The Overflow

living in the overflow of God's goodness through every season

Why Self-Esteem Self-Destructs

FaithCassidy Shooltz2 Comments
Photo Credit: Karen Whisler

Photo Credit: Karen Whisler

It was a dark, Michigan week-day evening. I was attending a little Bible study group. As I looked around our circle, I thought about the impact that the leader of the group had on these ten high school girls sitting around me. They all looked up to her and wanted to hear her thoughts on this discussion.

“Girls, do you know what self-esteem is?” the leader asked.

I wasn’t sure where she was going with this comment, so I kept my mouth closed. And everyone else was quiet. After an awkwardly quiet moment, one of the girls broke the silence:

“Self-esteem is like what you think of yourself, and how much you value who you are, right?” Carrie asked.

The leader seemed excited that someone knew where she was heading with this point. “Yes! Self-esteem is basically what you tell yourself when you look in the mirror. And you girls should be telling yourselves that you are a rare and beautiful treasure; your worth is above that of rubies.”

I asked myself a question in that moment. What do I tell myself when I look in the mirror? Did I give myself a “worth speech” or was I able to rest securely in who Jesus is? What gives me purpose?

Photo Credit: Karen Whisler

Photo Credit: Karen Whisler

I took these questions home with me as I thought through the evening. All those girls now believed that the answer to all their insecurity was simply to stop and say, “I’m amazing! I have so much natural inner beauty and that is worth so much," “There’s no one in the world like me, and I’m in a class of my own," or “I am a strong woman, and I forgive myself for having a hard day!”

To my sisters in Jesus, do you think this is how Jesus wants us to be viewing ourselves? Do you think it is honoring to Him when we are lifting our own names up and exalting ourselves? Something about this cultural-norm does not sit well with me at all.

According to Wikipedia, there are 126 words in the English language with the prefix self-. So if you’re having an issue with insecurity, then the world will give you a solution for that: self-worth. Don’t think you deserve anything? Then you better start developing that self-respect, and stat! Oh, and make sure you have a good, positive vibe to your self-talk. Ah, yes, and you need a good dose of of self-flattery; we’ve got to keep those compliments flying in our general direction!

All that added together equals… A totally fulfilled, deeply-purposeful life. Right? Your existence must have improved since you are now addressing yourself correctly….

Well… Somehow, despite all the “Be Nice” conversations, and self-positivity, most Christian girls are still deeply insecure or have become excessively prideful.

Photo Credit: Karen Whisler

Photo Credit: Karen Whisler

Is this what Jesus looked like?

Do we find him constantly nursing his wounds and giving Himself “worth-talks?" Let’s see…. Jesus was tested in the wilderness, and He said: “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him” (Matthew 4:10-11, NIV). He didn’t even flinch! And Jesus could have said “now look here, I’m the Warrior of all time, and I am the most worthy Person of all.” And it would be completely true! Jesus has so much He could boast about (and He truly is the only One who can honestly boast; we don’t have anything to our accounts!), and yet He points to His Father! Jesus doesn’t give ground to the Enemy’s request for Him to bow down, and neither should we!

There it is girls! Our example. We were made to make Him known, and the life that is fully given up to Jesus Christ no longer has anything to boast about, except for Jesus Himself! That means that our lives are now brought under His Lordship, and our minds are traded in for HIS life! Woah, y’all. Now our focus is taken completely off of ourselves and placed onto Christ. And this is the secret to destroying insecurity, hammering out doubt, crucifying pride, and ending a sense of purposelessness.

So when we are faced with difficulty, we remember, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14, NIV); when we receive put-downs, we look to Him, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus; Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8, NIV); when we’re bored, lonely, or hurting, we turn to His truth, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, ESV).

Photo Credit: Karen Whisler

Photo Credit: Karen Whisler

I love the way the song “The Cause of Christ” by Kari Jobe puts it:

The only thing I want in life, is to be known for loving Christ,
to build His church to love His bride and make His name known far and wide
He is all my soul will prize, regardless of the joy or trial
When agonizing questions rise,
In Jesus all my hope abides
It is not fame that I desire, nor stature in my brothers eye..
I pray it's said about my life,
that I live more to build Your name than mine..
For this cause I live for this cause I'd die
I surrender all for the Cause of Christ
All I once held dear I will leave behind
For my joy is this, oh the Cause of Christ

Our lives, as Jesus-following women, should be radically abandoned to Him! We need to rest our minds on who HE is; no matter what you’re lacking in your character, He is able to come and demolish the ugly, and build His beauty into your life. You just need to give it over to Him and be totally willing to let Him do whatever He sees fit. As Ian Thomas has said, “The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you- your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything- then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it.”

Practically this looks like:

  • Looking to Jesus and asking for His help when we are hurting
  • Keeping His Word as our authority, even when our emotions dictate differently
  • Pointing to Jesus when someone compliments us (Ex. “Wow, you played the piano so well!” “Thank you, it’s only because of how faithful Jesus has been to provide the lessons I’m taking”)
  • Instead of venting about our lives, we are seeking to bring all eyes upon Jesus in the conversations we have each day.
Photo Credit: Karen Whisler

Photo Credit: Karen Whisler

May each of our lives be marked not by self-esteem that never satisfies, but instead the perfect, radiance that is seen in the face of the woman who is constantly gazing at her perfect Savior.

In the morning when I rise, just give me Jesus!