christine clling

Self Love: What Its Message Gets Wrong

Culture, Instagram influencers, and popular messages say that self-love is the way to cure our pain, insecurity, and shame. We hear from every angle that we need to love ourselves, and that in order to find self-confidence we have to change the narrative we think about ourselves; that loving ourselves has to come before everything else; that the aim of life is to like ourselves and to find happiness.

But that message comes up short.

Our struggles with negative self-image and self-worth–and even self-hate–are rooted in something much deeper than poor thought patterns. Our struggle has roots in our sinful world, our sinful hearts, and a world and body in need of redemption.

The Burden of Self-Love

Self-love is dependent on your “self” and your ever-wavering opinions and strength. God’s love of you is dependent on his unwavering love and his unfailing promises.

Self-love puts the burden for freedom from shame and self-hate on you when Jesus has already ultimately taken that burden for you.

{Download my free 5 day bible study that explores these types of messages that point women to themselves:

5 Day Self Esteem Gospel Bible Study}

Self-love is up to you through your willpower, but Jesus gives you love and freedom through his power.

Self-love assumes that the aim of life is to be happy and love ourselves, but we are here for so much more. We are here to love God, love others, and bring God glory (Mark 12:30-31). Self-love is a good thing that stops us short of the best thing. Loving ourselves is a healthy by-product of loving God, loving others, and glorifying God–not the main focus. Culture’s message switches those two around and makes loving “self” more important than loving God.

Self-love assumes that our enslavement is caused by negative thinking, and can therefore be cured by positive thinking and meditation on the self. According to the Gospel, our enslavement is actually because of our sin and rebellion and can only be “cured” through Jesus. Anything less than this Gospel truth makes “self” a god, something that will always be enslaved to itself.

The Paradox of Loving God Before Self

Our culture’s message of self-love is directed at women who struggle with negative self-image, low self-worth, or even self-hate. This is an important issue that needs a real solution. If the popular message comes up short, what is the alternative?

The alternative–actually, the only lasting solution–is to love God.

If our problem is self-hate, we need to be unconditional love in order to find redemption and healing. Self-love recommends that we find that unrelenting love within ourselves, but the Gospel says the only source of unrelenting love is from God (1 John 4:7-12).

We need more than positive thinking to cure our problem with self-hate and low self-worth. We need unconditional love, full healing, and full redemption.

God is the source of all freedom, joy, satisfaction, love, and redemption. We are not capable to find within ourselves our own freedom, joy, satisfaction, and unrelenting love. If we are, we have made our “self” an idol, because only a god is capable of such things.

The only answer to our struggles with self-image and self-hate is having a higher view and love of God, and by learning our identity and worth in Christ. The thing that frees us is not ourselves, but knowing that God loved us in our brokenness and rebellion and died in our place anyway. Taking our eyes off of self makes us acknowledge that we will never be enough, but that we are invited into the glory of being enough in Christ.


{This is one part of my series on the Self Esteem Gospel. Read more posts here.}


If we feel unloved or are experiencing self-hate, we can conclude from the self-love message that it’s because we’re not loving ourselves enough. If the solution to our self-hate it loving ourselves, then our struggles are therefore because we are incapable to love ourselves enough. If we believe those messages, we are the ones responsible for our pain. The Gospel welcomes to you let go of that responsibility and accept the work that Jesus loves you unconditionally.

Loving God before ourselves doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love ourselves, or prioritize caring for ourselves. It simply means we believe that God is the source of our love, freedom, and joy. It means we have faith that he will give us those things when we abide with him.

It means that we believe that God is capable of loving us better than we could ever love ourselves.


I made all of you a little graphic to compare the self-love messages to the Gospel. Feel free to share or save on Pinterest!



Self Love vs the Gospel

August 21, 2019

Self Esteem Gospel

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