What feelings do you experience when you reflect on your core self? Is your general attitude toward yourself positive or negative? What is your evaluation of your self-worth? These are questions that can help assess what is often called your self-esteem and influence whether you desire to address this issue in your life.
We all have a “self” that is separate from “others.” This self is where our beliefs, emotions, likes, dislikes, values, goals, etc., reside. Our self is influenced by our interactions with parents and others which greatly impact how high or low we assess our self-esteem to be. Our self-esteem may be low in the context of some relationships, while good in other situations.
At some point in people’s lives, nearly everyone experiences low self-esteem. For some it seems like a central trait of their personality. Research has shown that counseling which targets a person’s self-esteem helps improve many different emotional and psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety. However, the pursuit of striving to improve our self-esteem can be costly in terms of your social, mental and even physical health. It is healthier, then, to see self-esteem as a secondary benefit from pursuit of other meaningful goals and activities in life.
Reflect on: Matthew 6:33
For the Christian, our relationship with God and theology of “self” also impacts our feelings about ourselves. Those who focus on our fallen human nature, sinful and separated from God in its natural state, may be prone to a lower self-esteem. Those who focus on our core self as made in the image of God, valued by him such that He bought our salvation with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, may be more prone to a higher self-esteem. In the latter case, it is really faith in what we could call “God-Esteem” – a conviction of how high God esteems us.
Reflect on: Romans 3:10-26; 7:21-8:9; II Corinthians 3:17-18; 5:21; John 3:16
Here are some tips which may help you improve your feelings about yourself in a more balanced manner.
Keep a journal. Write down, on a daily basis, your personal reflections, goals, thoughts, challenges, vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses which may relate to your self-esteem. Seek to be as open with yourself as possible, while keeping it private. You can make it a prayer journal, with open discussion with God. Consider the following ideas to guide your reflections.
Reflect on: Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Habakkuk 2:2; Psalm 102:18
Target self-acceptance. Your goal is not to attempt building your self-esteem based on accomplishments or developing competencies in some skill, but to gain a better understanding of and to be comfortable with yourself. It is good to recognize your strengths, but equally important not to belittle yourself for your weaknesses, mistakes, and failures. Accept them, as this does not make you inferior, but only human. God’s grace makes all this possible.
Reflect on: Ephesians 2:1-9; I Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:3-6
Build your competencies. While your abilities are not the foundation for your self-esteem, it is healthy to continue growing in your skills and strengths. In what areas are you successful? What skills do you value which you would like to learn or gain a better mastery of?
What are your gifts and talents? Reinforce self-talk that builds on your self-acceptance and decreases thoughts that bring low self-esteem. One client recently reported “With God’s help, I know I can go back to college and succeed, even though I failed before.”
Reflect on: Exodus 35:10; 35:30-36:1; Ephesians 2:10;4:15-16; II Corinthians 3:4-6
Overcome your fears. Often, fear leads to avoidance which blocks our efforts at building our skills or taking classes to learn new things. Facing those fears as a challenge and embracing your path to developing those new strengths will help increase your self-esteem as a side benefit. Every master started out as a beginner making plenty of mistakes. Accept your fears about what others may think. Do what you believe is right for you (according to the Bible) anyway and put aside worries about what others might say.
Reflect on: Joshua 1:6-9; Isaiah 41:10; II Timothy 1:7
Avoid the “comparison trap.” Too often we compare ourselves with others. This is a false foundation for our self-esteem. We may get puffed up with pride, or our self-esteem crashes as we see others with better skills and more success. Do not allow activities such as sports or games to determine your self-esteem. If possible, avoid using the words “should” and “must” which bring the pressure to be perfect and overly demanding of yourself. An example of this is “I should always be the best parent/pastor/teacher.” Instead, work to excel without making comparisons with others and give yourself permission to fall short of your ideal.
Reflect on: II Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 6:3-4; Philippians 3:12-14
Continue reading next week to get more practical advice on seeking balance regarding your self-esteem.
This article was originally published on the Hammonton Gazette, February 2019 and has been modified into a new format.