How can I learn to love myself?

Q: How can I learn to love myself?

A: I remember sitting in my bedroom asking myself this exact question. There was a time when I compared myself regularly to my friends and wished I could be as pretty, funny, or interesting as they were. There wasn’t much I loved about myself; instead, I was constantly thinking of everything I should do better. I wanted to express more love, integrity, and selflessness—among other things. It’s not that I hadn’t tried to, but forcing myself to be a better person wasn’t sustainable. I’d slip up—and then be left feeling frustrated and hopeless.

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As a Christian Scientist, I’m used to praying about tough things in my life. And in the past, I’d prayed about so many other issues and had great healings—of illnesses, relationship problems, and even character traits that needed redeeming. But I’d been reluctant to pray about this. It seemed selfish to ask God to show me how I could love myself, and I was more afraid that even if I did ask, I wouldn’t get an answer.

Sitting in my bedroom that afternoon at a particularly low point, I realized that I couldn’t keep going through this cycle of negativity. So I gathered up the courage to reach out to God, and asked Him to show me how to pray.

It seemed selfish to ask God to show me how I could love myself.

The first thing that occurred to me was that none of those negative thoughts about myself could be coming from God, who is Love. So if they weren’t coming from God, then they didn’t have any power or truth to them, and I had the courage to not accept or believe a lie. What should I be listening to and believing instead? This verse from the Bible gave me direction: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). I made a conscious decision to wholeheartedly trust God and to reject any thoughts that clearly weren’t from Him.  

I prayed this way for a few minutes and then felt led to look up references to words like self and identity in the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy’s writings. This helped me to get a better understanding of how I should see myself. As I read the passages containing these words, I also prayed to understand what they meant.

For example, in one place in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mrs. Eddy writes, “If there ever was a moment when man did not express the divine perfection, then there was a moment when man did not express God, and consequently a time when Deity was unexpressed—that is, without entity” (p. 470). It became really clear to me that my very purpose for existing was to express God. I wasn’t a mortal, separate from God, struggling to be better. I was God’s spiritual expression—meaning I already expressed perfection and every other lovely divine attribute. 

I thought of some of the qualities that I wanted: joy, beauty, courage, creativity, love. I realized that these qualities didn’t originate in me; they come from God, who is everyone’s divine source, and who expresses all His goodness equally in everyone. Likewise, the things that I loved and appreciated about my friends didn’t originate in them, either. So, rather than comparing myself to my friends, I could be grateful for their expression of these wonderful qualities—because it was proof that I could express God in this way, too.

I had a right to love myself as God created me. This was far from arrogant, because it involved acknowledging God as the source of all good.

Through my prayers that afternoon, it became clear to me that if I loved God, then part of loving Him meant loving His creation, too—and that included me. I had a right to love myself as He created me. This was far from arrogant, because it involved acknowledging God as the source of all good.

Within the space of a few hours, my concept of myself was completely transformed, and I felt genuine love for myself. I can’t say that since then I haven’t occasionally had feelings of doubt or inadequacy. But when I do, I remember this experience and remind myself that I have plenty of good to share because I reflect God.

In the Bible, when someone addressed Jesus as “good Master,” he replied, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17). This wasn’t a self-deprecating statement; Jesus was acknowledging that all the good he embodied was an expression of God. This is true for each of us, too. In the expression of God that you truly are, what’s not to love?

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