Four Foul Thoughts that Destroy Self-Esteem
I call the set of thoughts I’m discussing in this Hub a “boxed set” because they often work in tandem, as if chained together.
In other words, someone who is overwhelmed by one of these might also need to soul search, to see if the other three might also be present. All of these thoughts are irrational attacks against your sense of well being, your self-confidence and self-esteem. I see them as good examples of “wrong thinking” that, unfortunately, can become a regular part of someone’s internal dialogue.
It is easy, if you’re not paying close attention to what you are saying to you, to allow your self-confidence to come under attack for reasons that are not sound. That is, you can allow wrong or faulty reasoning to stop you from striving to achieve, or to cause you to end your struggle toward reaching a goal.
Sometimes, these self-inflicted attacks can be the only thing standing between you and continuing your journey or quest, prohibiting your opportunities for personal growth.
Following are what I see as four unsound attacks against self-confidence that I believe too many people, and their dreams/goals, fall victim to:
1. Everyone has to love me. If they don’t, then there must be something wrong with me. Correction:No one—and I repeat, no one has or ever will be loved, or even liked, by everyone. Even Jesus Christ had enemies who eventually caused him to be crucified on Calvary Mountain. It is not reasonable to expect that you will be able to accomplish this particular feat, one that wasn’t even possible for God when He lived on Earth as Jesus. It is an impossible dream, and your time and energy would be much better spent on introspection—getting to know yourself well, your strengths, your weaknesses, and those things you would like to do some work on to be the person you know you were born to be. The “Fruit of the Spirit” is a good place to begin. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit we should bear, with our lives, includes: “… love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
I want to encourage anyone who has ever felt an overwhelming need to be loved or liked by all, to concentrate time on establishing a foundation of godly pursuits and personal values. Stake out claims for your life based on what you know you want, and on what God has told us is good for our lives, and don’t ever feel, again, like everyone has to love or even accept you, in order for you to pursue your goals and dreams. In fact, don’t spend another minute on trying or expecting to get the endorsement of every person you meet, or even every person you already know. Know you are worthy, deserving, and of a high present value, just as you are right now, based solely on the fact that God loves you.
2. I must succeed in everything I set out to do. If I fail, it says I am incompetent and incapable. Correction: God wants us to strive for perfection in how we live and love our neighbors, but even this brand of "perfection" is to be a lifelong goal—not a prerequisite to happiness. Ultimately, as Christians we are saved by grace, not by how close we come to being perfect. Neither you nor I will ever be successful, or even competent, in all things at all times—and that’s okay. And we’re still just as worthy and just as valuable as human beings, despite any areas of weakness. Your humanity is what gives you your worth as a human being. Not your level of competence, or your successes or failures in life. Remember, when we learn from failure, that alone is a form of success. Many of the greatest stories in the Bible were about people who failed at something: Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, and Peter. But every one of them learned from their failure, and they grew stronger as a result of it. When Thomas Edison was 67 years old, many of the inventions he’d been working on were incinerated in a great fire. The next morning, looking at all the ruins, Edison said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Three weeks later, with new energy burning and flowing throughout his body, Edison delivered the first phonograph.
Every time you fail at something, you’ve most likely figured out at least one thing “not to do” the next time you try. As I stated earlier, it is a good idea, from time to time in your life, to spend time on self-inventory. It’s great to know your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can use what you know you’re good at to help you improve in areas you’re not so good at. And remember, some things are simply not meant for you to be good at, and that’s why God wants us to depend on one another. There will be times in your life when you will need to depend on others that God will place in your path to help you. These people will be strong in areas where you need skills, knowledge, or abilities that you either do not possess, or you’re just not that good at. Don’t fret. It’s good to need others. Can you imagine how lonely your life would be if you never needed anyone else’s help? The words of that old song are patently true: “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” Here are several of the many passages in the Bible that speak about helping and caring for each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:25; Ephesians 4:29; Deuteronomy 15:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; Psalm 37:21; Hebrews 6:10).
