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Dealing With The Problem of a Low Self-Esteem

12 Mar

Don’t Give the Children’s Bread to Dogs:  The Gospels of Matthew and Mark (Matt. 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30) tell about a woman who came to Jesus seeking help for her afflicted daughter. On the surface it sounds similar to many other Gospel stories, for most of them record the pleas of people who were hurting-the sick, the blind, and the crippled. But there is something especially poignant about this story. You see, this woman was a Syrophoenician She was not born to the chosen people. This is the first recorded instance of a foreigner coming to Jesus for help.

 The Key to Self- Esteem

This story is a miniature of the whole gospel. It offers the only real remedy for low self-esteem. The first step in achieving a sense of self-esteem is to recognize, as this woman did, that we are unworthy. We become somebody precisely at the point where we recognize that God makes us somebody.

God does not love us because we are valuable; we are valuable because God loves us. We are valuable because he created us in his own image. We are valuable because he died for us. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

self-esteemThere is no “in” group arid “out” group. He sees past our misspent years and our failures. He sees us for what we were meant to be. We are valuable to him.

Near the beginning of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he makes this powerful and encouraging observation: “Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (I Cor. 1:26). .

Paul was a good example of this. He was burdened with his past as a persecutor of Christians and he had a debilitating health problem. Tradition tells us his physical appearance was unimpressive. It’s interesting that when God wanted his work done, he did not choose a great Athenian orator or athlete. He chose one who had reason to feel inferior. But God could use Paul’s weakness to his glory. So Paul wrote, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . for when I am weak, then 1 am strong” (II Cor. 12:9-10)..

Psychologists tell us unfulfilled desires for self-esteem lead to bitterness and frustration. Imagine the problems which are created in the child who constantly sits in front of a television set, absorbing the medium’s standards for being somebody. To the girl it means beauty; to the boy it means being athletically gifted. Accepting these standards leads to frustration, because most people are rather ordinary.

Definitions and Key Thoughts

Self-esteem refers to an inner sense of worthiness that gives a person resilience and resistance to discouragement or criticism. Generally speaking, each person has a concept about his self-worth (which may or may not be accurate), and self-esteem is how he feels about (or evaluates) that concept.

Having good self-esteem does not mean being proud or having an over-blown view of our own importance. Paul encourages us to “think soberly” when it comes to evaluating ourselves (Romans 12:3). This means to assess ourselves with honesty and fairness.

Low self-esteem can manifest itself in many ways:

  • feelings of self-hate, believing that we are unworthy or incompetent
  • refusal to get close to people, believing we don’t deserve strong or supportive relationships
  • refusal to trust others
  • inability to accept ourselves as special and unique
  • rejection of what God intended the person to be in Him
  • depression
  • a need for large amounts of attention
  • a competitive or argumentative spirit
  • poor decisions made that are based on fears and not reality

An individual’s self-esteem is in trouble when he allows others to determine his value or significance instead of the One who created him. Poor self-esteem is often the result of prolonged periods of negative feedback in a person’s life, resulting in deep wounds and pain. As a counselor, you need to apply active listening skills in order to determine how far back the negative influence has gone.

Society is constantly assessing our value. At work, we have performance evaluations, we are graded in schools, and we are evaluated for loans. Assessment of our value begins early in life and continues even after we die.

Often, another person’s value judgment of us is a means to an end. An example of this is the young lady who finds herself in the back seat of a car with a boy who says, in effect, “If you want me to value you, you will have sex with me.”

God has determined our value based on His love and purpose for creating us in the first place and on the price He has paid to redeem us for all eternity.

Most who struggle with low self-esteem believe lies about their significance to God. The goals of interacting should be to:

  • Correct false or erroneous beliefs about the individual’s worth and significance
  • Make an accurate, genuine assessment of that person’s strengths, gifts, significance, and potential
  • Bring a healing from deep relationship wounds
  • Help the person get over the distortions and be able to honestly admit his strengths as well as his weaknesses
  • Help the person on the journey to adopt God’s perspective of his worth.

