“You need to love yourself first!”
“You’re doing this for you!”
“You deserve more!”
Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston share this message in the these famous lines from their powerful songs: “You are beautiful no matter what they say. Words can’t bring you down.” and “Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all”.
These are just some of the advice we normally hear from families, friends, articles, and media to help us feel better about ourselves. That’s what they all say: we need to love ourselves first! If we won’t, who else will?
It sounds so comforting and empowering, so soothing to the ears. I have to love ME first because I am special and beautiful! What a daily boost for my self-esteem. I can almost agree, but somehow I can’t help but find this to be misleading. And sometimes, I wonder, am I really worth loving? Or is this self-deception?
Why should I love myself? Why do I deserve more? Why am I worth it? Why am I beautiful? Self-declaring my worth—well, is that enough?
I love myself for WHO I AM. Why? Simply because!
-“I have literally shed blood, toil, tears, and sweat just to earn my education degree. This achievement is mine and mine alone, and I am proud of myself for it. I have set myself apart from others with my education. What I know defines who I am.”
-“I excel in my chosen profession and I have earned the respect and admiration of others. How influential I have become proves how valuable and indispensable I am. What I can offer to this world defines who I am.”
-“I am loved by friends and family. Making others happy is where my life derives meaning. To be loved and appreciated in return validates my existence. Being loved defines who I am.”
-”I am beautiful. I may occasionally struggle with my imperfections, but I love myself because I know I am beautiful. My standards of beauty is not skin-deep. I am beautiful because I am educated, I am successful, I am kind, and I am loved.”
Sounds about right, right?
These reasons may very well be true. But if this is how we view life, no matter how noble, selfless, or innocent it all seemingly appears, we are trapped in a winding and exhausting road. Still don’t see it?
To say that “I love myself for who I am” actually puts us in this position where we have to constantly answer the “why” part by proving to everyone else and most especially to ourselves that we ARE worthy through our education, our successes and achievements, our relationships, our looks (let’s admit it, particularly looks), and our character.
What happens when our knowledge is found to be lacking? We’d either end up feeling less significant or we’d compete to be significant by consistently trying to be ahead of others. What if we’re stuck in a job that doesn’t measure up to what we really know and love? Wouldn’t our life appear dull and meaningless, and wouldn’t our self-esteem decrease? When we see others happy and successful, we tend to look at our own achievements and we try to do more because it’s just not enough. When will “enough” be enough? How can we say we love ourselves when we know we haven’t done enough? “Contentment is the answer!”,as some will say. But to reach the point of contentment, we have to embrace thatwho we are and what we have is already enough, complete, and beautiful. How can we reach that point when the standards of “enough” is…relative.
We may be selfless to the point that we keep giving just because it makes us happy. But what if our presence is no longer wanted and appreciated? Wouldn’t we be crushed? When our love is rejected and unrequited, we will be left to feel undeserving and lacking. Why? Because we derive meaning and value from the people who love us.
If they stop loving you, you stop loving you.
We can never be beautiful/handsome enough because the world’s standard is perfection. To convince ourselves that we’re beautiful because of who we are and what we’ve done may be the quick fix for some. But then again, is our identity and accomplishments the measure of our beauty? What happens if who we are becomes insufficient, and what we’ve done becomes unsatisfactory? What happens to our value?
Some will say, “Those who truly love me (my parents) know my worth and they know I’m beautiful. They’re opinion of me is the only opinion that matters.” But that’s the thing, it only matters to you. To the world, your parents and the people who care about you are nobodies. No matter how hard they convince you that you’re special and beautiful, that’s sadly not enough.
When our goodness falls short in the eyes of others, we either try harder or we dismiss it like we don’t care…until we eventually do, or we reaffirm our value and our good intentions from the people who love us.
Bottom line: Our Value is Extrinsic.
I can end this post right here and most people would say, “That’s just the way it is. Just focus on the people who value you for who you are and love you unconditionally”. But that’s the problem. In this world, there is no such thing as unconditional love. I believe the closest form of perfect and unconditional love comes from parents. Then again, parents and children are flawed. Disappointments are inevitable because we are human. And the painful reality is that not all parents love their children. Relationship between friends and even husband-and-wife require, at the very least, one condition- that love and respect are reciprocated. Otherwise, a choice would have to be made whether one will still commit to and maintain that relationship.
So what’s my point? Unless we have an intrinsic value, I don’t know how we can love ourselves and at the same time find true and lasting joy—the one that we don’t need to keep earning to deserve. Unless our worth is not determined by what we know, what we can do, what we have, who we are, who we love, and what others say, then we are stuck in an endless pursuit of being meaningful, being significant, being worthy, being beautiful.
Forgotten truth: Our Value is Intrinsic.
Warning: For those who believe in evolution—that our entire existence is merely by chance and devoid of meaning and purpose—then you will not agree with what I’m about to say and sadly, your value will always be extrinsic.
When our Creator (yes, that would be God!) made us, He created us with an intrinsic value. No one can add to or subtract from this value because it is the highest value we can ever have. Are you ready? The Maker of heaven and earth has already declared to the whole world since the beginning of time how much we are worth when He put Jesus, His perfect Son, on that cross. Our life cost Him His Son! Did you get that?
Your life is worth that much to Him, and it’s not because you deserve it. You find your true worth not in what you have done, but in what He did for you, because He loved you.
And the thing is, the Creator is the only one who is truly credible to dictate our value. I will not allow others to determine my worth because they are no better than me. Humans. Flawed. And to dust we shall return. Whether we like it or not, only God’s opinion truly matters, and not just to me and you, but to the world. His say is the final say. When our minds are able to fully grasp and embrace this truth, our lives will never be the same again! Knowing that we are loved by our Maker and that we are precious and priceless in His eyes is what defines our true value. Some of you might be thinking, “mm-hmm…then what?”
If we truly believe this, our outlook in life would completely change. Life would no longer be an endless cycle of finding meaning, earning love, and being worthy. Our motivation for education, for career, for accomplishments, and for relationships would no longer be to validate our existence and to determine our significance. God already did that for us. He already did that for YOU.
You are not lacking, rather, you are made complete in Him. Nothing and no one can make you any more special than you already are. Finding your self-worth in this truth liberates you and allows you to truly give—give love, give time, and give yourself to others for the right reasons. And you will never run out! Love in its purest and perfect form—God’s love—fills you to the brim. Everything that you do and give will be an out-pour of that love that you have received from Him. And His love is a source thatnever runs dry.
Now, we can go on pursuing education, excelling in our chosen profession, treasuring our relationships, and doing selfless deeds with a different mindset: we give much because we have received much. We can give because we are complete.
This, my friends, is where we determine our self-worth. This is how we experience true and lasting joy. This is the starting point in discovering our purpose. This is why we can love others. And this is WHY we can love ourselves… and feel beautiful.
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Of course, this is easier said than done, and too often I find myself caught in this trap of living for others so as to affirm my sense of worth. It is a constant struggle to remind myself to look solely on the Cross, to remember what exactly took place, and to realize how my life has been changed.
So, for you to test and know whether your self worth is extrinsic or intrinsic, you must ask this question: “What gives my life meaning?”
*entry made on AUGUST 14, 2015