Wiki­media Commons

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.

  1. You are enough
  2. You determine your truth
  3. You’re perfect the way you are
  4. You’re entitled to your dreams
  5. 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