In popular culture, self-care and positive thinking have become two of the greatest strategies for living a healthy life. These life philosophies only recently moved to the forefront of our minds as a society.
The campaign for self care has given overly tired, overly worked, unhealthy people the permission to let go and care for themselves. The life philosophy of positive thinking has flipped the negative outlook of many on its head and allowed them to see life from an entirely different perspective.
These movements flood social media, blogs, magazines, and other self-improvement platforms. And there are many truths within these movements that are genuinely improving people’s lives.
But on the other hand, many aspects of these strategies of life are incredibly unhealthy and counter to the way Jesus wants us to live.
Here are 4 ways self-care and positive thinking are ruining your life.
1. We often confuse self-absorption for self-care.
When selfishness gets confused with self-care, we run the risk of ruining our relationships and even ourselves. It’s easy to label selfishness as self-care and to even convince ourselves that we’re just being healthy.
But when every single decision you make is based on your personal well-being, you are more likely exercising self-absorption than self-care.
I’ve met plenty of people who rally the battle cry of self-care only to mask their selfishness. Self-care is important and necessary for our overall health and for the well being of our relationships with others. But it’s not to be our sole operating system for decision making.
We have to balance caring for others with caring for ourselves.
When we justify selfishness, we lose sight of the purpose for self-care. True self-care carries the hope that we’re being equipped to care for others as well. When you’re running on empty, there is no way you can pour into someone else. And that’s why it’s so important we care for ourselves well. But we must never mistake self-absorption for self-care.
2. Positive thinking relies on your own abilities.
I was recently talking to a man who shared with me about the importance of positive thinking in his life. He named positive thinking as being one of the reasons he enjoyed going to church. It fueled the positivity in his life.
The more we talked, the more I realized he had understood the Christian faith to be an extension of his strategy to live a positive life. He completely missed the gospel. He explained that he went to church not for the people or for anyone else but himself and the way it brought positivity into his life.
My heart was saddened by his perception of the faith and how the gospel was being cheapened to positive vibes. One of the greatest problems with building your life around positive thinking and pouring all your efforts into this life philosophy is that it requires you to muster up your own strength within.
The “good vibes only” mantra relies on your own ability to think and act positively. That’s not the gospel. It’s actually the opposite of the gospel.
In our efforts to live a better life and be more positive, we can’t look within ourselves. We have to look to Jesus. He’s the one who will transform your life and renew your mind to see the beauty and hope in life. You can’t think enough positive thoughts to mend your broken relationships, to free you of your addiction to gossip, to pull you out of depression, or to forgive the person you hate.
Positive thinking can actually ruin you. Because what happens when positive thinking lets you down? Where is your hope? Is it in your ability to just stay positive? Is it in your ability to speak encouraging thoughts to yourself in the mirror every morning? And when that fails?
I agree that being a positive person is a better life lived than being a negative person. But placing your hope in Jesus is far greater than placing it in your positive vibes.
Jesus can actually change things. And he does that in spite of you. He does it even when you’re weak–especially when you’re weak. He does it even when you can’t find one positive thing to say about the situation you’re in.
Jesus can actually change things. And he does that in spite of you. He does it even when you're weak–especially when you're weak. He does it even when you can't find one positive thing to say about the situation you're in. Click To Tweet
3. Self-care can leave you empty.
In spite of all the benefits self-care provides, it doesn’t always leave you fulfilled. Leaving space for yourself and the management of your overall health is important. It’s even how God has built us. We are designed to rest. We were never meant to go and go and go and go. That can kill you physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
But letting go of everything to care for yourself can leave you just as empty.
Caring for only yourself can get pretty lonely. As Christians, we’re called to be in community with others and care for others. Fulfillment can only be found in Jesus. But oftentimes he uses others to bring that about in our lives.
Coming alongside someone else to carry their burden with them isn’t easy. And sometimes it means that you care about them a little bit more than yourself in that moment. But this is what we’re called to do. This is how Jesus knits us to other people and strengthens us as individuals.
Caring for yourself is not the end goal. And if it is your end goal, you will quickly find it’s pretty empty and lonely on the other end. Giving of yourself, time, and resources in a spiritually healthy manner is far more fulfilling than simply pouring everything into yourself.
4. Positive thinking will lie to you.
There isn’t always a positive outlook to every situation. And that doesn’t mean you need to trick yourself into finding one. Sometimes life just sucks!
We live in a world that is broken and not the way God intended it to be, which means there isn’t positivity around every corner. If you believe the way to live a happy life is by thinking positively, then you’ve been lied to.
It’s okay to not find the rainbows and unicorns in every situation. There’s actually a large section in scripture dedicated to the exact opposite. They’re called lament psalms. Where the writers are crying out in despair and hopelessness. They don’t try and find the silver lining or encouraging words. Instead, they cry out to God in their darkness. (Here’s a perfect example of that.)
There’s freedom in allowing yourself to sit in your season with God, whether it’s positive or not. This is where God wants to meet you. He’s the only one who can bring joy and health to your life.
As great as self-care and positive thoughts can be, they aren’t mantras to live by. The good life can only be found in Jesus.