WISE COUNSEL

Helping a person with low self-esteem does not mean telling him untruths. Instead, help the person develop a realistic assessment of his unique set of skills, abilities, and character traits. And, help this individual develop a strong sense of God’s love and forgiveness. Give the person hope. Encourage him to see that he is on a journey. Encourage patience and prayer along the way.

Remind the person of the story in John chapter 5 where Jesus healed the crippled man who had lived for 38 years with brokenness and pain. Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed. Why would Jesus ask? It seems that a person can live for so long with brokenness that he may not want to do the work that it takes to receive healing. Is the person willing to do the work to receive healing?

1. Recognize Your Value

There is a difference between having an inflated ego and simply understanding your significance based on your God-given gifts and value to Him. Make a list of talents, character traits, physical traits, abilities, accomplishments, etc., that set you apart.

2. Stop Harmful Thought Patterns

Consider some of the thought patterns and other factors that are leading you to believe lies about your worth. Think back on things you’ve done-taught a Sunday school class, helped with Boy Scouts, gave a perfect gift to a relative, taught a child to shoot a basketball, took a bag of groceries to a food pantry, invited a new coworker to lunch. List all of those big and little things done for others. Then consider the impact they had on those people.

3. Begin New Thought Patterns

Each negative thought can be countered with God’s assessment of your value. For example: If you feel your self-worth fizzle when a coworker with less experience is promoted over you, stop the negative thoughts before they take hold of you. Ask yourself if there might be any good reason this person received the promotion over you. If not, remind yourself that life isn’t always fair.

4. Be Patient

It has taken years of bad habits to get to shape your self-esteem. Healing will not happen overnight and will require replacing the bad habits with good ones. It may take awhile until your reflex action is quick to respond in a proactive way to negative thinking.

5. Read God’s Word

Study what the Bible says about your worth to God. Explore what God says about His love for you and His purpose for your life. (Give him the verses from Biblical Insights.) Keep a journal to record significant breakthroughs.

But Moses said to God, “Who am 1 that 1 should go to Pharaoh, and that 1 should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” -Exodus 3:11 Moses was certain God was making a mistake by choosing him to lead the Israelites. His five excuses indicated a lack of confidence in his ability to get the job done. He had a crisis of identity (“who am” 3:11), a crisis of authority (“what is His name?” 3:13), a crisis of faith (“they will not believe me;’ 4:1), a crisis of ability (“I am not eloquent;’ 4:10), and a crisis of obedience (“send. . .whomever else;’ 4:13). But God was with him, and Moses led the nation to freedom. With God’s help and guidance, great things are possible.

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. -Matthew 10:29-30

Jesus described God’s loving concern for every person, explaining that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered:’ God cares even for small birds- “not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” -so imagine how much more He cares for His people. What a boost of encouragement! We are important to God-created in His image and loved. He loves us so much, in fact, that He “gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! -1 John 3:1

A healthy self-image is seeing yourself as God sees you—no more and no less. — Josh McDowell

He who is able to love himself is able to love others also; he who has learned to overcome self-contempt has overcome his contempt for others. — Paul Johannes Oskar Tillich (1886–1965)

I am as my Creator made me, and since he is satisfied, so am I. — Minnie Smith

Self-acceptance is basically a spiritual issue. What it boils down to is this: are we able to thank the Creator for the way he made us? If not, we are casting doubt on his wisdom. If we can thank him, we display our belief that he knows what is best for us. And that will help us accept ourselves—limitations, failures, and all. — Erwin W. Lutzer (1941– )

A person with good self-esteem has a sense of self-worth, yet recognizes his/her limitations. Such a person is not conceited but rather is glad to be himself. They accept themselves and others but are desirous of correcting their own shortcomings.

They are problem-centered, not self-centered: they appreciate the simple things of life, are ethical, able to discriminate between means and ends; they get along in their culture yet resist enculturation and have a genuine desire to help the human race.

