10 Oct The Dead End of Self Love: A Warning for Young Girls
The self care and self love cult is ruining young girls.
The Deception and Destruction of Self Love
In my early 20s, I pursued self love. I put my needs first. I practiced self care. I figured that if I could just dig up the gold inside of me, I’d be liberated. I was young, naive, and vulnerable, so any “feel good” message that encouraged me to love myself more caught my attention. During this time, women’s personal development books were ubiquitous. Authors like Jen Sincero, Rachel Hollis, and Brene Brown blasted their mantras of self love all over Instagram, and their books were front and center in every bookstore. Glennon Doyle and Elizabeth Gilbert also had a massive presence, and young women like myself ate up their words like candy.
At the time, I thought I discovered the hidden secret to life in these books. I thought I found the truth. My eyes brightened when I read their positive one liners:
“You are allowed to want more for yourself for no other reason than because it makes your heart happy.” – Rachel Hollis
“When you love yourself enough to stand in your truth no matter what the cost, everyone benefits.” – Jen Sincero
I was entranced by these slogans, and began to implement everything. I put myself first. I affirmed. I followed my heart. I lived my truth. I went within. I worshiped myself. I chose me, me, me. Before I got to everyone else’s needs, I had to “do me first.” I made sure I was 100% okay before I could serve others. I figured that if did my morning ritual – a meditation with a side of several positive affirmations in the mirror – I would be led to empowerment and the ability to help change the world, just like Rachel Hollis promised in her books. I wanted to be a woman like her, who was a boss lady, and who could have it all.
“I am love, I am confident, I am unstoppable,” were some of the affirmations I repeated. I was on a high from these self love practices. I was so captivated by the magic of controlling my own reality with my words. I was blown away I could manifest my dreams with positivity. I got glimpses of success and confidence, alright, but it wasn’t as glamorous or as lasting as I thought. And the times when I didn’t get what I wanted, I blamed myself. I thought I didn’t affirm enough, or believe enough, or love myself enough. My self burden became heavy and exhausting.
Eventually, my self love journey came crashing down, and the light at the end of the tunnel ended up being a false light. I realized that since the self was the problem, it certainly wasn’t the solution.
I was more trapped and depressed than ever before. It was pure darkness, and my eyes showed it: the lights weren’t on and no one was home.
My affirmations looked sparkly on paper, but when I said them out loud everyday, I believed them less and less. Deep down, I still didn’t believe any of this about myself. In retrospect, my affirmations were me trying to justify the most sinful and awful parts of myself.
And when I emptied my mind during meditation, sure, I felt good for a few minutes, but then I had to go right back to reality – full of its adversity lurking at every corner. Meditation didn’t equip me to handle reality well. I was volatile and impatient with anything negative that came my way. When anything challenging struck, I just wanted to escape back into my meditative la-la land.
*I still meditate, but not to escape responsibility. Instead, I meditate on my faith, and how I can serve others.
I also swore that if I spent time alone, canceled social situations, and went within into an abyss of peace and quiet, I’d be more relaxed. In the end, I was more anxious and isolated than ever before.
More self care didn’t help. More self love didn’t help. I practiced it for several years, only to realize that the me-first mentality still left a massive hole in my heart. I wasn’t full. It gave me the opposite of fulfillment and peace. I became worse.More self care didn't help. More self love didn't help. I practiced it for several years, only to realize that the me-first mentality still left a massive hole in my heart. Click To Tweet
The self care movement says to put yourself first above all, and if you just love yourself enough, you’ll be okay in life. The cult also says it’s okay to put your needs above others, justifying it under the guise of “you can’t love others until you fully love yourself.” Remember the analogy the self care crowd always uses: put your oxygen mask on first, so you can then put the oxygen mask on your child. They’re insinuating that you can’t help others until you help yourself. It’s a terrible analogy, and is a lack of creativity on their part. It doesn’t relate because putting your oxygen mask on first is for human survival, not self care. The self care zealots should instead say, “have a glass of wine and repeat the mantra “I am goddess” then put the mask on the baby.
The truth is, you can still love others, even when you don’t love yourself. You can love others even when you’re not at your best. You can help a friend when you’re tired. You can show up for those who need you even when you’re in a rut. You can pour from an empty cup (otherwise good moms wouldn’t exist). You can feed the poor when you have cellulite on your thighs. You can cheer a friend on when you’re not confident. You can help your significant other when you had a bad day. You can still go to work when you are sad. You can encourage your teammates when you’re in a crabby mood. You can support your team when you’re injured.
