readers to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for their lives. A must-read for anyone who wants to live the redemption Christ won for us!” -Christopher West, Founder & President, The Cor Project Author, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, & the Universal Longing