Self Esteem is a tricky thing. It says I appreciate me. I’m good at things, I have merit. I place value on myself. Self Esteem is HARD.
I am someone who has never had a good amount of self-esteem. You could look at my childhood and school years (and the fact that I STILL don’t look like a supermodel….) and see reasons for this, I suppose. I have listened to many, many people who told me I had problems with self-esteem, and gradually accepted that this was simply who I am. I am insecure, I run myself down. I undervalue any contribution to the world, and question everyone who is foolish enough to see anything good in me. I never saw anything wrong with this approach. After all, arrogance is worse, right?
Now, the lack of a supermodel face perhaps made me develop my sense of humor a little faster than others. I learned to laugh at myself and to make others laugh around me. I used it to camouflage the insecurity inside, and to make sure that no one could make fun of me if I got there first. It didn’t stop the pain and it didn’t stop me from questioning why people even liked me.
The funny thing about all of this is that there was a way out. There was a way to see myself in a better light.
First aid training in Australia has always made me chuckle – a lot of time is spent teaching you what to do if, say, a large branch becomes lodged in your leg. (You know, in amongst the snake and spider bites and learning CPR. While it is certainly good to know how to deal with the branch, I don’t know that it is as common as the lessons would seem to indicate.)
Now imagine my self-esteem problem was like that branch stuck in my leg. I know it is there (because it hurts) others know it is there because they can SEE it, and can see that it is affecting me, and then imagine I say: “Oh, that’s just me. I have a branch-stuck-in-leg problem. Would I like help with that? No, it’s just me- I’m just like that.”
Sadly, it’s not too far from the truth.
The biggest problem in repairing our self-esteem (and indeed, accepting our own worth) is how hard we fight to remain like that. Our culture (as well as having issues with large branches) fights self-esteem viciously. Tall poppy syndrome is ground into us from young – we are taught to pull down those who raise their heads up, we mock anyone who dreams bigger for themselves. We hate arrogance, and think it our duty to cut everyone down to size.
So, we grow up not wanting to lift our head up, not wanting to stand out. It’s a life of not flourishing, of not growing into our full potential. Of knocking ourselves to make sure others don’t- of speaking words that cut us down. And no matter what others may say to me, my voice is the most ruthless when it comes down to destroying me.
Now we could certainly just live with this branch. Many do.
But if I want to see myself as Jesus sees me, if I want to stretch myself and do something bigger, I can’t do it with the negative opinion of myself that I have: the branch hurts me and stops me from moving- and it’s time for me to deal with it properly.
I remember a discussion I once had with my parents about how I saw myself. I was upset about my deficiencies, upset that everyone else was more beautiful, more talented. I was shocked to see the hurt on their faces. And then at the way they told me how they saw me. They saw me as their beautiful girl, as someone they adored – and they were so sad that I couldn’t comprehend it.
I think we hurt the Father’s heart even more with our self-hatred. I am made the way He saw me – my refusal to accept the Potter’s design hurts the Father, and hurts myself. The world may be okay to keep us with low self-esteem, but God wants better for His children. We have value; we have purpose in this world – no matter what flaws we see in ourselves.
When we read John chapter one, the author makes this amazing statement about Jesus – that “through (Jesus) all things were made.” Through the Word of God, we were made. The one who gave His life for us was the same one who made us – He knows our true worth to Him, He gave His life because we were worth it to Him!
So we can’t listen to the Tall-Poppy brigade: they are no measure of our worth. We can’t even listen to our own opinion since it is Jesus who tells us what we are worth. So the dilemma with the branch – it’s time for it to stop hurting us. It’s time for us to hear the words Jesus speaks –
You are all these and more.