3. When I do something wrong—something I know I shouldn’t, I feel rotten, like garbage in the rain. I feel I’ll never be able to trust myself again, and the bad stuff I’ve done looms larger than life, while the good I’ve done in my life seems minimal. Correction: Bad is not more important than good. Your goodness is not erased or even minimized by your spiritual setbacks. Just as your “downs” do not eliminate the joy you felt and deserved during your “ups,” the depth of your “lows” do not determine the altitude of your “highs.” Life is not all one thing or another. Life is a glorious creation containing a humbling mixture of highs, lows, ups, downs, failures, successes, and learning from the bad things, so that we can be more confident and more committed to doing good things. As long as you ask for forgiveness and repent of your sins, you are salvageable. Your life is one of God’s greatest creations, and even when we stray away and lose touch with Him, the way He has ordained our steps allows us a chance to be forgiven—a chance to ask for His forgiveness for our sins, and a chance to forgive self and start anew.
God’s granting us the “free will” to live our lives, even to make mistakes, allows us to become molded and made into a person of wisdom and truth. No matter what you may do or go through in life, as long as you come back to God, as long as you are willing to hold on to His “unchanging hand,” you will find your equilibrium, your way back to the comfort and security of His love. We are made alive in Christ, not in ourselves (Ephesians 2, below, from the NIV).
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
4. I feel “stupid,” like a “loser” when I don’t meet my own expectations or if I don’t measure up to the expectations others have for me. Correction: In this case, I am recommending the sentiments of an old and famous T-shirt and bumper sticker slogan that said, simply, “God does not make junk!” When you label yourself as “stupid,” or as a “loser,” you are attempting to invalidate one of God’s greatest creations—you. You should replace this bad habit with a good one. Instead of assigning yourself a negative label, try giving yourself a positive one instead. If you goof up, simply say “oops, guess I messed that up!” and keep going. This way, it’s the “thing” that is messed up, and not you. If it’s possible for you to make corrections or to fix what was messed up, do so. If not, learn whatever you can from the situation so that you don’t make the same mistake again, and move on. Don’t allow yourself to spend an inordinate amount time writing your own epithet while blowing things—no matter how large or small—out of proportion. Remember, it’s human to err, and it’s Christian to forgive yourself, over and over again, as many times as needed. If you never messed up, you’d never learn how to fix a mess. If you never fail, you never learn how to come back from a failure, and you miss out on important information that only failure can teach.
Many of the most important successes in the history of the world happened only after many, many failures. Thomas Edison did not refine the light bulb on his first attempt. The Wright Brothers did not experience flight on their first attempt. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, as a sophomore, for being “under sized.” He grew four inches by his junior year, and by his senior year, was a McDonald’s High School All American. What if he had taken being cut in his sophomore year as an indication of his lot in life? What if he’d given up on his dream of playing pro basketball, even after growing four more inches in height?
Remember to always allow what happens in your life to be a lesson to you, because life is always trying to teach you something. Whether it is to have patience, to persevere, or to develop greater self-confidence, life is a teacher. So, don’t feel bad or become defeated as your life tries to teach you lessons. Be a good student. Tune in, pay attention, learn, and get as much out of the lessons of your life as you can.
Set Yourself Up for Confidence Building, through Christ
You and I have been given a directive to believe in ourselves and our God-given talent and purpose in life. God tells us in Galatians 5:25-26: “And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” If we are walking the walk of Christ, we are expected to learn to do away with affectations—meaning habits or peculiarities—of the flesh. This includes such things as weakness of confidence. God wants us to live and walk boldly and confidently in the Spirit, in a glorious fashion (not a cowardly one!). And He even tells us how to be self-confident, by warning us to keep it tempered with humility (“let us not be desirous of vain glory”).
I believe Jesus was the most confident person who ever lived. It was His confidence in what He was placed on Earth to do, after all, that made Him know He was able to lead people by example, and by His words. His self-confidence came from God, and it was His trust, faith, and belief in God, His father, that allowed Him to believe in Himself and in His mission. His confidence in His abilities allowed Him to feed the hungry, heal the sick and bring the dead back to life. This same belief in self, based on the inerrant, unchanging word of God, allowed Him to allow His enemies to crucify Him on Calvary Mountain, because He knew His father was a God who could not lie. Jesus was confident that He was only dying in the flesh, and He knew His spirit would live on, forever. Because God had told Him so.
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© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD