|Dealing with Low Self-esteem
|When asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus responded, Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul AND love your
neighbour as yourself (Matt 22:37-39). Peter implores, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as a
good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). Unfortunately far too many Christians limit their service to God and His
people due low self esteem.
Definition of Low Self-esteem
Low self-esteem is generally described as a deflated self-image or not liking yourself. People with low self-esteem tend to be very hard
on themselves and may have a pessimistic view of life as a consequence. Their views of themselves are characteristically unrealistic
Effect of Low Self-esteem
Low self esteem can produce several negative outcomes. First it can contribute to a fear of rejection, which causes one to avoid
closeness, limit communication with others, and seek isolation. Second, a poor self-image can lead one to behave in ways that others
find offensive, thus alienating them. Finally, low self-esteem can cause individuals to become too dependent on the company or
emotional support of other people. Persons with low self-esteem generally exhibit one or more of the following:
compliments or recognition from others.
- Consider themselves lost, unworthy of being cared for.
- Are poor risk takers.
- Operate out of a fear of rejection.
- Are typically unassertive in their behavior with others.
- Are fearful of conflict with others.
- Are hungry for the approval of others.
- Are poor problem solvers.
- Are fraught with irrational beliefs and have a tendency to think irrationally.
- Are susceptible to all kinds of fears.
- Have a tendency to become emotionally stuck and immobilized.
- Have a poor "track record" in school or on the job; conversely, they sometimes over compensate and become over-achievers.
- Are unable to affirm or to reinforce themselves positively.
- Are unable to make an honest assessment of their strengths, qualities, and good points; they find it difficult to accept
they believe have not fully accepted them.
- Have poorly defined self-identities with a tendency to be chameleons in order to fit in with others.
- Are insecure, anxious, and nervous when they are with others.
- Often become overcome with anger about their status in life and are likely to have chronic hostility or chronic depression.
- Are easily overcome with despair and depression when they experience a setback or loss in their lives.
- Have a tendency to overreact and become de-energized by resentment, anger, and the desire for revenge against those whom
Such addictive behavior can include alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex, shopping, smoking, workaholism, or the search
- Are vulnerable to mental health problems and have a propensity to use addictive behavior to medicate their hurt and pain.
for excitement, truth, wisdom, and a guru with an easy guide to the achievement of happiness.
Research indicates that low self esteem can impair not only personal relationships but also one’s physical and mental health. Digestive
disorders, hypertension, and depression have been linked to low self esteem. It is easy to see how low self-esteem negatively affects
our ability to maintain effective relationships and to fulfil God’s purpose for our lives.
Causes of Low Self-esteem
Several factors can cause individuals to experience low self esteem. Below are a few.
Many people have personal esteem problems due to what they perceive as unattractive physical features. From their own viewpoint
they may be too heavy, too thin, have a bad complexion, crooked teeth, etc. More likely than not, all of us have physical traits that we
would like to alter. I know I do! However, whenever I asked my mother if I was pretty she responded, “Beauty is as beauty does.” Her
point was that what determined my beauty was my behavior, not my outward appearance. The Word tells us that beauty is vain and
that it is those who fear the Lord who shall be praised (Prov. 31:30).
Lack of Education
Some Christians underestimate their usefulness because of their limited formal education. But remember this:
1. You cannot confuse education with wisdom. The expression “educated fool” did not arise in a vacuum. Proverbs 4:7 says,
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” And James 1:5 tells us that all we
have to do is ask God for it!
2. It is never too late to pursue a formal education. I did not start college until I was 36 and did not receive my doctorate until age 50.
As a result I started teaching college and this ministry at an age when many people are retiring!
3. Education apart from knowledge of God’s words renders a Christian powerless. “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it,
do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will and in all wisdom and spiritual
understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the
knowledge of God, strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power….” (Col. 1:9-11).
Low self-esteem may result from the tragic circumstances in one’s past. Events such as discrimination, sexual harassment, rape, loss
of employment, financial hardship, or making a major personal or professional mistake can cause individuals to lose their sense of self-
Physical or Emotional Abuse
Abuse can ravage one’s self-esteem. At one point society focused more on the effects of physical abuse; however, in recent years we
have come to realize the detrimental effects emotional abuse can have on one’s psychological and spiritual well being. Being beaten with
an instrument or with words can produce the same effect, a diminished sense of self worth. Sadly, the devil often persuades those who
suffer abuse that THEY are the cause of it, which makes their self esteem even lower.
