A lot of things are done in the name of self love these days. And actually, the self love movement is probably one of the largest and most popular movements among Gen-Z and millennials. You and I both know it’s the mantra of our age. Now, this brings a sense of joy and pride to some. But, others are completely turned off. Should Christians be excited about the self love movement or should we hold off from it entirely? Could there be a middle ground? I want to answer these questions for you by looking at the origins of the self love movement, considering its purpose, and taking a look at how people who practice it today would describe it. Then, I’ll compare all of this information to what the Bible tells us about self love. Sounds good? Let’s get started!
What is self-love and how did it get started?
The self love movement can trace its roots back to the Hippie Era of the 1960s. The movement was greatly influenced by postmodern thought and philosophy.
If you don’t know what postmodernism is, it’s a Western philosophy that’s known for skepticism, relativism, and subjectivism that came about after the Second World War and lasted through the Vietnam War. Essentially, there was skepticism against government and political leaders, people believed that truth was relative, and that facts were subjective, rather than objective. This generation had seen so much pain, destruction, and loss and as a result, the solid truths that they previously stood on didn’t seem to be relevant anymore.
As a reaction to the Vietnam War, the Hippie Generation decided that they’d spread peace and love. Perhaps they thought that they could solve the hate in the world through each individual choosing to love themselves more. The movement grew and turned into what we have today.
What does self-love mean to the people who practice it?
According to, Jeffrey Borenstein, MD who is the president of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, self love is:
a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve.Jeffrey BORENSTEIN, MD
Andrea Brandt, a marriage and family therapist says this about self love:
Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world. Instead, when you love yourself you accept your so-called weaknesses, appreciate these so-called shortcomings as something that makes you who you are. When you love yourself you have compassion for yourself… You take care of yourself like you’d take care of a friend in distress. You treat yourself kindly. You don’t nitpick and criticize yourself.Andrea Brandt, MFT
Ana Sandoiu of Medical News Today says that self love has to do with self compassion, self kindness, mindfulness, and moving away from perfectionism. Many describe self love as self acceptance, loving your body, choosing not to compare yourself to others, and having a self care ritual.
All of this sounds pretty positive, doesn’t it? I won’t deny that many of these researchers are correct in some ways. We should take care of ourselves, treat ourselves kindly, refuse to criticize ourselves, and appreciate our weaknesses. But, what is self love trying to achieve? Is it a means to a specific end? If so, what is that end?
Related: Why “Good” People Need the Gospel
What is self love trying to achieve?
In a 2019 article on self love, Sharon Martin, LCSW said:
Self-love is the foundation that allows us to be assertive, set boundaries and create healthy relationships with others, practice self-care, pursue our interests and goals, and feel proud of who we are.Sharon Martin, LCSW (EMPHASIS MINE)
Note that she said self love is the foundation that leads to the other good things we want in life. So, I have to pause for a moment and ask this, isn’t Christ that foundation?
The self love movement promises that we’ll be more content, more confident, and more free. But, self love cannot actually make good on this promise. We can only achieve these things in Christ.
Self love seems to be a movement that indirectly tries to replace Christ in being our source and foundation. It preaches that if you love yourself better, you’ll find more fulfillment in life. That’s simply not true.
Interestingly enough, it sounds very works-based. If you do this and you don’t do that, you’ll be happy. But the Gospel is greater than this. Jesus gave his life so that we don’t have to spend all of ours focusing on do’s and don’ts.
Is it wrong to love ourselves?
No, absolutely not! In fact, it’s pretty natural for us to love ourselves. That’s probably why the Bible doesn’t tell us to.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,Ephesians 5:29 ESV
Scripture assumes we love ourselves. This could be why the second of the two greatest commandments tell us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We tend to seek self-preservation above all else. Jesus tells us to seek the well-being of others as we would seek our own.
What does the Bible teach about self love?
What does the Bible say about putting yourself first?
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Matthew 6:33 ESV
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Philippians 2:3-4 ESV
He must increase, but I must decrease.John 3:30 ESV
We are called to put God and others first in our lives. Yet, the self love movement tells us to put ourselves first. The Bible talks about glorifying God and humbling ourselves, yet self love glorifies self. The Bible tells us to consider other people as more significant than ourselves. The self love movement tells us to have a high regard for ourselves.
Let’s look at 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV
The Greek word translated as lovers of self is phlautos and it means selfish, fond of self, and too intent on one’s self interest.
The self love movement tells us to be fond of ourselves and seek our well-being over the well-being of others. The Bible tells us that this is sin.
So is the Bible saying we shouldn’t have boundaries?
No, we should have boundaries. They are absolutely necessary. Rest is necessary. We can’t give if we’re empty. We need time to rest and refuel in God’s presence. But, our main pursuit in life shouldn’t be, “How can I make myself feel good?” Instead, it should be, “How can I serve God and others better?”
Some positive aspects to the self love movement
I won’t be one of those people who tells you that the self love movement is entirely evil. There are some good things about it. We should have self compassion, we should show ourselves kindness, we should avoid self criticism. That’s all good and true. But we don’t practice these things as a means to an end.
Remember, we were made in the imago dei. We show ourselves kindness and compassion because we bear God’s image. When we honor ourselves and others, we honor God (See 1 Cor 6:19-20).
Our orientation should be God-ward not self-ward. When we’re looking towards God, we will love ourselves well. The attributes of God are our basis for showing ourselves and others love and kindness. It doesn’t come from within us and it certainly doesn’t end within us.
So, what’s the verdict?
Let’s start a new movement and let’s call it biblical love. Biblical love encompasses love for God, others, and a proper and healthy love towards ourselves.
Unfortunately, the secular self love movement is not biblical. Yes, it does have some things that are biblically based like compassion and kindness but as a whole it’s purpose and motivation is not biblical.
The self love movement offers a means to an end that can only be achieved in Christ. If you do all the right things, you’ll feel more worthy. But, we can only find true worth and satisfaction in Christ. This does not come from loving ourselves better.