What is self-esteem?
Although it is a topic of so much discussion with many books available on the subject, many of us continue to struggle with this area of our lives. The struggle includes inner feeling of incompleteness, emptiness, self-doubt, and self-hatred.
It is possible to have proper self-esteem as we are rightly related to our creator, God. We were created with these deep needs for personal security and significance and God designed a way to meet those needs when we are rightly related to Him. Here's how you can develop a well-balanced sense of self-esteem.
How do we obtain proper self-esteem?
Taking an honest look at yourself is often the best way to evaluate where you are and where you want to go.
How do we maintain a well-based sense of self-esteem?
We need a way of handling the little day-to-day setbacks with a sense of security and significance. It all starts with our thinking. We have to retrain ourselves to think “what is the true about me and my circumstances?” (See: John 8:3 “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” & Philippians 4:8 “Whatever is true…whatever is right…..think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.” )
What do we need most?
The most basic need all of us have is to have a sense of personal worth. This sense of personal worth has two elements: security and significance. Security means being loved and accepted just for who I am, regardless of what I do. Significance means having meaning or purpose in life, and being adequate for what we do. It's knowing that we are good at some things. The problem is that we develop a series of false assumptions of what we think will meet our needs for security and significance. We usually learn these assumptions in childhood.
If we don't experience unconditional love and acceptance as a child, we will experience pressure to have those needs met elsewhere. And if we aren't given a sense of competency and significance in childhood, we will also experience pressure to meet that need elsewhere.
The proper formation of security in childhood can be affected by many things.. Living with constant ridicule, contempt and negativity can affect a child's security into adulthood. Perhaps you've overheard a parent criticizing a child. It's not just the words that are used, but also the tone of voice that can deeply affect the child.
A child hearing this continually internalizes the words and tone, and they can become part of of his/her view of self. The tapes in our mind play back the messages of the past making if difficult to put aside information learned from parents and others. Some parents put enormous pressure on their children to perform. Children in these situations often grow up to be overachievers with the voice of their parents' disapproval ringing in their ears.
The basic assumptions that began in childhood are heavily influenced by our peer group. We can all develop wrong and false assumptions about how to have our needs met. The reason they are called false assumptions is because they do not give us unconditional love, acceptance, and firm significance in life. They give us a temporary sense of self-esteem.
Are any of the following false assumptions operating in your belief system?
- I will be secure if...
- I am in a loving relationship
- I am never criticized
- I am not rejected as a person
How about your need for significance?
- I will be significant if...
- I excel at school
- I excel when my projects are promoted
- When I have financial success
- When I am granted recognition by my peer group
We all want to have these needs met and we will expend considerable energy to meet them. When we pour our energy into meeting our needs through pursuing false assumptions of what will meet those needs, we can be devastated when those assumptions don't lead to lasting security and significance. What will happen is that we will feel pressed to pour energy in other directions based on another false assumption of what will meet our needs for security and significance.
How do we maintain proper self-esteem?
It is possible to have proper self-esteem as we're rightly related to our creator, God. We were created with these deep needs for personal security and significance, and God designed the way to meet these needs.
God is the only One who knows me totally, and loves me totally. I never have to fear he'll learn something about me that's so bad that he'll reject me. God says "I have loved you with an everlasting love" I don't have to worry about what makes me acceptable in a relationship with God, the way I do in human relationships. God has seen me at my worst, and still loves me. That is a kind of security that no human relationship can afford me. We will never risk facing rejection from God. God knows us totally and loves us totally. And, we don't need to fear God's rejection if we fail at an endeavour. In fact, that is one of the reasons that God sent the person of Christ in the first place – to pay for the imperfection, the self-centredness that causes distance between us and Him.
So, the primary solution to this question of how we achieve a proper sense of self-esteem is to establish relationship with our creator, God.
How to maintain a well-based sense of self-esteem
What happens when we experience little setbacks in our sense of security and significance. We need a way of handling those setbacks. It all starts with our thinking. The way we think largely determines the way we behave, and that's why exercises that deal only with behavior bring short-term results. We have to change our thinking, and that will influence our behaviour. When I separte my self-worth from how I perform as a student, employee or friend, this doesn't mean that I shouldn't work up to my highest standard. What it does mean, is that my significance is not based on that one thing.
So, how do we correct our thoughts? We have to retrain ourselves to think what is true and right, remembering that we are significant to God, even if our performance was off the mark today, God still loves us unconditionally and He can help us learn from our experience. Although the examples change, the principles remain the same. God never changes. His love for us remains the same. This isn't just positive thinking or a "band-aid" solution. This is right thinking; it's a foundational solution.
So, we need to ensure that our relationship with God is intact, and then we need to pursue right thinking.
NNU Counseling Center: For appointments dial (208) 467-8466