The Dead End of Self Love
The self love cult enables you to become self absorbed. It’s a dangerous path because it is bound to hurt others. Imagine if everyone waited until you were 100% confident in yourself? Imagine if everyone waited until you loved yourself enough? Imagine if everyone waited until you achieved your best life? Imagine if everyone waited until you loved your thighs? That could take months, even years. They’d be waiting on your help, your care, and your comfort – friends, family, teammates, colleagues, boyfriends, girlfriends, who desperately need your support.
The reality is, you might not ever love yourself enough, either. That’s a high possibility, given the broken and imperfect nature of being a human, so stop trying to be enough. You’re not, you might never be, and that is okay. You can take the focus off of you for once, and find solace in resting in your not enough-ness. You can release the shackles of the self love cult and be free once and for all. You can serve others first, for once. And what a relief this is.
You are called to have the heart of a servant, be less focused on the self, otherwise what is the purpose of being here?
Humans get fulfillment from serving others and connecting to their community – in sports, school, the workplace, and the neighborhood.
Self care doctrine is truly deceiving. Though the movement masquerades as “an angel of light” and comes from people with good intentions, their efforts are leaving many young women unfulfilled and miserable. Of course, I don’t have any personal issues with authors Jen Sincero, Rachel Hollis, or Glennon Doyle (I don’t know them, obviously, and I would never attack their character). I truly believe they’re trying to help, and they probably think they’re saving the world. Too, I did enjoy their writing and respect them from that end. As a fellow author who loves learning new styles, vocabulary, and sentence structures, I learned a lot from them in that sense. Doyle’s writing is eloquent and beautiful. But, I can also remain an individual with an opinion, who can disagree with the message.
Depression in teenage girls has increased dramatically (23% of girls compared to 8.8% boys), and more women than men are likely to be on antidepressants. Is the boss babe, self glorifying, “you are enough” culture helping young girls? Has what we’ve been doing actually working?
Beyond women’s empowerment books, celebrities are adding to the disaster. There’s nothing more dangerous than someone who pampers you and cheers you on into self absorption. Oprah, Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus have spoken on the importance of putting the self first. Cyrus has said, “why are we trained that love means putting yourself second?” Ironically, her marriage ended in divorce years later. Putting the self first is not the best for a healthy relationship – a pursuit that requires self sacrifice over self love.
Too much self love and self care can cause a storm of problems. It can lead to letting others down. It can lead to ruined friendships. It can lead to torched intimate relationships. It can lead to isolation. It can lead to selfishness. It can lead to entitlement. It can lead to boasting. It can lead to arrogance. It can lead to stress. Worse yet, it can lead to loneliness which is one of the biggest causes of depression. None of this is helping you build confidence, have stable mental health, experience life with purpose, and be of service to others. Have things gotten better for you? Or are you more anxious and confused than ever before? You can thank the cult of self love.
It’s making you more weak, unreliable, more selfish, more irresponsible, more isolated, more flaky, more disrespectful, more sad, more chaotic, more stressed, more confused, and more unfulfilled.
Cultural self care says take a day off because you sniffled. Cultural self care says cancel your plans last minute because you’re tired. Cultural self care says you’re a goddess, even though you’re imperfect. Cultural self care says skip training because you feel off. Cultural self care says have a hundred rituals to be stress free. Cultural self care says peace comes from your works. Cultural self care says tell yourself how awesome you are, even your dark traits. Cultural self care says all your feelings are valid, even your most sinful thoughts. Cultural self care says do you and follow your truth, even if your behavior hurts others.
Cultural self care reeks of entitlement and self-absorption.
Let’s revisit the deception of these quotes from women’s empowerment authors:
1. “You are allowed to want more for yourself for no other reason than because it makes your heart happy.” – Rachel Hollis
But, what if what makes your heart happy is lying, cheating and stealing? What if what makes your heart happy is partying and blacking out on the weekends? What if what makes your heart happy is gossiping? What if what makes your heart happy is quitting on your team? Just because it makes your heart happy, doesn’t mean it’s right.
