Self-love & Self-care are big topics we hear a lot about these days on social media. There’s a good reason for that . . . we all need to take care of ourselves. Whether you’re a teenager or a parent, a college student, or a senior of a totally different era. If we don’t take care of ourselves how can we take care of the other people around us? But the question is: How do you take care of yourself? And does what you do to take care of yourself really help in the long run?
To properly understand what self-care & self-love really mean, I decided to look up the actual definition. Google, my go-to for just about everything, says that Self-Care is “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” And Self-Love is “having regard for one’s own well-being and happiness.” I can honestly get behind the idea and these definitions, so that leads me back to those same questions: How do you take care of yourself? And does what you do to take care of yourself really help in the long run?
As a mom, wife, and business owner, I fully understand that giving to everyone else eventually catches up to you. How can you continue to give from an empty cup? The answer is – YOU CAN’T. At some point, you will break down and need to be refilled.
Today’s world is all about doing “whatever makes you happy”. So, let’s pause and look at the definition of happiness. Google says it’s “the state of being happy”, but if I go back to my school years I remember hearing an English teacher or two say that you can’t use the word (or root of the word) in the definition. So I looked up happy and Google defines it as “having a sense of confidence in or satisfaction with (a person, arrangement, or situation).” That in and of itself tells me that happiness is something that is fleeting. It is based on something good happening in your life. Google even goes on to say that origin of ‘happy’ is English and broken down equates to “lucky”. The synonyms are content, cheerful, merry, etc.
Maybe what we all should be looking for instead of happiness is Joy.
Yes, there is a difference. Google uses synonyms like jubilation, delight, triumph, and exultation. It also tells us that the word joy comes from the Latin word Gaudete – meaning rejoice. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather be filled with joy or jubilation instead of relying on my circumstances to make me happy all the time.
Now the question turns to, How do you find joy?
Here is where I’d like to refer you to another blog post that I read recently. The author, Liz Dolan – a Junior at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, gave me permission to share this. It hasn’t yet been published on the Women’s Faith Journey blog yet, but it is on their Facebook Page and will soon be published on their blog page.
Mirror Mirror on the Wall
~by Liz Dolan
I want to take a moment to be honest with you. Writing this blog was hard. It revealed a lot of brokenness and deep hurt that I have been ignoring. I do not know what you are bringing with you today as you read this, but I encourage you to take a moment in prayer. Dear Lord, open my heart to what you may be saying to me today. Reveal Yourself to me and give me eyes to see what You are doing in my heart and life. Amen.
Matthew 22:37-40 says this: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” I’ve done many devos on this passage, but I’ve never considered the latter part of the second commandment. “Love your neighbor as yourself”….as yourself. Do I love myself? What does that look like? What does God intend that to look like?
Self-love is broadcasted via Instagram stories, magazine articles, and clothing lines. Notebook covers, the expo marker on my mirror, and inspirational posters of Psalm 139 reminds us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Sermons on our identity being the “image of God” and embracing the bodies God has gifted us with are all important messages for us to hear. I think that they are crucial in understanding God’s perfect craftsmanship. However, I have been quick to use these messages as bandaids to comfort my self-conscious heart. I am quick to tell myself “no, God made you. You are beautiful. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” While these are all true and good reminders, they only momentarily provide peace until I once again am overwhelmed with shame in who I am. This is not love.
I have fallen victim to a worldly concept of self-love. I have defined self-love as the acceptance of who I am. But self-love is not the acceptance of who we are. It is the acceptance of Christ. It is the acceptance of what Christ did for us.
In the beginning, everything was good. Everything was perfect and we walked with God. But in Genesis 3 we see Adam and Eve fall to sin, become overwhelmed with shame, and hide themselves from God. This shame that Adam and Eve felt was good. It did not feel good, for sure, but it was the recognition of sin. They responded, as I often do, by trying to fix it. In the same way I hide my shame, Adam and Eve made clothes out of leaves. However, when God comes into the garden and learns of their sin, He is quick to not only banish them from the garden, but also provide for them. He knew that their designer leaf dresses would not last the week, so He made “garments of animal skin and clothed them”(Genesis 3:21). Throughout the old testament, we see the Jewish people making animal sacrifices as atonement for their sins. However, God made the first sacrifice to fix the shame Adam and Eve felt. And God made the last sacrifice when He sent Jesus to die for our sin. His fix was more permanent than the leaves that Adam and Eve came up with and nothing we do can compare to the love that God offers for our self-consciousness.
There are numerous times I wake up with a pit in my stomach or when I avoid mirrors so that I do not have to look at my reflection. I do not like what I look like, I am reminded of my past mistakes or the sin that I wrestle with everyday. I am ashamed of who I am. But just like Adam and Eve, I should be. Our sin should disgust us. But that is not where it should stop. We are stuck sewing leaves together as we cover our shame with Instagram likes and carefully crafted text messages and empty reminders of our beauty that we don’t always believe.
And you are beautiful! But do not just think of beauty in the worldly context. Yes, you are drop dead gorgeous and yes that outfit looks stunning on you. But there is so much more to beauty. Proverbs 31 tells us: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised”. Do not let yourself confuse self-love with pride in what you look like. Imagine every thought revolving around praising God rather than your appearance. That right there would fix a lot of self deprecating thoughts. What if we could wake up everyday and instead of seeing bed head and a stubborn pimple, we saw sin that has been perfectly covered by the grace of God.
You see, self-love isn’t about the self at all. It’s about accepting what God has done for you. It is about knowing that your reflection in the mirror is perfect and blameless. You are flawless. Not on your own account, but on the account of your Savior.
Romans 8:37-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. That self-love we are striving for is available through God, given to us by Jesus. We just have to accept it. It is okay to feel ashamed, but without accepting the forgiveness given to us, we will never find heavenly peace when standing in front of the mirror. Accept God’s love for you and you too will love yourself the way God loves you…with mercy, seeing what God defines as beautiful, permanently.
When you finally come to the realization of all these things Liz points out . . . that is where you will find joy.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that I have it all figured out. Believe, me there are many a day, and many days that I need these reminders several times a day. But I know that in the end, a little time with Jesus is all I need to fill my cup so that I can keep giving to those around me – for, in Him, my joy is complete.
I hope and pray that you will take some time for yourself and find out what true joy looks and feels like in your life. Take care of yourself.