The Answer to Self-Loathing is Not Self-Love

Susan Narjala   |   March 16, 2021 

Hey, friend, here’s a question for you: Have you ever burrowed your way through a bag of crunchy, salty, satisfyingly delicious potato chips? Or, maybe, wolfed down a couple of generous slices of chocolate cake­—you know, the kind liberally slathered with dark chocolate ganache?

Those are somewhat rhetorical questions because I don’t know too many of us who are truly and completely immune from over-indulgence in some area of our lives.

But, what happens after you put your empty plate in the sink or throw the family-size bag of chips (wiped cleaned of even the vinegary-salty crumbs at the bottom) in the trash?

Most likely, it’s what I’d like to call the ‘ugh’ syndrome. You have a case of “I can’t believe I did that.” You feel sick (and not just physically). You’re disappointed in yourself. Maybe you don’t put it into words, but you feel a sense of self-loathing. Clearly, I’m using the pronoun “you” here because it’s not like I’ve ever decided at 11:35 pm that filling a giant cereal bowl with caramel ice-cream doused in fudge sauce would be a wonderfully smart idea. Nah. I only know about that specific situation because, you know, I “read” about it somewhere. (Okay, fine, guilty as charged. The worst part is when my kids discover the wiped-clean ice-cream bowl the next morning.)

Maybe your “ugh” doesn’t stem from eating junk food. Perhaps it's something you have less “control” over. Maybe it’s your appearance after you had kids, or endless bad hair days, or your height (or lack of it). Maybe it’s how you can never deliver a speech in public or how you can only mumble a few syllables when your boss asks you to speak up. Maybe it’s that you take your stress out on your family and can’t seem to stop snapping at them.

I don’t know what your particular ugh is, but, I do know that often, without warning, a sense of self-loathing or self-disappointment or shame creeps up on us and leaves us paralyzed and wanting to hide under the covers.

How do we tackle this sense of disgust that seems to eat us up inside?

The world prescribes only one way to get ourselves out of that quicksand of self-loathing: self-love. Social media seems to have taken the self-love mantra to a whole new level. If you look up #selflove on Instagram, you’ll find that it’s been used more than 58 million times. Our culture shouts rather insistently: love yourself more and all will be well.

How can that answer be wrong? How can self-love possibly be a bad thing?

Maybe it’s not all bad, but, dear, dear, friend, I’m going to propose that self-love is not the answer to self-loathing.

Gasp. Did I just say that? Am I unleashing a wave of fury from the positivity pundits? Am I trying to disenfranchise women with my counter-cultural spiel?

Before I come across as an anti-motivational writer (is that even a thing?), let me set the record straight: I’m not against loving yourself. The Bible, in fact, assumes that we love ourselves when Mark 12: 31 says that we should love our neighbours as ourselves.

However, manufacturing self-love through an act of the will is not the answer to self-loathing.

When someone is broken and disillusioned, when they are filled with a sense of shame and are completely exhausted from their own efforts, is it truly constructive to stipulate that they love themselves more?

I don’t know about you, but simply offering my reflection in the mirror self-affirmations and inner validation doesn’t get me very far.

We need something far more real, far more sustaining, far bigger than ourselves.

The answer to our self-loathing is found in the love, acceptance, identity, and significance that Christ gives us.

His love for you is based 100% on what He has done on the Cross. His love for you is based 0% on whether you can stick with a diet or not, whether you’ve managed to work out or not, whether you have the world’s frizziest hair, or how often you lose your temper.

It’s the most liberating love because it frees us from the trap of me, myself, and I.

It’s not a love that you have to fabricate within the factory of your self-will. It’s a love that you simply receive.

When that Perfect Love fills up all those crevices in your life, you have the capacity to love yourself as a child of God who is not bound by her performance, or her appearance, or her self-discipline, or her productivity or her hustle or any other standards we impose on ourselves.

Friend, the next time, we mess up (and we will) and a sense of self-loathing sneaks up on us, we have the option of going to the Throne of Grace to receive mercy and help in our time of need.

In His presence, there is no condemnation. There is no accusation. There is no rejection.

He loves us just the way we are, warts and all. But He is far too loving to leave us unchanged. He gives us the strength and the power to change into His likeness. He freely gives us His love so we can draw on that infinite source and love ourselves as we ought—in true humility as a child of God, worthy only because of His sacrifice.

Let Him free you from the trap of self-loathing by revealing His not-dependent-on-you acceptance. Let Him quiet that inner voice of shame with His exuberant song over you. Let Him show you just how beautiful you are because of His redeeming love.


Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog,

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4 comments on “The Answer to Self-Loathing is Not Self-Love”

  1. Thank you Susan! I have experienced the ugh feeling far too often, and I know only His love can transform.
    Love and God Bless!

  2. Thanks Susan for reminding me of those ugh feelings.... But for His grace and mercy ! I’m ever grateful .

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