Healthy self-esteem in MEN is thought to be derived to some extent from vocations, intelligence, wealth, achievements, education, positions of power, and competition.  FEMALE self-esteem results more from the achievement of goals, self and body image, education, money, everyday concerns, and family relationships. Both sexes are usually affected by their view of how they are evaluated by significant others in their lives.

 

 Adult self-esteem

1. Accept personal responsibility for your own low self-esteem.

Galatians 6:5: “…for each one should carry his own load.” Our past and the present influence you, but you are a creative factor in the formation of your own thoughts, actions, and feelings. If you do not take such responsibility, you will never change. You can choose to perceive the past differently!

2. Restructure your thinking.

Philippians 4:8-9: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. {9} Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

People who are down on themselves tend to make many thinking mistakes:

  1. They overgeneralize. From one mistake, they conclude that they can’t      do anything right.
  2. They eternalize. From one failure, they conclude that they will      never do anything right.
  3. They personalize. They are too absorbed with themselves. They      inappropriately apply comments and criticism from others to themselves:      “They are all talking about me.” They blame themselves too much:      “Others had nothing to do with it, circumstances had nothing to do      with it, I caused it all. I am completely to blame.”
  4. They catastrophize. What they do is the worst thing that has ever      been done: Íf you only knew what I did, you would not want me in your      church or to be your friend.”
  5. They filter. Many positive things may have happened to them, yet they do not      see them. They filter them out. Their whole world is thus negative.
  6. They neutralize. If they see positive things in their lives, they      negate them: “He doesn’t really like me. He just needed a date.”      “My husband doesn’t really like me, he just wants a woman. Any woman.”      We can make anyone look bad by filtering out his/her good points or by      concentrating on his/her bad points.
  7. They absolutize. Everything becomes a must. “People must like      me, life must be easy, and I must be competent. If not, I am      worthless and life is not worth living.” We must make a distinction      between desire and demand: It would be nice if everyone liked me,      but it is not necessary. Persons with low self-esteem often jump to      conclusions without adequate evidence.
  8. They dictomize. Everything is either black or white: there is no gray. Such      persons are often very perfectionistic. Their way is always the right      way about everything. Their opinions are always the truth.
  9. They self destruct. They set up negative self-fulfilling prophecies:      “No one likes me.” So when a person does like them, they are      suspicious and uncomfortable, which causes them to send out negative signals,      which causes the other person to “back off.” When they back off,      the person says to himself or herself: “I was right. No one likes      me.” It seems impossible for a person with low self-esteem to feel      loved.

Check Your Self-Esteem: Barksdale Self-Esteem Evaluation No. 69

This Self-Esteem Evaluation measures your current level of self-esteem, your Self-Esteem Index (SEI), and serves as a gauge of your progress in achieving sound self-esteem. It is important to clearly understand all statements and be completely honest in your scoring if you are to obtain a valid SEI. It is essential that you answer these statements according to how you actually feel or behave, instead of how you think you “should” feel or behave.

Score as follows (each score shows how true or the amount of time you believe that statement is true for you):

0 = not at all true for me
1 = somewhat true or true only part of the time
2 = fairly true or true about half the time
3 = mainly true or true most of the time
4 = true all the time

