By Kayla Smith

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Psalm 139:14

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always been told to “love myself” because God made me unique and created me in His image and likeness. Loving yourself seems like such an easy concept, but what does loving yourself really mean and why is it so complex? 

In a world surrounded by social media and beauty norms, it’s easy to start criticizing your appearance and to wish you were different. One of the biggest challenges I have faced is finding a way to love myself in a world telling me I should look and act differently in order to be beautiful. 

I have always compared myself to others and criticized myself, even to the point where I dreaded being around other people. I had grown such a hatred of myself that I was left with no self-esteem and a heart filled with sadness. The worst part was that I was my own worst enemy and my biggest critic–I would analyze every single photo of myself and find a million things I disliked. One of the saddest yet most eye-opening memories I have is seeing a photo of myself on my confirmation day, and instead of looking at that photo with fond memories of the beautiful day I received God’s grace, I looked at that photo in disgust because I thought I looked “fat and ugly.”

I remember thinking, “If I can’t love myself, how will anyone ever be able to love me?”

I felt unworthy of any love, and I was so fixated on my outer appearance that I was damaging who I was inside. I had no confidence at all and became very isolated. 

Growing up with a faithful and loving family and listening to God’s Word every Sunday, I knew that the Lord had made me in His image and that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. One Sunday I was listening to a sermon in church and one thing stood out to me. The priest said: “Remember, even if you have nothing else, you always have the love of Jesus.” I remember going home and sobbing because I had realized with those few words that I had forgotten and neglected the most important gift I had received, a gift that could never be taken away from me and I could never be separated from: God’s love. 

So, what is loving yourself?

I believe that we are all born with a perfect purpose, that God gives us all unique gifts and talents, and that fixating on appearance distracts us from the true beauty that exists within us. 

I think self-love starts with self-respect, understanding that you will never be anyone else, but having admiration for the person you were created to be. This will help you remain positive and prayerful even through the darkest, most negative stages in your life.

As humans we are sinners and are imperfect, but we are also children of a forgiving God. He knows our deepest struggles, loves us, and promises to guide us and guard us through our toughest times. 

Loving yourself is not a destination, but a journey. There will be great days and also terrible days. I am imperfect and I have my struggles, but through trusting God’s love and working through my insecurities, I am learning the art of self-acceptance. 

Truly knowing God’s love is one of the greatest gifts, and reminding ourselves that we can never be separated from His love is by far the most powerful of them all.