When my copy of “You’re Not Enough and That’s OK: Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self-Love” first arrived, I did what many of my fellow Allie Stuckey fans did — shared a picture of my newly acquired purchase on Instagram. I was surprised at the reaction I got to the title from many of my young Christian friends. Many were curiously disconcerted, turned off by the idea that self-love is “toxic” evidently believing that to reject the culture of self-love would mean embracing “self-hate.” However, Stuckey has a message of hope and empowerment for young Christians, especially women plagued by the culture of self-love and its insistence on one’s acceptance of their own personal perfection. You can never be enough, at least not on your own.
Allie Beth Stuckey has found a niche following amongst under-30 conservative women fed up with modern feminism and contemporary Christianity’s message to women. In Stuckey’s own words, the idea that “you are complete, perfect, and sufficient on your own, you don’t need anyone else to love you to be content,” is “superficial and temporary.” Our culture elevates the idea of “self-love” as a cure-all drug to depression, burn-out, and low self-esteem. In “You’re Not Enough,” Allie Beth Stuckey argues this toxicity is hurting young women, and corrupting the Christian witness.
“My counter was this,” Stuckey says of engaging with the contemporary contention that self-affirmation is the key to meaningful happiness, “You’re not enough, you’ll never be enough, and that’s okay, because God is.”
Stuckey sees five main myths pervading our culture, myths which she tackles each in a new chapter.
- You are enough
- You determine your truth
- You’re perfect the way you are
- You’re entitled to your dreams
- You can’t love others until you love yourself
“The first step to getting out of whatever unhealthy cycle you’re currently in is realizing just how not enough you are,” Stuckey writes. How does one do that? By “letting go of the responsibility to be your own sources of fulfillment — a responsibility that was never yours in the first place.” Instead, she argues, replace that void with the promise of redemption in Christ. While our own self-esteem rises and falls with our hormones, our work schedule, or our baby’s sleep patterns, Christ’s faithfulness never wavers. For Stuckey, this is the answer to the self-defeating spiral that the culture of “enoughness,” forces on many, mostly young women.
After a long-term college relationship broke off, Stuckey felt alone and afraid, as if her identity had been compromised. In a way, it had. Stuckey writes that her relationship with her boyfriend “hadn’t just defined who I was then, but also who I thought I’d be in the future.” Coming to terms with the fact that she was no longer the girl with the clear path to marriage and implicit happiness forced her to reckon with who she truly was.
The road to “self-discovery” was volatile and harmful for Stuckey. Binge-drinking, hook-ups, eating disorders, and all the other characteristics of what the world would term “self-love,” racked her life. She was living for herself — or as some would say, “living her truth” — but it left her empty.
“Our truth is both elusive and unsatisfying, God’s truth is present and sustaining,” Stuckey writes. With no higher principle to appeal to, anything goes, and we are forced to set our own standards, a scheme destined for disaster. For Stuckey, reading the Bible is the crucial step for one seeking to live by God’s objective standard of truth, rather than man’s “truth.”
The “cult of self-love” isn’t just dangerous, however. Stuckey also sees glaring inconsistencies in its teachings. “It’s early on in our lives that we women are caught up in what I call the paradox of perfection,” she writes, “hearing and believing we’re perfect while simultaneously hearing and believing there’s something else we need to do or have (or not do or not have) to make us perfect.”
To Stuckey, this goes against everything the Bible teaches us about redemption and our fallen nature. The “old self”, which is “totally depraved, hopeless, an enemy of God, and bound for destruction,” is redeemed through Christ, giving way for the “new self” which is “free from the bonds of sin.” If, as our culture demands, we accepted the fact that we are perfect just the way we are, Stuckey says we would end up, “accepting parts of ourselves that we should be rejecting, making excuses for ourselves when we should be repenting, and believing things about ourselves that hold no lasting value.”
Stuckey has some practical advice. For instance, if you’re with a guy, she says, “you should not be convincing yourself you want to be with him.” If he’s not good for you, you probably know it and should end that relationship. Stuckey is a proponent of short engagements and committed marriages, but she doesn’t paint a rose-colored picture of married life. Life isn’t about maximizing your “self-fulfillment,” which is a pointless task, according to Stuckey. Instead, put others before yourself. That includes having children, an increasingly unpopular vocation for millennials, who make up a large chunk of Stuckey’s audience. “If we’re consumed by the culture of self-love and committed to worshipping the god of self, we don’t want to be put off by the demands of a child,” she explains.
“The seasons defined by self-centeredness have been my most miserable, and the times in my life when I have felt peace and fulfillment have been the moments when I’ve removed myself from the center, reoriented myself around God and his truth, and remembered that I’m not enough,” Stuckey concludes in “You’re Not Enough.” Stuckey recounts the story of working with special needs kids as a high schooler as one of the most fulfilling moments of her life, precisely because she did not focus on her own self-fulfillment above all else, instead putting others first, and God before all else.
Our ability to “love ourselves” and lead meaningful lives because of it is not “found in ourselves,” Stuckey writes. Her message to young women is simple — ”We are not enough, and we were never meant to be.” But Christ is. “That,” Stuckey concludes, “is good news.”
Sarah Weaver is a member of the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship. Find her on Twitter @SarahHopeWeaver