2. “When you love yourself enough to stand in your truth no matter what the cost, everyone benefits.” – Jen Sincero
But, what if standing in your truth means disobeying your parents? What if standing in your truth is being provocative, and taking your clothes off on social media? What if standing in your truth is living wild and free and doing drugs? What if standing in your truth is rebelling against your coach? What if standing in your truth is disrespecting your teachers? Just because it’s your truth, doesn’t mean it’s right.
The false teachings of self love and self care are clear when you use discernment and critical thinking. These author’s messages are based on an oscillating truth: your feelings at any given moment. It’s downright tiring and confusing, and can lead you astray. It’s an “anything goes” mindset, as long as it serves you and fulfills your pleasures and desires, even if it you hurt others along the way.
Do the Self Essentials
There is another way. You can escape the mess. You can become more grounded.
“But Erica, does this mean if you don’t support self love, you’re telling me to hate myself?”
By no means am I saying do the antithesis of self love, which self loathing. Don’t do this. Self loathing is just as bad as self love. Instead of these extremes, you can find a place of neutrality. You can find the middle. You can find a place where you are humble, not boasting, and confident. You can find a place where you rest. You can find a place where you’re not always seeking. You can find a place where you find gratitude in the essentials of life. You can find a place where you can serve others and experience lasting joy.
Most people jump to cultural self care before doing the basics. There’s a big difference between treating yourself, and taking care of yourself. Treating yourself falls under the cultural self care category (these practices are just a cherry on top that isn’t necessary). Taking care of yourself falls under the essentials (this is the cake batter that holds you together and is necessary).
*Disclaimer: this doesn’t mean don’t ever go on a vacation, or get your nails done, or have a spa day, but keep in mind, these aren’t the panacea to freedom from anxiety.
There's a big difference between treating yourself,
and taking care of yourself. Click To Tweet
Do the essentials first. Relentlessly.
The essentials are doing what is needed for human survival and functioning in everyday life. Sadly, people are quick to gawk at the opulence of cultural self care, even stress over it, and do more, more, more, before sorting out the fundamentals and laying the foundation. Their daily lifestyle habits – purpose, nutrition, sleep, relationships, and movement – are a complete disaster. Alas, that’s society for you: always treating the symptoms, but not the root cause.
Do the essential of nourishing your body. <– many nutrients play a role in serotonin levels and alleviating depression (Dr. Amen)
Do the essential of getting to bed. <— sleep helps with brain function, mood, confidence
Do the essential of moving and strengthening your body. <— movement is brain medicine with the release of endorphins
Do the essential of building your community and your relationships. <— isolating from others is one of the biggest causes of depression
Do the essential of having a purpose greater than you – a purpose that requires you to forget the self, and have a servant’s heart for others. There’s a refreshing byproduct that comes from service, let alone, a lasting joy and bursting confidence.
When you dial these human basics in, you won’t need a laundry list of added fluff that is meditations, affirmations, manicures, pedicures, and self help books. I’ve heard self care gurus say, “yes, we realize these extra rituals can be a lot and more stress than normal.” They’re right.
More self care practices are overwhelming, and there’s a constant seeking to do more just to get that emotional high, only to come down again when you’re done.
They are a temporary fix. They’re a band-aid that is being placed on top of a gushing wound. Most of you don’t do the essentials, so you try to convince yourself that using positive affirmations “I am healthy’ or “I am strong” or “I am confident” when you don’t eat well or strength train enough or get off social media. How do you expect an affirmation to make up for your horrible lifestyle habits? How do expect an affirmation to bolster confidence when you’re putting toxic sludge into your body? How do you expect an affirmation to make you feel less stressed when you’re in fight or flight scrolling on TikTok?
What you could do is get your life in order. What you could do is clean your act up. What could do is subtract the noise from your life. What you could do is nail the essentials down.What you could do is get your life in order. What you could do is keep it simple. What you could do is clean your act up. What could do is subtract the noise from your life. What you could do is nail the essentials down. Click To Tweet
Self Sacrifice > Self Love
You also need to self sacrifice.
It is non-negotiable. Sports require it and despite what the cult of self care says, you shouldn’t put yourself first. You should put others first.
