When you look at the mirror, do you like what you see? Are you still very embarrassed about your scalping forehead? Are you disturbed by your African nose? Perhaps it is your fingers or your eyes? What don’t you like about you when you look at yourself in the mirror? Growing up, I didn’t like my teeth. They were big and very spaced. If granted a wish to change a part of me, it would have to do with my dental formula. When I got braces, they did not drastically change the formula but they improved their appearance. I was almost dissatisfied even after the money spent at the dentist but I learned something that made me stop hating that part of my body. It is something that I have also been learning lately and I wish to share it with you.
A man/woman who does not love himself cannot love others effectively.
Apart from our physical looks, there are other arenas in life where we feel let down by ourselves. Have you ever felt let down by your temper? Did you speak out of turn and let yourself down with your over-excitement? Or did your silence create equal damage? Do you beat yourself up for your shortcomings? Is there something about you that heavily and constantly disappoints you to the point of hating yourself? Do you ever talk to yourself in the following way?
- Nobody could love me
- I could never change
- It’s my weakness
- I’ll never be good enough
- I’m ugly
Remember our guide:
A man/woman who does not love himself cannot love others effectively.
Beloved, you will notice that if you are in that situation, it affects the relationships around you. Why do you talk ill of the girl with a smaller, slimmer, prettier body figure than you? Why do you make fun of the person who is scoring higher grades than you? Why do you find yourself constantly annoying those that you love with your habits? Your relationships with others will be strained if you are not secure in yourself. Christ said that we ought to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). The degree for loving others according to God is that of how we love ourselves. So if we do not love ourselves, we cannot execute our love for others. A man/woman who does not love himself cannot love others effectively.
All unhappiness is caused by comparison
I strongly believe that all unhappiness is caused by comparison. When growing up, I would see children with wealthier parents and feel as if the world and all the forces that forge the future were against me. I told myself if I only had as much money, toys, opportunities as the other person, then I would be happier. What I did not know is that, I was in a vicious cycle of comparison that only led to unhappiness. There are people who are also looking at you and thinking they’d he happy if they had what you got. However, I came to learn that God gives time and chance to all men.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”
Life is not scripted to favour a few. Life in its daily rigmarole of sin, accidents, goodness and badness occurs. However, a Gracious God avails a common grace of time and chance to all. So whether you are reading this from the slums or from the leafy suburbs, realize that time and chance are availed to you. If you compare your body to the girl on the poster cover of the magazine, you strangle your time and chance. The time you stay depressed blinds your opportunities and eats up your time. And opportunities will always look bigger going than coming. If those opportunities are seized then your attitude towards those more privileged and less privileged than you will increase. You will stop hating those with more amenities and you will stop disdaining those with less. You will love others and relate with them effectively. Remember, a man/woman who does not love himself cannot love others effectively.
Stop looking at the greener grass on the other side. If it’s greener, who knows, it is probably growing on a septic tank or the water bills are high. Stop looking at what others have. Instead like Moses in Egypt, ask yourself, “WHAT IS IN MY HANDS?” So you don’t have a gym like Jim, but you have a dusty football field where you can run around every morning and shed off that weight. The simple rod in Moses’ hand is what saved Israel and split the Red Sea towards freedom. What is in your hands? Remember, God will not bless your hands; He will bless the work of your hands.
Change your environment of influence
The reason you think you’re not beautiful is because you are constantly told by those around you that you don’t match up. Are you keeping friends who make fun of you, demoralize you and then say that it is just for fun, or they were only joking? By the way, the Bible condemns coarse joking (Ephesians 5:4). You may have a boyfriend/girlfriend who makes fun of your body. It hurts you but you blame yourself for being too sensitive to their jokes. The result, you feel worse about yourself. Every time, you try to change your hairstyle, your clothes, or whatever it is that makes you feel inadequate, you end up not doing it because your environment has conditioned your mind that you cannot do it. When my wife and I were dating, she affirmed me constantly. Turi always let me know that she found me attractive. She let me know that others opinions did not count but only God’s. She created an environment that brought out the king in me and killed the fool in me. She encouraged me to join the theatre club in school. Because of that, I have a very strong gift in theatre and entertainment. She pulled out the king in me. Is your environment of people enforcing weakness or building greatness. If it is not the latter, disengage from that group and find building environments.
One way to love yourself is to build a strong support environment. Here are four environments that affect you greatly:
- The friends you keep
- The books you read
- The music you listen
- The media you watch
If you are struggling to believe you are beautiful, you need to stop listening to the hip hop rappers who associate women to wealth and objects like cars. You need to disengage from friends, books, music and media that enforce your weakness. But stopping the bad isn’t enough. You need to engage in good investments that improve you. Forge close friendships that build. Bad company ruins good morals (1 Cor 15:33). Read books that help you become wiser (especially the Bible), listen to music that builds your soul and watch media that enhances your character. Otherwise, you may grow up despising those with relationships that work when yours is failing. A man/woman who does not love himself cannot love others effectively.
King David made some huge mistakes in life. One of them was taking another man’s wife and murdering that man. When David was downcast after messing up, he gave himself a pep-talk. He said “Why are you downcast Oh my soul?” He then proceeded to encourage himself to trust in the Creator and rejoice in him. David was punished adequately by God for his sinfulness but he knew that no sin is too great for God to forgive. He asked God to restore the joy of salvation and renew a right spirit in him. Have you even been in a low state? Have all the friends around you tried lifting you up but all in vain? Listen, you are down but not out yet. Talk to yourself. Part of loving yourself involves practicing to encourage yourself. When I feel down, I talk to myself in the shower. I tell myself to cheer up. Don’t ignore the feeling? Don’t say to yourself “I shouldn’t be feeling like this.” You will only know how to talk to yourself appropriately once you acknowledge the feeling appropriately.
