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There is an Answer to Low Self-Esteem

By Dr. Bruce Pringle
There is an Answer to Low Self-Esteem

A young man grew up in a farming community. His family was wealthy and he got along well with people, yet his father did not allow him to drive the tractor or to be involved in any of the important aspects of farm life. He was given the impression that he couldn't do anything right. This later caused his marriage to falter and his poor self-concept made it impossible for him to keep a job consistently. Rejection is a major cause of psychological disturbance today.

A woman I once worked with talked about her mother who was a perfectionist. She said, "My mother continually complains even now about how I look, what I wear, how I speak, how I raise my children, even after all these years." This implies that the mother was very insecure herself and, by putting unrealistic goals on her daughter and grandchildren, she was creating a low self-image in them.

During counselling, a lady related that in her early years in school she often had to do work on the chalkboard. She was shy, fearful, and insecure and so often made mistakes in her work. The teacher would embarrass and criticize this young girl, and then the child's peers would laugh with the teacher at the humiliation of the unfortunate student.

In many cases, as two of the above examples indicate, low self-image problems begin in the home. Parents give the impression that if the child does not measure up to certain expectations in achievement or behaviour then he/she is not accepted. Whether they say it or not, the message is, "You're only worthy if you measure up to this standard." Those parents who are in this category need to deal with their own fears and insecurities, guilt, feelings of failure, and perfectionism, and determine by God's help not to perpetuate these feelings by putting them onto their children. Parents, if you have done this, you need to confess it to God and to your child and say, "I'm going to leave that behind and will in love accept my child even as God the Father accepts me in Christ."

Psychologists state that there are basically three needs in every individual: (1) a need to be loved (2) a need to belong and (3) a need to contribute in society, I add a fourth, which is more important than the others (4) the need to know God in a personal way through Jesus Christ. Where love is conditional, where acceptance is dependent on one's performance, and where one's attempts at contributing to society or to the family unit are depreciated or seen as inadequate, then a low self-esteem results. God the Father's acceptance of those who put their faith in Jesus Christ is unconditional. It is based on Jesus Christ's perfect life and upon His sacrifice when He died on Calvary. Accepting Jesus into your life meets the fourth need, and often helps in the other three areas as well since life is given a new meaning and direction.

Some symptoms of a low self-esteem are:

1.Perfectionism. Compulsively needing to have everything perfect and in order.
2.Wishful comparison with others.
3.Excessive shyness or insecurity.
4.Inferiority feelings.
5.Inability to trust God.
6.Criticism of others.
7.Unresolved personal problems.

Persons with a poor self-image actually believe they have little worth. You become what you think. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." If you tell yourself, "I'm no good, nobody likes me" you will soon discover nobody does, because who enjoys being with such a negative person? This can often lead to escapism. Fantasy is a common avenue of escape from the harsh rejection of reality. The person can then live in the never-never land of imaginaton, perhaps aided by T.V. and novels. Other escape routes tried by many are drugs and alcohol, and some go the one way route of suicide!

If you have a low opinion of yourself, reconsider. You are worthwhile. God does not create junk! You were created for God's honour and glory. However, without Jesus in your life you are far from the potential of what you could be.

God says, "Those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed." (1 Samuel 2:30). God the Father will honour you if you elevate God the Son in your life. It is true, in yourself, you don't amount to much. "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells." (Romans 7:18). "The heart is deceitful above all things." (Jeremiah 17:9). "All our righteousnesses (righteous deeds) are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6). Our condition without Jesus truly is lamentable. Arrogance and pride are totally inappropriate in view of these facts, and are sins against God.

Though this is a dark picture of humanity and of each one of us, consider God's estimate of your worth in Jesus Christ and take your self-estimate from the Father Himself.

1. You were created by God. If you despise yourself you are discrediting your Creator. (Ephesians 2:10)
2. You are honoured by God. We are His own children. (1 John 3:1-2)
3. You are valued and loved by God. "While we were still sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
4. You were chosen by God. He has carefully planned for you. (Ephesians 1:4-5)
5. You have been forgiven. The Father looks at us as if we had never sinned once we personally receive Jesus Christ into our lives. He died to forgive our sins. (Romans 8)

How can we deal with a low self-esteem?

1. Begin a relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28). Jesus offers to take your load of problems, insecurities, anxieties and inferiorities.

2. Accept His forgiveness. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9). Believe this, accept it, for it means you!

3. Forgive yourself, accept yourself. By an act of the will say, "God, You forgave me and so I forgive myself also."

4. Forgive others who have hurt you, humiliated you and put you down. That parent or teacher who criticized you or embarrassed you must be forgiven otherwise you will never be able to fully accept yourself. You must free yourself of the resentment and animosity that may have gnawed at your soul for years and poisoned your interpersonal relationships. [If you have been deeply hurt through physical, emotional or sexual abuse you may need to see a Christian counsellor or pastor who understands abuse. Healing and forgiveness in these areas takes longer to accomplish. Do not give up, keep working at it!]

5. Desire to walk in the Holy Spirit. This simply means, "God, I don't want sin in my life. I want to live in Your strength and power." The Holy Spirit will enable you to do so.

6. Identify wrong thoughts, feelings and actions. Identify the negativism in your life and change your negative thinking. If you feel inferior, if you think you are of little worth, if you are fearful and insecure, you will act this out by withdrawal and even by various degrees of self-destruction. Get out of this vicious cycle of negative thinking and casting blame. Don't say, "It's my parent's fault I'm in this predicament." [See note at the end of point 4.] Set your mind on Jesus Christ. Think on positive things. Read your Bible and pray, and "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

In conclusion, I re-emphasize that feelings of inferiority and resultant insecurity come from the person's perceived inability to measure up to expectations. These expectations may be put on the individual by parents, teachers, peers, or even by himself. High expectations without the means of measuring up to them can be devastating.

God also has a set of high standards for us. Actually, His standard is nothing less than perfection, but He has provided a means of meeting the standard. He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ who is perfect. Jesus died for us, and when we accept Him we are received by God the Father as perfect and sinless as Jesus Himself.

Claim Jesus Christ's perfect salvation for yourself. And then when feelings of low self-esteem arise just say "I am loved because Jesus loves me and accepts me exactly the way I am. He loves me unconditionally in spite of knowing all about me. I will demonstrate my love for Jesus by walking in obedience to His word and in the Holy Spirit.

Published in Canada by
Western Tract Mission Inc.
401 33rd Street, West
Saskatoon, SK S7L 0V5

The Bible text in this article is from The New King James Version,
copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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