Why “Learn to Love Yourself” Is Bad Advice

    Just perusing most websites for millennials, we’re bound to see an article or two about self-love. We’re told to “love ourselves” from a very young age, often couched in terms like self-esteem. If we only love ourselves enough—the narrative goes—we would be more confident, better in relationships and happier in our careers.

    But the advice to “learn to love yourself” is not as wise as it seems. For the believer, it’s completely unscriptural. The Bible teaches us that we are naturally self-loving—in that we put ourselves and our own interests first without ever being taught how to do so. Self-focus comes naturally to us, whether in excessive vanity or in self-loathing. In both cases, we are naturally thinking about ourselves.

    Jesus offers a different road. This path allows us to appreciate our God-given identities without letting those identities become our all-in-all.


    Jesus Never Commanded Us to Love Ourselves

    And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

    Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus—or Father God—command His people to love themselves. Instead, He calls them to first, love the Lord their God with everything they have, and out of that love, honor the people He puts in their path. God does not command us to love ourselves, because we already know HOW to do so. We naturally think about our preferences and inclinations before others’, and must learn how to put others before ourselves.

    When we put ourselves down, it isn’t because we need more self-love. It’s because we need to love God more. When we love Christ with all we have, our hearts are changed. We have new eyes to appreciate our bodies and personalities because a loving God created us, and loves us so greatly that we can accept ourselves according to His grace.


    Love Is Outward-Focused

    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

    Look at the list in the passage above. Each characteristic of love is outward-focused. Love blesses others by choosing the highest good for that person—a good determined by God Himself. As we know from John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave….” Love always motivates us to sacrifice, commit and honor others. By nature, this is love in action.

    So while we may appreciate ourselves as creations of God and learn to look at ourselves through His eyes, we are not called to pursue self-love. We’re called to pursue love for God and others, and through that, come to peace with our identities.


    The Best Self Perspective Is Christ-Centered

    “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

    Paul says, “It is no longer I who live.” What a statement! In essence, he’s saying, “It is no longer about me—but about Christ in me.” The solution to poor self-esteem is not to think about oneself more. It’s to fix your eyes on Christ! Christ in you is your hope and your future. This is the same hope you give to others when you love them the way God has loved you.

    By drawing near to God, who in His very nature encompasses every definition of love, we learn how to best view ourselves. The best self-perspective begins when we look, not in the mirror, but in the face of Jesus.

    Phylicia Masonheimer
    Phylicia Masonheimer
    Phylicia Masonheimer is an author and speaker teaching women how to discern what is true, discuss the deep stuff, and accomplish God's will for their specific lives. She holds a B.S. in Religion from Liberty University, where she met her husband, Josh, and now lives in northern Michigan with her two daughters, Adeline and Geneva.


    1. I thought that when it said love your neighbor as yourself ment love yourself as you love others?!?! But I think first love God than yourself than others. Because with God’s love you can love yourself than your love can move to another person. If you’re in a fool mood your apt to take it out on someone else so you should be content with yourself before loving others so you don’t take out you non worth out on someone else. Idk it confuses me so if someone could further explain please do!

      • I thought the same as bean dip. We do have to look to God to love ourselves but the thing is you must have something to give before you do go outward. I remember the story of the old widowed woman who had little but her portion that she gave the church was half of what she had so it meant more. I think we can allude this to this example of self love and giving. This article is calling the “love yourself” movement vain and selfish. But is it selfish to put yourself in the position to love others? You can learn to love yourself through Christ by rejecting the standards of society and realizing he loves you for who you are. But that is also an act of self love. The self love movement was created for people who to block out the world and accept themselves. That doesn’t always mean staring in the mirror and falling in love it sometimes just means gaining self respect. Self love can be as simple as cutting out toxic relationships or switching from bad habits to better ones. Learning to love oneself also isn’t a perspective. It’s more of a habit. You can be Christian and have low self esteem that’s something you have to take up to God in prayer and still put in the work. Whether that’s actually calling yourself beautiful in the mirror or making some life changes.

        • Thank you! I get what you’re saying! I guess part of me it’s hard to love myself and sometimes I try so hard to love others when I’m down and turn to God but sometimes it just doesn’t work! See I have albinism and the only socializing I do is at church and I barely talk to anyone there too! Since I’m homeschooled I’m constantly around my family and it seems at points when we get fed up with each other it feels to me as no one loves me or cares how I feel and so I hide out in my room for a few days until either I or .y dad encourages me to just move on. See I don’t really have much confidence and when I get stared at or made fun of or shot down at by my own family I just let it just happen and I just hide out untill I feel better. Sometimes it’s easier than others. So I guess I don’t stand up to myself a whole lot. I’m kinda scared of hurt someone else’s feelings. There’s been sooo many times I wanted to go up to the kids parents whole staring at me and tell them to teach their kid how to uses their manners and staring is rude ,but I never do cause it isn’t the kids fault for staring and asking what’s wrong with me. People say I gotta be okay with the skin I’m in and to just love myself and stand up for myself,but I lack the confidence. Sometimes I’ll take a good look in the mirror and ask what it’d be like to be a normal person. Don’t get me wrong I know God made me for a reason and he has a purpose but I forget that sometimes. Thanks again for sharing I read it like three times and it’s still soaking in. So my encouragement to everyone out there is don’t be scared know God loves you and there is probably at least one person that love you that you know to. Don’t let anyone define who you are because we are told not to love the world but who made the world and he made me and you and we should love everything he made not what the world has made of it all. Cause God doesn’t see us as different! He doesn’t see us from black or white or guy or girl (as the world makes it) or lacking of cooking skills or the one who’s the gossip girl. No he sees as unique and he’ll use each one of our situations for something great! I’M STILL TRYING to learn this too. God bless you!

    2. I get what you’re saying, I really do. I read this article three times and I still get a sense of oh no! That’s not right! I just want to say it is okay to love yourself. Sometimes we don’t acknowledge the fact of loving ourselves. Sometimes we go through periods were we have no one we feel loves us, except acknowledging the fact that God loves me. I truly believe and you probably think I’m wrong is that we can love God and know he loves us but until we acknowledge the fact that if he loves us unconditionally, we need to do the same for ourselves. Especially when it comes to self esteem. If you don’t love yourself than you cannot teach other people about the Lord, you will not have the confidence or the faith to do so. I’m not talking about the kind of love that you’re talking about. I feel like the 1 Corinthians 13 love applies to ourselves also. As long as we love ourselves in Christ we can do everything that is pleasing to him.

    3. PREACH. This is so true, and needs to be said. The term “self-love” is so very misleading, and “love” is already thrown around so often that the true meaning is lost. At the root, love is sacrifice, putting another before yourself. Thus, the logical result of loving oneself is putting one’s own needs before others, and well, that already has a name: selfishness. To those who fear becoming a doormat, true love is STRONG, and “self-love” is not necessary to choose friends wisely, build healthy habits, stand strong in our convictions, and delight in our bodies and identities.

      Additionally, SO many of the lists I see describing “self-love” are simply an excuse to celebrate basic responsibility, and I still don’t know how I feel about that. Everyday joy is important, and yet there is a quiet strength that comes from silent maturity and responsibility.

      I guess my main concern with self-love is not so much in the lists and actions (which are mostly harmless) as it is with the term itself, because love is such a powerful word that I believe it should not be used lightly or incorrectly.

      • Amenn!! Sooo enjoyed reading your addition to this article! I’m guilty myself of throwing around the word love lightly. So refreshing to be reminded of how important this word is and how powerful it is since God is love!

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