“I’m obsessed with me as much as you. Say you’d die for me, I’d die for me too.” This is the chorus to TikTok star Addison Rae’s debut single “Obsessed.”
Rae’s accompanying music video, where she dances (poorly) in an attempt to be sexually suggestive, has nearly 14 million views on YouTube. While Rae claims her song is about the importance of “lov[ing] yourself for who you are,” her song actually reveals how self-love culture has evolved into toxic self-obsession.
Self-love culture is everywhere, getting bolder and bolder all the time. “I’m my own soulmate. No, I’m never lonely,” Lizzo croons in her 2019 single “Soulmate.” Similarly, Ariana Grande frames her best relationship as the one with herself: “I know they say I move on too fast, but this one gon’ last, cause her name is Ari, and I’m so good with that.”
The original self-love movement, which is better described as self-acceptance, is not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone has worth, no matter who you are. And beating yourself up over immutable qualities is unhealthy and wrong.
However, the self-love movement has taken a turn, devolving into something very different. Rae’s song is simply the natural next step for self-love culture, since in “Obsessed” Rae explicitly admits to her own narcissism in an even more brash way than Grande and Lizzo.
Vanity like Rae’s has serious consequences identified in ancient history. In the original Greek myth of Narcissus, a beautiful young man is punished by the gods who make him fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water that he can’t bear to leave. Yes, the story is a warning against self-absorption, but it’s also about isolation. Narcissus is doomed to being completely consumed in himself and nothing else, so his real punishment is being totally cut off from other living human beings.
This is exactly what is happening to “empowered” prescribers of the self-love movement who use the front-facing camera instead of water. Self-love isn’t just celebrities showing off bad, wannabe-sexy dance moves to a nauseating chorus, it’s a lifestyle. Rae’s song is based on a real conversation she had with her boyfriend and fellow TikTok star Bryce Hall.
In 2019 Emma Watson announced she is “self-partnered.” In Emily Jashinsky’s article, “Lizzo Illuminates The Perils Of Millennial Self-Love And Singleness,” Jashinsky connected self-love to the average age of first marriage ticking upward and the fact that, in 2018, the percentage of 18-34 year-olds who said they didn’t have a steady partner peaked at 51 percent, up from 35 percent in 1986.
And it’s not just romantic relationships being affected. A survey conducted before the pandemic reported a troubling 1 in 5 millennials are lonely and have “no friends.”
A growing body of research work has established that narcissists are incapable of truly loving another person. Maybe that explains the aforementioned stats and why after Rae’s partner told her he is obsessed with her, she didn’t respond with “I love you” or even “I’m obsessed with you, too” (either would have been better than “I’m obsessed with me, too”).
No surprise, the boyfriend Rae was singing about is now her ex-boyfriend. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rae’s boyfriend called it quits or at least seriously thought about breaking up with her after hearing her conceited response. This is why I believe that while many praise self-love as a remedy for rising loneliness and suicide and depression rates, self-love is actually adding to our culture’s unhappiness.
We are all flawed people, and lying about it to others, especially ourselves, will only lead to dissatisfaction and broken relationships. This Easter, we are reminded of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross, a contradiction to self-love culture’s insistence that we must put ourselves first.
Indeed, we are called to reckon with our own insignificance and sinfulness, understanding in humble gratitude that God chose to offer us undeserved love and grace. It is following in Christ’s example of sacrifice and unconditional love of others that we will find authentic peace and happiness.