Thinking about Self-Esteem
How do you feel about yourself?
How do you feel about yourself?
The Basis for Self-Esteem
We all need a healthy self-esteem, not too much and not too little. Too much of it can push us into arrogance, and too little of it can drag us to unhappiness. Most people will agree that a healthy self-esteem is balanced with a true perception of ourselves and a true regard for the worth of others.
How do we do this? Christians believe the Bible to be the inspired and preserved word of God for past, present, and future generations. Its words are the very words of God (as He means us to have them), and they guide us into all matters of life, including the matter of self-esteem.
The Bible teaches us that all human beings are descendants of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:20; Acts 17:26), whom God created in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, biblical Christianity teaches that all human beings, regardless of their sex or race, are equally created in God’s image.
The image of God in the human being is what gives each one of us an intrinsic value above anything else God created, whether animals, trees, or the galaxies themselves (Genesis 9:5-6). The image of God in the human being is what gives our lives their true value.
But what is the image of God? Although the Bible does not make a direct statement that defines the image of God, we can find some answers in the first few sections of Genesis.
The image of God is what makes us like God: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26, KJV). Yes! We human beings are all like God somehow. For the most part, being like God means that we are persons.
Because we are persons, we can experience a meaningful relationship with God. For example, God blessed Adam and Eve and gave them instructions regarding his will for them (Genesis 1:28-29). We see then that God and mankind can communicate with each other about abstract concepts that are relevant to them.
As persons, God and mankind also made choices. God, for example, made the choice to create humankind (Genesis 1:26), whereas Adam and Eve each made the choice to trust the serpent’s word instead of God’s word (Genesis 3:6).
Other characteristics that make human beings like God are emotions, creativity, and an understanding of a moral dimension to our choices.
Understanding that we are worth more than objects, more than plants, more than animals, and more than stars because we are created in the image of God to have a relationship with Him is crucial to our self-esteem because our self-esteem is based on what we believe about ourselves and about everyone else.
If we believe others are worth more than we because they are more talented, have more money, or are better looking, then we will never be happy because we will see our value diminished by our deficiencies, and we will always find those who excel in areas where we don't excel. And if we believe that we are worth more than others because of these same things, then we will become proud and vain, and we will lose sight of the true value of others.
Nevertheless, when we believe that all human beings are created in the image of God and are therefore worth as much as each other, then we have a true balance that allows for diversity of qualities while preserving equality of worth. This makes it possible for us to see ourselves as being truly valuable, and to see others as being truly valuable also, even though we are different from each other.
For while we are all created equal in value, we are not all created with equal abilities and advantages in life. Moreover, life itself presents us with challenges that take away some of our abilities, advantages, and even material possessions. Therefore, seeing that we face adversity and challenges, it is important for us to value ourselves according to what cannot be lost: the image of God.
When God called Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt, Moses objected on the grounds that he was not a capable speaker (Exodus 4:10). Moses probably had a speech impediment such as stuttering. Nevertheless, God had for Moses an answer we all shall do well to remember: “And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11, KJV).
God explained to Moses that our limitations do not determine what we can accomplish in life. Why? Because regardless of our limitations, God created us all in his own image. There is something more to the human being than his talents, appearance, and possessions. What truly empowers our lives is our ability to have a meaningful relationship with God.
So what do you believe about yourself? Do you overvalue yourself based on what you have more than others? Or do you undervalue yourself based on what you have less than others? Are you proud, or are you unhappy? What do you truly believe about yourself?
If you have not done so before, you need to make a conscious decision today to value yourself because your are a human being created in God’s image. As such, you deserve nurture, protection, love, and respect, just as much as anyone else. As such, you owe nurture, protection, love, and respect to others, just as much as they owe it to you.
Therefore, the path to humility lies in recognizing that others have the same value as we do, and the path to happiness lies in recognizing that we have the same value as others. God has created us all with a diversity of skills and an equality of worth.
What are we to God? Are we just dust and ashes on the ground? Are we insignificant to Him as microbes are insignificant to us? Does He truly care about us?
God created all things. He could have chosen to not create them, but He created them. God also created us. He could have chosen not to create us, but He chose to do so. And not only did God create us as He created plants, microbes, insects, and animals; God created us exceptional: He created us in his own image. That ought to mean something!
The God who reveals Himself in the Bible is a God full of intention, purpose, plans, and dreams. He could have chosen not to create us in his own image, or not to create us at all; but He chose to create us, and to create us in his own image, so we could have a relationship with Him like no other creature in this world can. This is the basis for a true and healthy self-esteem.
Quiz on The Basis for Self-Esteemview quiz statistics
What Truly Matters
We set ourselves for disappointment when we wish for what we do not have and obsess over what we cannot change. This kind of disappointment often contributes to our low self-esteem.
