Self-esteem is how we see ourselves – our thoughts, our perceptions and attitude towards our self. In other words, it is the confidence we place on our own worth or abilities. It is the judgment (emotional evaluation) of oneself that also bears on the attitude towards self. This also has a great deal to do with our wellness.
According to Eric Erickson, (1993, 1994) self-esteem begins to develop between the ages of 18 months to 3 years and continues to develop between 6 to 12 years. Any developmental issue in these stages will have an impact on self-esteem and continue to impact the later years. Teenage and young adulthood is a critical period to develop good self-esteem, though you can also do it at a later stage but it will require more effort.
Self-esteem has a lot to do with our own identity – who we think we are. If there is a crisis of identity then we have a crisis of self-esteem – a poor self-image leads to low self-esteem and in turn a low level of wellness. It can lead people to become depressed, unable to reach their potential, or to even tolerate abusive situations and relationships. On the other hand, too much of it can also result in a sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures, what is required is a balanced view.
For a Christian believer, the foremost identity comes from one’s relationship with God. The person is a child of God. In other words, you have indispensable resources by being connected in this relationship. When we fail to understand this, we try to fill the void, inadequacies, etc with materialistic things like – cars, bikes, homes, lands, gadgets and sometimes with addictions to drugs, alcohol, TV or even food. It is time to understand where our identity comes from or in essence who we are – sons/daughters of God.
Secondly, the problem with self-esteem starts when we change focus, start looking at our peers and compare ourselves. We start looking and comparing at what we don’t have in contrast to the resources at our disposal. The story of King David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18 & 20; 2 Samuel 1) is a classic example to overcome this. Jonathan was the king’s son and heir. He was the next in line for the throne. David was the youngest in his family and a shepherd. However, they were the thickest of friends. The Bible never records that David asked his father for a chariot with horses or servants or guards to accompany him just because Jonathan had all these. Remember, David was anointed king at a young age by Samuel; however, David did not have a problem with his self-esteem as he had a great relationship with God and knew his identity very well. The many psalms he wrote corroborates this.
Youngsters who struggle with low self-esteem, often argue and demand from their parents expensive clothing, bikes, cars, big pocket money, etc. just because their friends have them. We should change our focus and start looking at God. Each one of us is unique and God has a great blueprint for each one of us, so don’t compare.
Another way to develop your self-esteem is to pay attention to what you listen and what you say. Negativity can take a toll on anyone. If you read or listen to negativity only, then eventually you will also start dwelling on it and soon speak the same. Start looking at the positive side of things. In spite of all the difficulties, there are always positives attached to it. It can challenge you and motivate you to achieve your potential best. Everyone who has accomplished something in life is someone who has had to overcome odds to reach their pinnacle of success. You can do this by surrounding yourself with godly friends and family members who speak the same language – of love, joy and peace. For the kingdom of God is… righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17. No wonder Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Sometimes low self-esteem could be due to undue parental controlling, abusive teacher or anyone else whom you have come in contact with. This can also be connected to some bad experiences in the past. If you have such thoughts or hurts from the past, find a good Christian counselor who can help you process them and help you overcome the trauma, so you can live a liberated life. Sometimes the devil can also add to the negativity by speaking doubts and evil. One needs to discern the source of such thoughts whether it is from the Lord or the evil one. One way to do this is by reading your Bible and praying every day. Sometimes, it will be your voice that is hurt and needing some healing. God’s word will become the balm of Gilead and heal you from within.
Therefore, recognizing your needs and meeting them appropriately will help you develop your self-esteem. God is always available and more than willing to help you, He promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5); I am with you always, to the end of the age (Mathew 28:20). Also find a good and godly mentor who can encourage and motivate you as you build your life and also invest in some great friends who can grow with you, helping each other along the journey. Life is adventurous… only when you live it… GO! LIVE IT!
Pr. Vinod Victor