The toy company Mattel released a Self-Care Barbie last month. This original influencer of young girls is now instructing them how to care for themselves through play, so they can be emotionally healthy as they grow into adulthood. According to the press release, “Barbie knows to be one’s best is to give yourself the best care.” This version of Barbie teaches girls to get in touch with their feelings. She also encourages meditation.
Barbie has always reflected the trends of her time, and Self-Care Barbie is no different. The self-care movement has picked up steam over the last few years, fueled by social media’s near-constant calls to rest, relax, and unplug from life’s pressures. Online, moms share how they get away from their family obligations with a cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate. Hashtags like #selfcareSunday normalize setting aside time to pamper yourself, turn off your brain, or do nothing at all. There are thousands of websites with instructions on the “best” self-care practices.
God created the Sabbath for a reason. We need balance, including rest, and humans cannot push ourselves forward indefinitely. Making time to relax is not inherently bad, but the current self-care movement often puts one thing at the center of our minds: us. We’re lulled into believing that life is all about our personal wants, desires, and needs through the gently persistent, meditative call of self-care. But God does not call us to a life of self-care. We can better understand what he wants for us by breaking down some popular mantras of the movement:
“You can’t love others unless you love yourself first.” Christ calls each of us to love our neighbor as ourselves, but that does not mean we must love ourselves first. Even more, we are never commanded to love ourselves in the Bible. Humans are innately driven by self-preservation. It’s in our sin nature, so there was never a reason for us to be told to love ourselves in the first place.
Instead, Jesus says the most important commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). We are not called to love ourselves first, or even second! We are called to love God with every part of our being first, then others. Period.
“You do you.” Authenticity can be a good thing, but anymore it has become an excuse to sin. When people say, “This is me,” as a way of accepting themselves, the implication is that they cannot change because of their current condition. When others reply, “you do you,” they are giving the first group permission to do whatever they feel.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” So, how do we know if our individual feelings are correct? Go to the Bible. We can acknowledge which emotions are valid by comparing them to God’s good, well-grounded word. If I choose to stay stuck in my feelings by focusing on who I am, I am constantly fighting to make myself acceptable and seeking that acceptance from the world. But I don’t need their acceptance. I need to rest in God’s guidance and do as he says.
“You are enough.” If I was enough, I wouldn’t need saving. I wouldn’t need the body of Christ. I wouldn’t need Jesus. And I wouldn’t need self-care. Instead of trying to let myself be enough, I should rest in the fact that God’s power is perfected through my weakness. Jeremiah 31:25 says, “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”
I will never be enough. But where I am weak, God is strong. I cannot satisfy myself, but rather God satisfies me. He is enough.
These mantras have the appearance of truth. They seem right and correct, while allowing people to live the lives they choose. The innate flaw in all of these statements, though, is that I am able to truly rest when I look to myself for comfort. But God says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
God’s care is so much better than any self-care I can muster. We can fully trust him with our care. Yes, take the time to recharge, replenish, and rest…in God. Focus on him. Don’t get lost in yourself along the way.
Leah Honnen is administrative assistant for IBSA’s Communication Team.