You may think that the other person is better and happier than you are because they have something you don't have: blue eyes, a slimmer body, better grades at school, more money, a better job, a spouse--the list goes on.
What we fail to realize is that those people have their own struggles that are also keeping them from total happiness. Think of all the wealthy people who have a divorce, an addiction, trouble with the law, and tragedy in their family lives. No matter how good you think someone else has it, there's something going on in their lives that you don't know about.
Therefore, God very wisely commands us not to covet (Exodus 20:17). Our happiness and joy should not depend on external factors but on our everlasting relationship with God. Just as Jesus told his disciples to rejoice in that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).
In fact, we are warned not to put our affection on temporal things, such as the lust of the eyes (wealth), the lust of the flesh (pleasure), and the pride of life (fame), because these things can be lost in an instant (1 John 2:15-17). How many rich people have lost their wealth during an economic struggle! How many people have lost their good health because they have overindulged, overdoses, or contracted an STD! How many people who were famous are now infamous because of wrong choices and inappropriate comments they made!
All these things can be lost in an instant, but the forgiveness of sins, the hope of eternal life, and the eternal relationship that we have with God cannot be taken away from us. Nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39)!
For this reason, Paul tells us that we should be content if all we have is good and clothes (1 Timothy 6:7-8). We make our lives too complex when they should be simple. Our lives should be focused in following the will of God and the leading if the Holy Spirit, if we are truly his children (John 3:7-8).
Jesus contrasted the pagan mindset with the mindset his disciples ought to have. He told them to first seek God's kingdom and righteousness, and that God will then provide everything we need in this life (Matthew 6:33).
His reasoning is that God values our lives much more than he values the food we need to eat to live; and he values our bodies and dignity much more than he values the clothes we need to cover ourselves and protect ourselves (Luke 12:22-23). God will provide.
We therefore must understand that we need to place our affection on what is spiritual, and we must understand what truly matters in life, so we can stop feeling bad about ourselves when we find we don't have what others have.
So what truly matters in life? Family, friends, true health, a personal relationship with God, being honest, having an honest job, having a clear conscience, and contributing to the good of our communities and humanity. Being thankful to God and enjoying the life He has given us. These things matter.
But an abundance of wealth, fame, and pleasure, though not evil of themselves, are not what our happiness should depend on. Otherwise, very few people in the world would have access to happiness, and very few people in the world would be able to say they experience God's goodness in their lives. But Christ assures us we all can experience God's goodness in our lives through the very simple and yet very good experiences that contribute to our well being: food, clothes, the sunshine, the rain, answered prayers, and love (Luke 12:24-34).
Life's Focus Assessmentview quiz statistics
Dealing with the Negative Voices
People who experience a poor self-esteem are listening to negative voices in their lives. These negative voices come from those who have bought onto a superficial system if values: you need to be rich, you need to be beautiful, you need to popular, and you need to be skilled at sports (just a few examples).
Unfortunately, these voices aren't only the voices of the media, but of strangers, peers, and even one's own family.
Some parents become frustrated with their kids, especially teens. And they verbally abuse them by calling stupid and other names. Kids at school often call each other names and pick on each because of their physical traits, personalities, etc. Some couples also verbally and emotionally abuse each other.
All these are negative voices, and people tend to listen to them because everyone wants to be loved and accepted. When we are not loved and accepted, we tend to ask ourselves whether there is something wrong with us. But there is nothing wrong with us; rather, those who verbally abuse us have a wrong system of values. They believe a person's value is determined by their looks, skills, and wealth while one's true value is dependent on that individual being a human soul created in God's image.
So then, what are we supposed to do about those people who become negative voices in our lives? One thing we can do us confront these people with the truth to show them that they are wrong.
When the religious leaders insinuated that Jesus was not a legitimate sin, He confronted them with the truth that He came from heaven. When they accused Him of sin, He asked them to prove their accusations. When they accused Him of being a sorcerer, He reasoned with them that the Holy Spirit was the One who was working through Him.
Why did Jesus confront them with the truth? Jesus confronted them with the truth to appeal to their conscience and try to lead them to repentance. He confronted them with the truth is other would learn the truth and understand how wrong these religious leaders' thinking was. And we ourselves can confront people with the truth for a third reason: to find assurance in the truth, the kind of assurance Jesus had when He uttered the truth.
So maybe someone makes fun if you because you are overweight. You can confront that person by reminding them that we all have imperfections and that it is immature of them to attack those imperfections. You can also remind that person that most likely they put other people down because they are insecure about themselves.
In other circumstances, you can remind people that their actions are illegal, frowned upon, or unacceptable in a civilized society. Sure, they may not change their minds then, but deep inside that person will be confronted with the truth and have a chance to repent.
Jesus did not allow others to intimidate Him, rather He confronted people with the truth of their own words, actions, and even motives.
