Self Esteem Is Overrated
1,220,000 people researched the term "self esteem" using Google search engines last month. 301,000 searched for the term "self confidence," and 33,000 searched for the term "building self esteem." Are you included in one of these numbers?
A website dedicated to women's self esteem is taking a poll on how often women battle low self esteem. Currently 30% say they are always battling it, and 33% say they battle it one to three times a day. 25% struggle with it several times a week, and that leaves a mere 13% who say they only struggle with low self esteem once a week or less, or never. I wonder how many of the women who say they "always" battle low self esteem are now kicking themselves because they hate that they have low self esteem?
We all agree that this is a hard world to live in without being pressured by images of perfect bodies, perfect smiles, perfect personalities, perfect intellects. Meanwhile, the same media encourage their followers to cultivate high self esteem. The inconsistency is severe, though it would be more obvious if we came across an article titled "Increase your self esteem with these ten simple beauty procedures!" or "Feeling down about yourself? Try our new eyeshadow!"
Christian men and women are pressured to have high self esteem as well, and many rush to get their own glossy hardback of Your Best Life Now by the ultra-happy Joel Osteen. However, his advice is less than sound. Publishers Weekly insightfully analyzed Osteen's points:
"...although the first chapter claims that "we serve the God that created the universe," the book as a rule suggests the reverse: it’s a treatise on how to get God to serve the demands of self-centered individuals. Osteen tells readers that God wants them to prosper, offering examples of obtaining an elegant mansion or a larger salary ("don’t ever get satisfied with where you are," he cautions). In seven parts, he details how readers should enlarge their vision, develop self-esteem, let go of the past..."
According to Joel Osteen, the best life is selfish, greedy, discontented, and introspective, though those aren't the words he used. But don't forget, we serve the God that created the universe.
The God of the universe and the God of the Bible is one and the same, and the Bible has a different plan for esteem and who gets it.
"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
God has created each individual to be exactly what he or she is: a marvelously-crafted bearer of God's image, complex and beloved for those complexities. A lack of gratefulness and contentment with what God has endowed you with shows low God-esteem, not low self esteem. God is the one who has created you, not you yourself or even your biological parents. Your dissatisfaction with yourself is more a dissatisfaction with God's creation than anything else, because you choose not to see the good He has wrought in you, but see only what you judge to be bad. High self esteem starts and ends with high God-esteem. You worship the creator (God) rather than the creature (yourself). In doing so, you turn your infatuation for personal perfection into infatuation with God, and you who are infatuated with God cannot help but mirror Him in all His splendid perfection.
Low Self Esteem Is Spiritually Healthy
So we are to have high God-esteem, and with that comes high esteem for God's creation, including ourselves. This is not an arrogant, conceited esteem of ourselves, but rather it is an objective view from a position outside of ourselves, in a sense looking across the room at ourselves and saying, "God has given that person (me) much to be thankful for." This is the only kind of high self esteem that is honoring to God.
Now, there is a type of low self esteem that is also beautiful and precious to the heart of God, and that is humble repentance. It is the self esteem that confesses to God and to others that it has failed at keeping God's righteous and holy laws, and that there is "only evil in my heart continually." It is the self esteem that esteems others more highly than itself. It is the self esteem that lives to be trampled down and crushed if it will only build God's kingdom. The meek are blessed, Jesus says, for they shall inherit the earth. This is the opposite of what many influences will tell you, such as "Believe in yourself," "Follow your heart," "Fight for what you want," "Just do it," "Be proud of yourself." However, it is the meek who will inherit the earth. Who made Rome fall? Who founded America? Who freed a downtrodden people from a slave state? Who killed a giant with only a stone?
So you see, a proper view of God will create a filter through which you can see yourself in a better light. Understanding that God has created you helps you to not despise the person He has made you to be. Understanding that your own sin mars the pure beauty God planned for you helps you to honor God's perfection and to keep you from elevating yourself above God and others."Let him who stands take heed lest he fall," [1 Cor. 10:12] and "let each esteem others more highly than himself." [Philp. 2:3]. Understanding that God is the one who deserves high esteem lifts the burden off of you from either being too "down" on yourself or too "high" on yourself.
It doesn't really matter what you think of yourself! But what you think of God is a matter of life and death.
It's not all about you and how you view yourself.
The many, many articles out there on increasing self confidence, self esteem, and "loving myself," are hindering more than helping. By unintentionally causing their readers to focus on themselves and their own mental attitude, these advice columns are decreasing the ability of their readers to ever be free from the bondage of Self. Instead, they are giving their readers a self-centered, self-gratifying, self-obsessed perspective of both themselves and others.
What if self esteem really isn't as big a thing as we think it is? What if being joyful, fulfilled, and confident didn't depend on a set of cheerleading mantras and motivational exercises to get you feeling better about yourself? What if it's not even about you in the first place?
If our life truly is about serving the God of the universe, as Osteen said, then why don't we really start serving Him instead of ourselves? Why don't we go through the rigors of "God-esteem" exercises to get ourselves to esteem God higher? Why don't we remind ourselves every time we look in the mirror that God is great? Why don't we practice being content with less and less, selling our riches to feed the poor, and losing our own desires in pursuit of the mighty God's desires?
You were created to highly esteem God, to have confidence in God, to spend life seeking to please Him. It's not all about you.