Score = 0 1 2 3 4
Not True …… True

Self-Esteem   Statements

0   1 2 3 4

1. I don’t feel anyone else is better than I am.

0   1 2 3 4

2. I am free of shame, blame, and guilt.

0   1 2 3 4

3. I am a happy, carefree person.

0   1 2 3 4

4. I have no need to prove I am as good as or better than others.

0   1 2 3 4

5. I do not have a strong need for people to pay attention to me or   like what I do.

0   1 2 3 4

6. Losing does not upset me or make me feel “less than”   others.

0   1 2 3 4

7. I feel warm and loving toward myself.

0   1 2 3 4

8. I do not feel others are better than I am because they can do things   better, have more money, or are more popular.

0   1 2 3 4

9. I am at ease with strangers and make friends easily.

0   1 2 3 4

10. I speak up for my own ideas, likes, and dislikes.

0   1 2 3 4

11. I am not hurt by others’ opinions or attitudes.

0   1 2 3 4

12. I do not need praise to feel good about myself.

0   1 2 3 4

13. I feel good about others’ good luck and winning.

0   1 2 3 4

14. I do not find fault with my family, friends, or others.

0   1 2 3 4

15. I do not feel I must always please others.

0   1 2 3 4

16. I am open and honest, and not afraid of letting people see my real   self.

0   1 2 3 4

17. I am friendly, thoughtful, and generous toward others.

0   1 2 3 4

18. I do not blame others for my problems and mistakes.

0   1 2 3 4

19. I enjoy being alone with myself.

0   1 2 3 4

20. I accept compliments and gifts without feeling uncomfortable or   needing to give something in return.

0   1 2 3 4

21. I admit my mistakes and defeats without feeling ashamed or   “less than.”

0   1 2 3 4

22. I feel no need to defend what I think, say, or do.

0   1 2 3 4

23. I do not need others to agree with me or tell me I’m right.

0   1 2 3 4

24. I do not brag about myself, what I have done, or what my family has   or does.

0   1 2 3 4

25. I do not feel “put down” when criticized by my friends or   others.

The possible range of your Self-Esteem Index is from 0 to 100. Sound self-esteem is indicated by an SEI of 95 or more. Good self-esteem is indicated by a score of 90 to 94. Experience shows that any score under 90 is a disadvantage, a score of 75 or less is a serious handicap, and an SEI of 50 or less indicates crippling lack of self-esteem.

Charlie Brown, of “Peanuts” comic strip fame, is known as the classic loser. He pitches for the baseball team that never wins. When he represents his school in the spelling competition everyone knows how it will turn out, because Charlie Brown is a loser. It is no better socially. Charlie Brown keeps trying to earn the admiration and respect of others, but every attempt to be an achiever ends in disaster.

Yet we like Charlie Brown. I suspect his popularity comes from the fact that we see a bit of ourselves in this perennial loser. From our earliest days we are conditioned to believe the only way to be happy is to excel.

Recognition is reserved for the achievers. So, like Charlie Brown, we fantasize about rising to the top. But most of us remain in the category labeled “average.” What happens to all the Charlie Browns who face defeat after defeat? They grow up suffering with feelings of inferiority and insignificance. What they feel about themselves is largely determined by what others feel about them. If others consider them losers they grow up believing they are worthless.

Psychologists tell us one of our deepest needs is the need for self-esteem. How do we gain self-esteem?

It Hurts to Be a “Nobody”

Children can be incredibly cruel to each other. Do you remember the playground days when we chose sides to play ball? There were always some children who were chosen first. They were winners. Having them on the team gave a decided edge. And there were others who were always chosen last. They weren’t wanted. They were a liability.

The same thing happened in the classroom. Some were winners; others were losers. And it continues all through life. There is the housewife who spends her days tending to important family needs and perhaps fantasizing about the glamorous roles of others. Ask her who she is, and she will likely tell you she is “just” a housewife. A society of distorted values has led her to believe she is “nobody.” There is the man who reaches middle age locked into a job that is going nowhere. To be “somebody” is to be climbing. But he stopped climbing long ago.

We measure people by their physical attractiveness, their athletic skills, their productivity, or their intelligence. Those who do not measure up are left to a life of frustration.

Guilt can also saddle us with feelings of inferiority. Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities has a character named Sydney Carton, whose life had been misspent. He’d had opportunities for achievement, but never had the self-discipline to do anything about them. He spent his life in London taverns, returning home each day in a drunken stupor.

The one thing which made Sydney Carton a man of destiny was his amazing resemblance to the hero of the story, Charles Damay. At the climax of the book Charles Damay was in prison in Paris awaiting execution. Sydney Carton arranged to visit Charles Damay-and took his place in the prison cell. Carton, realizing his life had been wasted, seized this opportunity to make his life count for something. On the way to execution he said, “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.” In his final act he wanted to make his wasted life useful.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2020 in Encouragement

 

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