This post has stuff about religion. My perspective has changed
Please note: I’m not a counselor. Most of this material is from Christian Counseling by Gary R. Collins, Ph.D. It’s a great book that has helped me a lot ever since I was a teenager. If you are having self-esteem issues I fully recommend a good Christian counselor. I’ve had a lot of success with counseling.
It doesn’t matter who you are, we all go through times of low self esteem. There are a lot of secular resources out there that deal with self esteem issues. Some of them have some good stuff but really it’s all useless without God. We, as sinful human beings, can’t do anything without God’s help. On the other hand, we can do all things through Jesus!
As a man I’ve occasionally doubted my ability to provide for my family; I’ve sometimes wondered whether I was a good husband and father. At work I’ve gone through times where I honestly believed that everyone was absolutely annoyed with me; I thought I’d get fired any day. As a Christian I’ve been overly critical that my under-performance in church-related activities would prevent me from joining in planting a church. It’s a process but this kind of self-doubt can be turned into a healthy, balanced, and Godly type of confidence.
What is Self Esteem?
Self-esteem is the confidence and satisfaction a person has in him/herselfL3. It includes a person’s subjective appraisal of himself or herself as intrinsically positive or negative to some degreeL2. There are several aspects to self esteem but the one we’ll focus on here is self-love. Stop with the snickering. I’m not talking about that kind of self-love.
Self love means to see ourselves as worthwhile creatures, valued and loved by God, gifted members of the Body of Christ…, and bearers of the Divine ImageL3. In my opinion, as Christians we want to strive for neither a negative self love—self-deprecation, or false humility—which would result in low self esteem and an improper perspective of God’s creation. Nor do we want an excess of self-esteem, which would result in over-confidence, self-reliance, keeping up with the Joneses etc.
The goal isn’t to have high self esteem. In fact, that can even be unhealthyL4. As always in God’s kingdom we’re looking for the “radical middle,” that place where we can embrace our low and humbled state as sinners and yet stand confident in our authority as heirs and co-heirs with Christ and as his adopted children.
The 7 causes of low self esteem
When self-doubt strikes I often wonder why. Truth is it’s probably not one single event that makes a man feel inferior. It’s more likely several issues acting at once. In order to deliver a sweet Judo chop to the throat of low self esteem you’ll have to know thy enemy.
According to CollinsL1 there are basically 7 causes of low self esteem:
- Faulty theology
- Past experiences
- Parent-child relationships
- Unrealistic expectations
- Faulty thinking
- Community influences
Faulty theology is when you don’t clearly understand what the bible has to say about YOU . Specifically it’s an incorrect view of yourself as God sees you. You may have heard the statement “God don’t make junk,” well, that’s Biblical. The Bible has a TON L2 of great stuff to say about our identity in Christ, or who we are in God’s eyes.
Often the feeling of guilt and remorse from sin can cause us to doubt ourselves. Remember the last time you looked at porn? Or had a little “self-love”? That bad feeling afterwards is a God-given response to sin. It feels bad because you’re not supposed to do it. If that feeling goes unrepented and if you don’t have proper understanding of God’s grace and forgiveness that inferior feeling will stick around for a while.
Our failures can really play up self-doubt. I’ve struggled for the past year over the near collapse of my marriage. Other’s remember their failed attempts at starting a business. For some it’s failing a class in school. Take heart, this recollection of failure was even familiar to the Apostles.
Some of our parents conditioned us believe as children that we are unloved, unworthy failures. Most of the time they didn’t do this on purpose. In fact, there may be a good reason for their actions. Regardless, there may have been a lack of affection, or maybe unrealistic standards and goals. It’s pretty unreasonable to ask a 2 year old to clean her room, and then get upset at her when she doesn’t do it. Those kinds of things can really do a number of self-confidence.
This one gets me all the time. It’s possible that by setting goals that are too difficult to meet we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and failure.
It’s merely human to have thoughts like “nobody likes me” or “who could care about someone like me?” These thoughts fester and create negative self esteem. They are rarely true, however. And almost anyone can find someone who really cares about them, whether it’s a parent or friend.
This is basically “keeping up with the Joneses.” It goes something like: “You’re not cool unless you have the new Apple 3G phone.” Well I’m here to tell you that there’s always someone with something better. If that bugs you it might be feeding your self-doubt. Do you think worse of yourself because you don’t own a house or don’t drive that fancy car? It’s okay. Lot’s of people do.
7 Activities for building self esteem
If you want a balanced self esteem you’ll need to learn a few new skills. I know it’s totally lame, but bow staff skills can only get you so far.
Practicing the following activities will help you to move toward a balanced self-esteem.
- Reexamine your expectations, goals, and priorities as they arise
- Avoid dwelling on the negative
- Give frequent encouragement, compliments, and respect to others
- Listen and communicate
- Meditate regularly on God’s word
- Avoid destructive tendencies that can contribute to low self esteem
- Spend time with your church community
Try not to obsess about this list. You don’t need to “strive.” Just let the Holy Spirit show you if there is something you need to work on.
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.
L1 Collins, Gary R. PhD. Christian Counseling
Photo by Patricia Soransso