Also, don’t confuse talking to yourself with lying to yourself. Don’t just say that God is loving and forget that he is Holy, Holy, Holy. Don’t underestimate your problem. Don’t ignore the signs. Acknowledge the signs but remember, even in a hospital bed, when the green line is flat there is no life. But when it is up and down, it means there is life. The down moments in life are not bad. Why? Because it means an up is coming. Don’t wallow in self-pity and miss the chance and opportunity. The best self-talk is Scripture. Scripture is sure, definite and infallible. Memorize a few verses on who God says you are? (See a few: John 1:12, Romans 8:31, Romans 8:37, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 1st John 4:4) They will make good self-talk when you are downcast. Because they are poetically written? No. It is because they have power in them. Scripture is loaded with the Spirit of God. Scripture is not like a quote from Mark Twain. Those quotes by men are good. However, some of them have a form of godliness but lack the power. How do we know which ones are? We don’t. But we know about Scripture and it’s work is sure.
Jesus said in John 14 that the Holy Spirit would come and remind us His Word. The Holy Spirit cannot remind you what you do not know. Spend lots of time in the Word and memorize it. There are times when I have memorized a whole chapter or a whole book in the Bible. I am currently memorizing the entire book of 2nd Timothy with a group of people in my church- 3 chapters down, one to go. It accounts for the overcoming victories I have had in low times. If you are telling yourself that you don’t have a good memory and you cannot memorize, then you are back you square one. You don’t believe in yourself because you don’t love yourself enough. When you encourage yourself, you avoid creating a poisonous ambience with your drudgery. You even encourage those in hard times. You are able to show them love because you talked to yourself and showed love to yourself. A man/woman who does not love himself cannot love others effectively.
Don’t own troubles
Catch your tongue. Stop saying statements like:
- It’s my weakness
- My temper is uncontrollable
- My habit isn’t common
The Bible says no temptation is uncommon (1 Corinthians 10:13). King Solomon goes on to say that there is nothing new under the sun. If you own your troubles, your troubles will own you. And if that happens, you will be repulsive to those around you because you will believe it is your right to be in a horrible state. You have no right to ruin anyone’s day because you imagine that your feelings are superiour to your environment. A man/woman who does not love himself cannot love others effectively.
There are things about our body that we can do something about to change how we feel. If you are overweight, you have the opportunity to tweak your diet and engage in physical exercise, frequently and consistently. However, it sounds easy to say start exercising and start eating well. It isn’t the gym that’s the problem; the problem is our mindset. It takes loving yourself to start that exercise and diet program. If your girlfriend is hitting the gym, you need to do so too. It may sound petty but she may feel cheated that she looks good and you make no effort on yourself. A man/woman who does not love himself cannot love others effectively.
Take responsibility for the spheres within your control. I pray that God will grant you the power to change what you can change; that He may grant you the serenity to accept what you cannot change; and that He may grant you the wisdom to know the difference.
Treat yourself kindly
If you call yourself stupid after you mess up, you will not find it hard to reject when someone else calls you stupid. If you don’t take leave when you are tired, you will not see the problem when your boss overworks you. If you don’t take time to feed your spirit, you will not see the harm that perverse entertainment does to you. Your physical, emotional, rational, psychological and spiritual selves will react but because you will not realize that you are being unkind to yourself. Your system will be conformed to mediocrity and self-abuse and you won’t even know it. Ever heard friends who call each other fools, stupid, idiots and laugh? Ever seen people who are tired but insist on working to finish their projects or assignments? Ever seen people indulge and enjoy a movie that does not support their moral stance? These things look obvious but they are an indicator that you do not love yourself. And you forget that when you do these things, you are relating with yourself and you are being unkind to several people: your physical self, your psychological self, your emotional self, your rational self and your spiritual self. You are treating these people badly. You are not loving them well and they will also not love others well. A man/woman who does not love himself cannot love others effectively.
Perhaps the reason you don’t feel confident, beautiful, worthy or useful is because someone killed you inwardly. Perhaps it was an abusive father or a demeaning mother. Perhaps it was a teacher who said nasty things to you in school. You were called ugly, useless, foolish, imbecile and I’m just mentioning the conservative list. Take a piece of paper, Beloved. Write down the names of all those people and humble yourself. Go before God and ask Him to take away any hurt that you have held in your life because of these people. Pray for each one of them and ask God to release you from the hurt and bitterness. Ask God to give you the humility to forgive them just as he forgave you. Ask God to change your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh such that even if you met these people, you would not hold any hard feelings towards them. Cancel each name as you pray until you are done.
Forgiveness is for you. Holding onto hurt and bitterness is like taking poison and expecting the person who offended you to die. You will notice that you may have been subtly treating your children, siblings, friends, spouse the same way you were treated by those people that killed you with their words. I call it the pain-transfer syndrome. We transfer our frustration to people who had nothing to do with it. I pray that you will ask these people you transferred the hurt to for forgiveness. Let them know that someone in your past caused you not to love yourself and you have learned that a man/woman who does not love himself cannot love others effectively.