Now, this may be especially important. To us when we are alone and the negative voices still linger in our heads. They may be saying to you, "You are ugly," but you can respond in yourself, "I am a beautiful human being because I am created in God's image." Those voices may also sat to you that you are a loser, but then you can remind yourself that you are a child of God, and an heir of heaven.
Confront the negative voices in you with the truth of the Gospel, and you will find a balanced image of yourself. Just as Paul discovered that when he was at his weakest, he was at His strongest, because God was sustaining him.
The other course if action that we can take (and must take, especially when our emotional and physical health are at risk) is to cut off those negative voices in our lives.
Jesus, for example, taught his disciples to try to resolve conflict through a personal conversation, the help of a witness, and the help of the community. However, there were times when dialogue had to be over, and the offender had to be cut off from the victim's life.
This needs to happen in all kinds of relationships where there is physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. Whether we are talking about friends, siblings, parents, children, spouses, or any other relationship: separation is necessary if the relationship becomes abusive (some Christians allow for divorce in some circumstances, and some don't. This will have to be a topic for you to express with your pastor. But even those who do not allow for divorce will still allow for temporary separation).
And there are different ways to accomplish this: calling the police, putting a restraining order, quitting a job, changing schools (or home schooling), moving out, not answering the phone, blocking the person on Facebook, and maintaining minimal communication with that person if they are in our class or job.
Another step we can take to quiet the negative voices in our lives is to surround ourselves with positive voices. Someone once said that we have two families: the ones we got, and the one's we choose. The reality is that if our family has become a negative voice in our lives, we may need to find ourselves a new family. We do this through friendships and marriage. Some people may be looking for a sibling kind of relationship, some young people may be looking for a parent kind of relationship (a role model), and some may be looking for love. We have the option to build a bond with those who accept us and need us in their lives.
When a kid says that his friends are bullying him/her at school, that kid needs to learn that those are not his/her friends. Friends do not bully one another: friends support each other, accept each other, and love each other. They may be peers, they may be acquaintances, but they are not friends. If anything, they may be enemies (now, Jesus commands us to love our enemies, but that does not mean we must trust our enemies, or spend time with them). The fact is that we must recognize and evaluate relationships in our lives, calling them what they are. No everybody is our friend, and not everybody deserves to be our friend.
We must build friendships with those who love and accept us, and with those who need us. We must be willing to let them into our lives, and we must be willing to help them. As we develop close bonds with these people, we will undoubtedly come in touch with some other people in their lives, or we will meet new people. Slowly, our circle of positive relationships and voices get built.
Personally, over the years I have enjoyed participating in small groups. My wife and I made some very good friends through it. These people kept us motivated in our faith, helped us, and prayed for us. We knew that they had our best interests at heart and in their intentions. They shared their time, their homes, their faith, and their families with us. They became like families to us. We are very thankful for each and everyone of them. And over the course of the years, we also welcomed others who needed friends, who needed positive voices in their lives, and who needed a family. We did for them what we could, and I think they found encouragement in their relationship with us. Thus, we also became positive voices in the lives of others.
Finally, it is important that we build our relationship with God through prayer and reading of his word (the Bible). He is Our Rock, Our Fortress, Our Shield, Our Deliverer, and Our Helper. His word is full of encouragement and positive thoughts that help us keep pressing forward. Many Christians rely on the words "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and "All things work together for good to them that love Him." These kinds of thoughts remind us that God is in our lives to help us, that He loves us, and that we need not succumb to the pressures in live.
After We Mess Up
It is hard to live with ourselves after we mess up. Guilt, regret, and the consequences of our actions keep yelling at us in our heads. We have been there; we all will experience it in our lifetime.
- We failed God for the hundredth time (in the same way!). We keep making promises to Him, and we keep breaking those promises. We cannot control ourselves.
- We were fired from a job because we failed (professionally or morally).
- We let down our family who was counting on us for love, honor, provision, and protection.
- We betrayed a friend.
- We sabotaged ourselves.
It is good for us to realize how great is our offense and how dismal is our failure (see 2 Corinthians 7:9-11). Those who don't are morally disabled, unable to learn the lesson to which the Most High and Merciful God is patiently guiding them: there is a need for repentance, and there is hope in God's grace.
"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." (Matthew 3:11, KJV)
We all demand righteousness from each other, and yet none of us is righteous. But the fact that we judge each other (our employers judge us, our families judge us, our friends judge us, and we judge them) demonstrates that there is a supreme and righteous standard that must be met, and none of us is able to meet it. That is the point (God's point).
We all must appear before God, the only one who is infinitely good and righteous, and we shall answer to Him for how we have treated Him, the world which He has entrusted to us, and one another. Not a single human soul will be able to say, "I have not sinned; I have not erred." So we need to repent.
