Don’t Love Yourself!

Watering hole - do you come here often

Alright, I admit my title is a ruse, and yet…I really am sick of seeing motivational posts telling us to love ourselves. Why? Because we don’t need to learn to love ourselves.

We need to learn to like ourselves. In a sense, people who commit suicide love themselves too much. They love themselves enough to be obsessed with their dreams, and crushed when those dreams fail to come true. They can accept your failure. Or mine. But not their own.

Love flows like mother’s milk. But like is a hard-shelled nut. It doesn’t crack for motivational slogans (“You’re great!” “Oh, shut up! I’ve accomplished nothing today!”). Antique CompassWe’re born with an inner compass that relentlessly points to true north, refusing to settle for happy-happy-sugar-candy faux-north.

I know a sweet-spirited woman, Michelle, who grew up during the peak of the self-esteem movement. He mother told her non-stop how “special” she was, praising even the most insignificant accomplishments. By the time she’d reached young adulthood, Michelle was hopelessly jaded. She was convinced that, 1) nothing she accomplished mattered because “special” had no real meaning, and, 2) she was incapable of actually accomplishing anything, anyway. I have never met another person who disliked themselves as deeply as she does.

(There is one group that has shown a measurably positive response to baseless praise: criminals. One study reveals that imprisoned murderers have the highest rate of self-esteem of anyone. Happy-happy-sugar-candy faux-north.)

The slogan-driven self-esteem movement (“you’re special!”) started to crumble in the 1990s as more and more clinical studies showed that only measurable accomplishment has the ability to produce authentic self-esteem in test subjects. And yet the false premise—say it often enough and they’ll believe it—abides with us today.depression

I struggled with intense anxiety as a young adult. Each night for nearly a decade I would lie awake, terrified at the prospect of being alone with the one person I least trusted: myself. I loved myself (too much, really), but did not like myself. There were several key developments in my healing (which I’ll write more about sometime), but the breakthrough came after a period of genuine personal growth. I remember lying in bed as a young husband and father striving to do right, suddenly realizing, “I think I actually…like myself…a little.” I hadn’t gotten to the full meat of the nut yet, but I’d cracked the shell.

None of this is news to God, of course. In the book of Genesis, He tells Cain, after the rage-filled young man has killed his brother, “If you do not do what is right, sin crouches at your door. Its desire is for you—but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7) And then God does something remarkable: he places a mark on Cain’s forehead, not a mark of guilt—as some mistakenly believe—but a mark of protection. It is God’s way of saying, “There’s a long journey ahead, but I am with you. So begin now.”

Yes, the sweet nut of self-liking is hard to get at, but it’s worth it. And, perhaps surprisingly, unlike the navel-gazing “love yourself” message, the key to self-liking is others. helpingothersNo accomplishment brings such inner peace as service. The number one weapon against depression is service. Which is one of the reasons Jesus commanded us to love others “as yourself.” He knew we already loved ourselves. The key was to turn that love outward. To accomplish something worthy, something that might even cause us to…

like ourselves!

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Don’t Love Yourself!

  1. r_prab says:

    I never thought that way!Many ones I guess wouldn’t have thought of questioning this age old saying of “love yourself” that we have endorsed naively! But when you mentioned about the criminal psychology, I did start realizing what you mean!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dawnlizjones says:

    Narcissism can spawn insecurity. Insecurity turns my eyes inward all the more. You really hit it when you said service to others. Or as one wise person said, not thinking less of myself, but thinking of myself less.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been mulling over for years. So true! You really grabbed me when you shared your own experience, and I have no doubt that anxiety is linked to writing talent!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. oneta hayes says:

    Didn’t Jesus say something like “if you want to be great, be servant of all.” You ending paragraph points to that. Everyone needs responsibility and accountability to evaluate himself. Good article you have written.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Perhaps service to others increases our self-esteem because we put our best selves forward when we aim to help others. We tend to be more kind, patient, encouraging, etc when focused on the needs of another. And we’re happier with ourselves when we’ve made someone else happy. Thank you, Mitch, for showing us the way to like ourselves, by looking for ways to serve others. It is indeed Jesus’ way — it’s the way God designed us!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anyone reading this, Mitch, can well learn the value of extending love to others as a way of learning to like oneself. A message of substance.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Favorite posts from favorite blogs | Happily Writing

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