Right now the world is all about self love. Rightfully so, it is important to get to a place in your life where you are happy with you. Not your outside appearance, or your accomplishments. Actually getting to a place where you love who you are as a person, you love yourself down to your guts. This is a process that takes a lot of work and honestly it can take some time.
There is never so much of an end goal in this process, as there are stages of self love. Because once you feel like you have made it to a place where you are happy with you, you will get tested on that. For me that came in the form of a happy, smiling, giggling, pre-baby body bridal party that could squeeze into any dress of any style. Then, there I was - the center of attention - and not because I am the beautiful blushing bride but because I was big momma flustered, sweaty and naked in a David's bridal waiting for the next dress to try on in attempts to cover my “mommy bobbies”.
I had to have a come to Jesus moment that night. I felt like I was being punked. But I worked through that. I dug to find the reasons why that was so hard for me. I was so close to a public break down that it actually shocked me because I pride myself on emotional stability.
So loving yourself takes time and you have to be able to roll with changes because you will not stay the same. Your body won't, your mind won't and the way you see yourself won't and you have to adjust.
The one thing that I consider so interesting though is the way that people have spun this loving yourself campaign. They have chosen to take it as far as saying that you cannot fully love another until you fully love yourself. This is where I feel like people have taken the concept a little too far. I believe this gives people permission to be self centered and that in turn can develop into extreme narcissistic tendencies. When our whole lives revolve around ourselves, that can tend to get pretty backwards and create results that you don’t want.
There are athletes who dedicate the majority of their time to their sport and that is healthy because there are goals that can be wrapped around that, that aren't wholly self centered. But when you become your sport you begin to dive into some unhealthy territory.
I have watched so many people take time to “focus on themselves” and I stood by as I watched them get worse and worse and slide deeper into the state of depression than they were in to begin with. Not only did they lose their sense of community and began to isolate themselves but they also stopped being helpful and serving in areas that did not directly effect them. The problem is that a struggling person took time to dive deeper into their struggles in the name of learning how to love themselves first.
What you focus on will consume you.
Focusing on all of your issues most likely will not be what solves them.
Rather what magnifies them in your life.
I have had to learn the balance on working on myself while still being involved in areas where I believe God wants me to serve. I had to learn sometimes how to suck it up and go and do what I have been called to do. I had to serve others with a smile on my face even though sometimes under the surface there was so much inner turmoil. I had to learn to listen to others peoples issues even though to me, my issues felt more significant. I had to be able to put aside the things that were going on in my life in order to fully give myself to the ones around me that needed me.
I quickly learned this; When you take time to cater to the needs of others, all of the issues that make it seem like your world might end slowly fade into faint background noise. I found that in moments when someone was spilling their hearts out to me and I was able to be an encouragement to them, making them feel less alone, all of a sudden I would become thankful that I had struggled in that area.
I realized that all of my personal struggles allowed for a deeper understanding and greater perspective and insight to what others might be dealing with. Realizing this gave me the motivation that I needed to continue to grow and change. It challenged me to work on my self image because if I did and I came through with victory in hand, then I would be able to talk about that with other women struggling in that area. Likewise if I could learn to deal with the pain of my past, then I would also be able to aid other women in that healing process to.
If I had never been pushed to get over myself and focus on others, then I would have never learned what my struggles were for. God brought me through those things not so that I could spend my life dwelling on the pain those experiences caused. Rather, God brought me through so that I could be a testimony to God's healing. So that in the end, what the enemy meant for my harm God would turn it around for my good and He would get the Glory.
All my struggles became a simple equation in my mind. I am meant to overcome this so that I can be a testimony of God's power, so God is going to also show up and be my help through it. I just have to keep focusing on loving his people and seeking his face and I will get through this.
God’s greatest commandment to us is that we love one another.
He didn't pause in that commandment and say "so you have got to take a season of your life to learn how to love yourself first". He just said "Love others". He said this knowing full and well that there would be times when we didn't even love ourselves but that is the great sacrifice, to put your own emotions aside to care for God’s people. That is what Jesus did for all of us. He put aside how he felt about the current situation. I mean He had been betrayed by the people he held closest to his heart. He was falsely accused. He was being made to seem like someone He wasn't. Even though all of that was waging war inside of Him he still said but enough about me, this is all for you.
He didn’t pause to settle the scores before he sacrificed it all for us. He left the dealings of his life up to God and He did what He knew He was called to do.
Maybe you don’t currently know what you are called to do and maybe that is a struggle for you. That is ok. I would say ask your church what you can do to serve. Try a few different areas in the ministry until you find something that feels right. Or maybe the thing you feel like God is asking you to do is risky. At this point if you are struggling in your life, it may be worth it to take a little risk. Get to a place where you feel alive and where not everything is about you. I can almost guarantee you will feel better.
The challenge then though is that you don't stop seeking what God is trying to do in you personally because you feel better all of a sudden. Actually I would say now that you aren't spending so much time wallowing, dedicate some of that time to pursuing God’s face. Then He will increase you by growing you in the area you are serving and by increasing your joy in Him.
On a quick side tangent, a friend of mine recently dove into a very practical and less spiritual side of this concept. And she challenged people to think outside of the box and I just love the thoughts that she brought up. She mentioned that if it was a prerequisite to love yourself before you loved others, then how could a woman struggling with self image issues fully love her new baby. My friend and I have had multiple conversations on this topic but when she put it so simply other people really connected with it. I know that no issue that I may ever face, especially something that is revolving around me and how I feel about myself, will ever have the power to diminish the love that I have for my child. She is a complete joy and a very special gift from God and to know her, to see her is to love her fully! But if I have not connected with you in the concepts above than just apply this simple thought and I think it will help bring you clarity on this topic.
John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Heavenly Father, help me to take my eyes off on me and the things that I am currently battling in my life. Help me to put my eyes to tasks that are pleasing to you and the project of advancing your kingdom. Help me to use my imperfections to be more relatable. Increase in me a vulnerability that will break the chains in the lives of others. God I know that when I take my eyes off of me and I redirect them to your people and your kingdom, that you will bring me a deeper healing than I even thought was possible.
Show me what you would have me do God.