Everyone deals with self-esteem at some point in their life. Some deal with low self-esteem all their lives. It is something I have had to work people through over my entire ministry life. Some face the extremes of lacking self-esteem by the ongoing demeaning of a person until the person is completely broken down. This can come by others who press you down to gain advantage over you and feel better about themselves. It can also come by doing it to ourselves thinking we deserve it. Self-esteem could be termed self-value or how you value yourself. Self-esteem is how you value the very essence of yourself. We all deal with self-esteem in many ways. Confidence is a major one.
Webster’s defines self-esteem as: a confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.
The confidence in one’s own self-worth is not in right decision-making but is found deeper. It is having a settledness in who you are, (Identity) and the potential that is inside you. Most of the time, confidence is eroded when things go bad or go in a different direction than anticipated. Life events have nothing to do with our self-esteem but if we are not careful, we will let it come in and begin to erode our confidence. I have had many life events go in the wrong direction. There was pressure to let those moments define me and who I am. I made business decisions that cost me tens of thousands of dollars. Other business decisions should have made me wealthy, but I ended up breaking even. Still other decisions made me doubt why I chose a certain direction. But all of them had factors out of my control along with my assumption that others would act like I act, from the same value system. But I decided to allow God to define me instead and He saw me through the detrimental life events. Self-esteem is never formed from hindsight and the what ifs. It is formed by knowing who you are and what you are capable of.
We make decisions based on the information at hand, experience, and a trust in others to perform what has been determined. We believe they value what we value and will respond like we would respond. How they respond is outside of our control. Self-esteem is about you as a person and not outside influences, and how they affect you. You remain deep down who you are no matter what happens in life around you. You are a person, and those influences are events. Two very different things.
Self-esteem is really a measuring of what we feel we should be doing and attain, versus what we are doing. The in-between is the place self-esteem is determined. The closer the gap between our reality and what we feel is “perfection”, the greater our self-esteem. The wider the gap, the less we feel about ourselves. We must be careful not to widen the gap by the words we speak and how we see ourselves. Self Esteem is not just how we value ourselves but starts by how we see ourselves. How we compare “us” to possibly a false image of “us” or what others might expect or even others we admire. Correct self-esteem will always have a gap between where we are at now and where we see our potential really is. That’s healthy self-esteem, evaluating improvement but not being driven by the standard of perfection.
2 Corinthians 10:12–13 (KJV 1900) — 12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 13 But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.
We have wrong self-esteem when we have wrong standards by which we measure ourselves. We may be coming up with unrealistic ideas of what the standard for ourselves should be. We set standards upon ourselves that God never intended. He knows we have limitations, and He has made provision for the lack, mistakes, and choices. It really becomes a mental health issue of having healthy and realistic expectations of ourselves. Ones that give us a realistic target to hit and not a perfectionist mentality that we sometimes hit but most of the time, fall short.
But self-esteem deals with how actions determine our value. Our actions come from our value system. How we value ourselves and what we know to be true about ourselves. That’s why when those values are violated by others, it cuts us deeply. Our first response generally is that there is something wrong with me. But really, how people respond and when they respond poorly or with differing values that are less than ours, only shows areas needing adjusted in their lives and not ours.
Actions may be right or wrong at times, but the value of who we really are remains the same. It never changes nor is it reduced. God is no respecter of persons and values every person equally. He loves us because He chose to love us, not based on our actions or lack of actions. God has no variable or sliding scale. He sees us how He made us and not what comes at us, trying to change the very depths of who we are. His opinion of us remains the same while ours may change. Self-esteem is really who you are as a person, more so than the decisions you make. Value is not determined by our actions but by our character, value systems, moral living, treatment of others, kindness, compassion, appreciations, and the unique and wonderful way God made us. These are the things I point out to those who have self-esteem issues.
If you have self-esteem issues, you can approach it in two ways. First is the resetting of the perfection bar you have established. Problems in life do come along. People deceive us, lie to us, abuse us and a host of other things. These do not demean our value but come to erode at our perceptions of ourselves. If we are not careful, we put them into how our self-esteem is formed. We set high unattainable standards thinking this will stop the life issues. Set a realistic goal for your life and find happiness that you are on the journey to reach it. Remember that how the journey unfolds will not define who you are.
The other area is seeing if we truly are living below our potential. Perhaps we have a ‘let’s wait and see’ attitude or an unwillingness to put energy into bettering ourselves. This also must be addressed and shifted. God expects a good healthy attempt with what we can do and not ultimate perfection from us, as He says there is none perfect, not one. To adjust self-esteem, we need to take the undue pressure off us. We close this gap by making an effort, working our potential, and measuring it with God’s realistic viewpoint, and our self-esteem will quickly rise.