What it Really Means to Practice Self-Care

If you have any social media presence at all, you should definitely be familiar with the trendiness of #selfcare or #selflove, but have you ever wondered what it really means to love yourself? It’s not all about posting pictures of your bubble bath or taking facemask selfies like those Instagram influencers might have you thinking. While what the social media community is promoting isn’t inherently wrong — it is good to take care of yourself, have a positive body image, take time to reflect, and treat yourself every once in a while (Sirach 14:11) — it doesn’t communicate the why behind self-care.

Loving yourself is a direct response to Jesus’ love for you.

Talking about loving ourselves sometimes feels a bit strange. If we say we love ourselves, we worry we might come off as arrogant or self-centered.I’m not saying we should love ourselves the way Kanye loves Kanye. Nah. We should love ourselves the way Jesus loves us.

You may be thinking, “Cool story, Laurie. But what does this mean?” Jesus tells us that His love for us is the very same love He has received from God the Father (John 15:9). Abiding in Jesus’ love requires that you receive His love and all things as a gift, including the gift of who you are. WOW. That’s something worth sitting with for a while.

Loving yourself is an act of humility.

There’s nothing self-absorbed about recognizing your identity as His beloved, and mirroring the perfect and merciful love of the Father in your relationship with yourself. Self-love is an act of humility and comes from the realization that if God is who He says He is, then you are who He says you are. Real self-love requires you to be humble enough to recognize your own limitations and have mercy on yourself!

You cannot do all the things

Jesus does not want you to do all the things. He does not expect you to attend every meeting, make time for every activity, or check off everything on the to-do list. It is perfectly OK to recognize that you can only do so much. In fact, it’s really good to learn how to prioritize your time.

We are way harder on ourselves than anyone else and way, way harder on ourselves than Jesus would ever be. Saint Francis de Sales says this: “Have patience with all things, but first with yourself. Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being. You are a perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person simply because you exist. And no amount of triumphs or tribulations can ever change that.” The reality is that we cannot do all of the things we feel we are expected to do or want to have time for, so have patience with yourself.

Know your limits.

Being kind and patient with yourself also means prioritizing your own health and well-being before the needs of others. But wait? Aren’t we supposed to lay down our lives for our friends? Aren’t we supposed to serve others and die to self? YES, you’re right. However, the Bible tells us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. So doesn’t that mean we should love others with the love we’ve given to ourselves first? It’s a delicate balance. Here’s what I mean.

Self-care, of course, comes in many forms, but sometimes it’s as simple as saying no. I say that it’s simple, but really, it’s actually pretty hard. Like, so hard there are even books about how hard it is (like this one). As good Christians, we are told to put our own needs aside for the good of the other, but there comes a point where we sacrifice so much of our own energy and resources that we no longer have anything good left for ourselves, our work, our relationships, or our spirituality.

Have you ever felt like you’ve given a person everything you can possibly give? You want to help them, you want to make sure they know they are loved and known, and you want them to thrive so much that other facets of your life start to slip? Yeah, me too. This is where boundaries come in.

It can be tempting to think that we’re not doing self-sacrificing enough if our own personal lives aren’t falling by the wayside. We think we need to pile everyone else’s chores, complaints, problems, or emotional baggage on our plates and take care of it all ourselves. But it’s important to ask the Lord to help us discern the difference between taking on other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) in a healthy, Christian way, and taking on a load that is simply not ours to bear.

We are allowed to say no when we’re overwhelmed, don’t feel we can accept responsibility for another thing, or just have nothing left to give. We are allowed to say no when we know that saying yes will only lead to more anxiety or trouble.

When we say no, the evil one will tell us lies about who we are. He’ll say things like: You’re letting them down. You’re a terrible friend. What happened to them was your fault. If you don’t help them, no one else will. You’re the only one who can fix them. You are not doing enough. UM, NO. FALSE. FALSE. FALSE!!! You are a gift. You are not letting anyone down. You are allowed to be self-aware and take care of your own needs. How will you be able to help another person if you’re not taking care of yourself anyway?

Be honest with yourself and with your friends. If you’re tired, go to sleep and hang out with them another time. If you’re behind on schoolwork or just want to have some alone time, excuse yourself and use the time to do those things. Saying no to something may mean saying yes to something better — a balanced life.

The Lord desires your happiness. He desires you to love yourself! Self-sacrifice is a beautiful and *life-giving* act, when done the right way — with balance, boundaries, and self-awareness. The more we love and take care of ourselves, the more infectious our joy and life becomes, and the more we can pour into the lives of others. That is the Christian life.