Nothing is more freeing than taking the focus off of you. When you take the burden off of self, you can finally escape anxiety.Nothing is more freeing than taking the focus off of you. When you take the burden off of self, you can finally escape anxiety. Click To Tweet
When you forget the self, you can relieve the pressure to always do more, have that perfect self care routine, or force yourself to believe positive affirmations that you don’t actually believe deep down. When you forget the self, you won’t feel shame from being a flake.When you forget the self, you won't feel shame from being a flake. Click To Tweet
You feel worse when you cancel on someone last minute. You feel worse when you skip training. You feel worse when you let someone down. You feel worse when you don’t show up. You feel worse when you’re trapped in self worship. None of this is worth the long-term anxiety. You have responsibilities for others. It is your duty to serve.
Again, this doesn’t mean hate yourself. This doesn’t mean push through to the point of self deprecation. By all means, you must take a day off if you are severely ill with the flu, pneumonia, or a sinus infection. You do need to cancel your school and sports to be there for a family emergency. You need to take a month if you just had a major surgery. You need to have an off-season from sport to regroup, and spend time with loved ones and friends. This is common sense and what we’re required to do as humans. Again, the essentials trump self care band-aids any day of the week.
But you shouldn’t take off because you want to, or just because you feel an itty bit bad or tired, or just because you need to find your inner peace, or just because you need to love yourself enough first. If everyone did this…no one would show up to school, practice, or even work.But you shouldn't take off because you want to, or just because you feel an itty bit bad or tired, or just because you need to find your inner peace, or just because you need to love yourself enough first. If everyone did this... no… Click To Tweet
Relationships would suffer terribly.
What about your teammates who need you? What about your coach? What about your family and loved ones? What about your friends?
You must discern when you have an actual problem vs. when you should push through. Sometimes, sacrifice is needed, and that means forgetting about yourself.
Life is sacrifice. And you’re going to have to do things you don’t feel up to do. You can’t just skip important tasks, cancel and disrespect others’ time, and put you first.Life is sacrifice. And you're going to have to do things you don't feel up to do. You can't just skip important tasks, cancel and disrespect others' time, and put you first. Click To Tweet
One day, you’re going to have a family, a boss, colleagues, or a spouse, or kids. These people are relying on you, and you’re going to have to forget what YOU want and how YOU feel in many scenarios. You’re going to have to show up for others with courage and care.
If you made it this far to the end of my essay, thank you. You’re either motivated by my message, or you’re triggered. If you’re triggered about self sacrifice being more important than self love and self care, I implore you to try it out.
Act it out.
See what happens when you serve others. See what happens when you put your loved ones first. See what happens when you go above and beyond for your coach. See what happens when you help your teammates with their needs. See what happens when you obey and serve your parents. See what happens when you call a friend who is sick. See what happens when you feel off, yet still get the job done. See what happens when you brighten someone else’s day. See what happens when you have the heart of a servant.
See if this gives you purpose.
See if this gives you joy.
See if this makes your heart full.
See if this leads you toward the light.
See if this brings lasting peace.
See if this makes your life more meaningful.
Do you have deeper questions on training, recovery, and nutrition?
BOOK A ONE HOUR ZOOM PERFORMANCE CONSULT CALL WITH ME (for players, teams, and coaches) HERE
For more on training the youth female athlete, check out my guide book THE STRONG FEMALE ATHLETE HERE:
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Kristi PepperPosted at 13:14h, 10 October
Love everything about this! Thank you!
ericaPosted at 13:56h, 10 October
Thank you! 🙂
Kevin YoungPosted at 18:30h, 12 October
Speechless. Such wisdom and insight. Sounds like the foundation of book. Or at a minimum, a podcast. 🙂
“Whatever you choose for yourself, give to another. If you choose to be happy, cause another to be happy. If you choose to be prosperous, cause another to prosper.”
Continue to enjoy the journey….
ericaPosted at 19:21h, 12 October
Thank you for reading <3
Erin StephensonPosted at 22:11h, 27 February
Your message is just what this generation desperately needs to hear. I recently found out from the CDC that the suicide rate among teenage girls has doubled since 2015. What an absolute tragedy. It was then i realized its this toxic self love culture that is the primary cause of this. You are spot on in everything you said and i thank you for having the courage to speak out against this. By the way you are absolutely beautiful.
ericaPosted at 23:50h, 27 February
I appreciate you reading. Thank you so much! It is an important message that needs to be shared.