One of the most prominent causes of low self-esteem is an involvement in personal sin. Sin scars terribly. It is sometimes the case that
one who loves God deeply, and who strives for spiritual maturity, will, in a moment of weakness, fall into some dreadful form of
wickedness. The crushing blow of such a transgression may have lasting effects that so debilitate the person that he/she has a very
difficult time regaining a sense of Christian dignity, particularly if others know about the transgression. Yielding to evil can rob the
conscience of that sense of well-being God intends us to have.
Comparing Self to Others
I have experienced and observed how our self esteem can be lowered when we compare ourselves to other Christians who we think
are superior. We often look at others whom we think are more spiritual, can pray or speak more eloquently, or who have a title or
position within the church and think that we could never measure up to them. This can result it two responses. We either shy away
from opportunities to serve God or refuse to take our service to a new level because we believe we do not have what it takes. However,
when tempted to compare ourselves to others we have to remember, “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the
heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). God is more concerned with our sincerity and willingness to serve Him than with visible signs of success.
Difference between Self-esteem and Ungodly Pride
Before going further it is important to note that I am not suggesting that Christians should be prideful people. Ungodly pride is an
excessive belief in one's own abilities that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. In the dictionary pride is
defined as a haughty attitude shown by people who believe that they are better than others. James 4:6 says that God resists those with
this kind of pride. That is why we are cautioned not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3). We must attempt
not to be “high-minded” or “wise in our own conceits” (Romans 11:20; 12:16).
However, it is important that Christians have a healthy view of themselves. There is a pride that reflects the correct level of respect for
the importance and value of our personal character, life, efforts, or achievements. It reflects a godly concept of self-esteem. The Bible
tells us that God values us enough to purchase us to be His own people (Ephesians 1:14). Because of this, only He is worthy of honor
and praise. When we have healthy self-esteem we will conduct ourselves with humility. Romans 12:3 warns, “Be honest in your
estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.”
Effect of Self-esteem on Ministry
One of the most detrimental effects of low self esteem in the life of a Christian is the effect it can have on one’s willingness to serve
God. God has called each of us to ministry and has given us spiritual gifts to exercise the calling. I heard Rev. Lance Watson say in a
sermon, “To raise your self esteem in Christ discover your spiritual gift!” However, we often focus more on our perceived limitations
than on the enablement God has deposited in us through our spiritual gifts.
Moses is a prime example (read Exodus 3 & 4). When God called him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt Moses immediately
began to raise objections. He asserted that he did not have the authority, believability, or speaking skills necessary for the task. God had
to continuously assure Moses that He would be with him. Toward the end of Moses’ objections God even grew angry him (4:14).
Reluctantly Moses then told the elders that God had sent him to lead the people out of slavery, and “the people believed” (Ex. 4:31).
However, the Apostle Paul exemplifies how to maintain godly self-esteem despite perceived limitations. He had a sordid past. He was a
Pharisee who did not accept that Jesus was the Messiah and actually persecuted Christians (Acts 22:4). In fact, he wrote that he was
the chief of sinners (Tim. 1:15). He had a chronic impairment, which he called a, “thorn in his side” (2 Cor. 12:7). Also, some scholars
maintain Paul he was unattractive, being short with a humped back. Further, some theologians believe that Paul asserted his apostleship
at the beginning of most of his letters because many doubted his calling.
However, Paul knew that he was, “an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God
the Father who raised him from the dead)” (Gal. 1:1). Despite his shortcomings, he readily accepted the call and became one of the
greatest apostles to ever live. Why? Paul realized that it was in his state of being an earthen (fragile) vessel that he was the most useful
to God (2 Cor. 4:7) and that God’s strengths was made perfect in his weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
As I was preparing this lesson I heard Pastor Joel Osteen say, “We will never rise above the image that we have of ourselves. So we
should tell ourselves that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27)! He then said we should speak to ourselves words of
affirmation. I often draw on Paul’s writings when I need strength and encouragement, such as the following.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of
Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:6
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for
which Christ Jesus has also laid hold for me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but
one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are
ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:12-13
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but
not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 2 Cor. 4:8-10
Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever
is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there
is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of
these things.... fix your minds on them. Philippians 4:8
As Christians we are to serve God by serving his people. Will you put your insecurities aside and trust Him to work through you?
For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
Which God prepared beforehand
so that we would walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)
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