We need to change our mind about God. We need to stop running away from Him, and we need to start running toward Him. We need to recognize that his ways are higher and better than ours, and that He is righteous in his judgments. We need stop listening to our own objections, and we need to start listening to his message for us.
Only then will we realize that the righteous standard we are all trying to fulfill in our relationships is God's standard. The same righteous standard we impose on others is God's righteous standard. Love, truth, integrity, honesty, justice, and forgiveness—all these belong to God because they proceed from God. And as we pursue God, we will become less defensive about our failures and with grieving hearts recognize to others that we have failed them and God.
"I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee." (Luke 15:18, KJV)
God allows us to fail others and ourselves so we can learn that we have failed Him because we are sinners, imperfect human beings enslaved by sin as long as we keep running away from God.
Having come to repentance, we need to embrace God's grace. What is God's grace? God's grace is the forgiveness of all our sins and a renewed relationship with Him and his kingdom for all eternity.
God, the Judge of All the Earth, is willing to forgive us all our sins (all our failures) and to renew his relationship with us for all eternity, because He is perfectly good and merciful. While there is a condition by which He will forgive us, forgiveness itself does not cost us anything because He, on his own end, has taken upon Himself to satisfy all the righteous demands to earn the right to grant us that forgiveness.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:16-19, KJV)
God sent his Son, Jesus of Nazareth (the Christ, or Messiah), to teach humanity about God, to die on a cross for our sins, to rise from the dead, and to ascend to Heaven so anyone who believes in him (in Jesus), accepting him as Lord and Savior, will receive forgiveness of all their sins from God the Father. Thus, grace is available to every human soul!
Let me use this imperfect analogy. The President of the United States of America can grant pardons to those under his jurisdiction as he deems fit because the American Constitution gives him the power to do this. While others may disagree, those who are pardoned by the President no longer have to pay for their crime.
In a similar way, God, the Creator of all, can grant a pardon as He (who is infinitely wise) sees fit. Others may disagree, but those who are pardoned by God are guiltless before God, the Judge of All the Earth (it is important to note, however, that in God's economy, the death of Christ was necessary for Him to grant us this pardon). There is no higher power than God, and those who are forgiven by God are truly forgiven.
But how can this grace help us in the case of a lost job, a lost friendship, or even a crime for which we may be paying in jail? The answer is that it may not help us directly, but it does help us indirectly. The job may be lost, and we may need to start all over (from the bottom); that friendship may never be restored in this life; and the punishment for our crime may last a lifetime or even end in the death penalty. However, God's grace can turn our lives around!
It can lead us to new and better relationships. It can lead us to more meaningful jobs. It can touch people's lives as we, though in jail or even sentenced to death, confess our sins and testify to the change that has taken place in our own hearts now that we have received God's grace; and it teaches us to forgive. There really are no limits to what God's grace can do in your life and in the life of others.
If you have embraced Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, recognizing that he is the Son of God and that he rose fro the dead, God's grace can restore your life and turn it around. There is hope for you, and I urge you to embrace it.
Confess your sins and failures to God, welcome Jesus Christ in your life, and ask God to turn your life around so that you can become a witness of his grace and an agent of good in this world and in other people's lives.
Questions for Reflection
What are you like? Take time to describe yourself. Do you like yourself? What good things are happening in your life? What challenges are you facing?
How do you feel about yourself? What is influencing the way you feel about yourself? Is it your talents, your looks, your possessions, or something else?
Do you value others less, more, or as much as you value yourself? What evidence is there in your life about how much you value others?
What is happening in your life right now? What sins have you committed? How have you failed? According to this article, how should you respond to sin and failure in your life.
Take some time to think about God’s love for you. He created you in his image, and He gave his Son for you. Write a letter to yourself explaining why this reflects on your true value more than the challenges you are facing.
Take time to pray to God, asking Him to reveal to you how valuable you are to Him and how much He loves you. Thank Him for creating you in his image and for giving his own Son for you. Ask Him to help you put your faith completely in that, instead of putting it in any other system of values that may harm your self-esteem.
We are limited and imperfect human beings who fail. But our intrinsic worth, our true value, is not determined by our limitations, imperfections, or failures; it is determined by what we are: souls created in the image of God to have a meaningful relationship with Him and those who love Him for all eternity. Nothing can take that away from us!
In fact, God things everyone of us so valuable, that He sent his Son to become a human being (Jesus of Nazareth), to suffer, die, and rise from the dead so that we may understand how much He loves us. Truly, his love for us is infinite if He was willing to sacrifice his own Son, who is a part of Himself, for us.
In this hub I have attempted to assure you that you are of great value regardless of your limitations, your imperfections, what others think, and your failures. Now, it is your turn to put your faith (your trust) in God and his Son, and to allow his grace to truly transform your life. I hope this hub has been a blessing in your life.
Identity in God's Fingerprints
© 2015 Marcelo Carcach