Jesus taught us that the most vital commandments were to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The key to a healthy love of neighbor is a healthy love of self. So the self-love isn't about ourselves alone: it's about our neighbor too. It's about the nature of love: a connection of value and affection and goodwill, so that this love builds a community where people are treasured and flourish.
But in the harshness of Lent we hear, "Take up your cross, deny yourself and follow me." No one can want to deny the self; it's against the nature of desire and the nature of the self. Despite the harshness, I continue because I want to know Jesus. No other person in the long history of the world has captured my attention so thoroughly, gained my trust so convincingly, that I find myself believing him that he is the way, the truth, and the life.
In one sense, I can follow him as I read the accounts of his life: he goes to Jerusalem for the Passover. He goes to the Mount of Olives and prays. And he faces the prospect of death and prays that gut-wrenching prayer: "Not my will but yours." He denies himself. It's not possible for person with a healthy mind and body to want death. He can only take up a cross after denying himself. He doesn't ask us to do anything he hasn't done. He wasn't asking us to follow him like a facebook narcissist who wants to ramp up his follower count. He asks us to follow him and we're all in it together. Even the self-denial builds fellowship.