Do You Have Low Self Esteem?
Self esteem is your own view of yourself, your capabilities, and your attributes. Low self esteem can be devastating to an individual’s personal, work, and scholastic life. The constant feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness can undermine attempts to succeed at even the smallest things. It is impossible to succeed in life if you are constantly second guessing and berating yourself over the tiniest detail. Many individuals suffer from low self esteem, so you are certainly not alone. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if your self esteem is at a healthy level or not.
How Do You Feel About Yourself?
Are you nervous or awkward around other individuals? These people can be coworkers, friends, family members, or even strangers on the street. Do you ever look at anyone and think you are not on the same “level” as they are physically, mentally, or athletically? Do you see yourself as the least important member of your family, group of friends, or office? These persistent feelings can erode your self esteem.
I speak from personal experience. As I was growing up, I was frequently called names such as “stupid” or “loser” (along with other names that were even less complimentary.) In fact, I was a bookworm and a solid student. But because of the verbal onslaught, I always thought that maybe I was missing something important that everyone else knew. When you are labeled often enough, you begin to believe the labels. This deeply affected my self esteem and robbed me of confidence, making me a passive, fearful person who avoided change and new experiences. It took a long time and a lot of inner work to see that I was believing lies (the enemy’s favorite tactic, as the “accuser of the brethren”). Some Christians think we shouldn’t focus on ourselves, but sometimes that’s just what is needed to discover root causes so they can be torn down and replaced with God’s truth. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Personal Appearance and Self Esteem
Another area where low self esteem reveals itself is your perception of your physical appearance. Do you worry or obsess about your physical appearance? Are you constantly trying to change your appearance for what you think is the better? These feelings of inadequacy are quite common, especially among children and women (though men can also experience this). Often, individuals notice certain qualities about themselves as children due to comments by a friend, family member, or school mate. These feelings harbor themselves inside, becoming stronger and deeper-rooted. Some individuals obsess about their weight, height, statue, bone structure, facial features, hair, muscles, and any thing else under the sun. These issues can become the root of serious problems, including body dysmorphia, self-harming or cutting, and eating disorders.
Most of my life I’ve had a weight problem. For example, in fourth grade I was selected to play the part of Santa in our school Christmas program. It wasn’t because of my dramatic talent, but because I was the fattest kid in the school. A few months before the event, some girls from the junior high home economics class came and took our measurements. They were going to sew costumes for the show. When it came time for the dress rehearsal, they brought our costumes in. The two girls who had worked on the Santa costume had planned to make it larger so they could stuff a pillow in the front. But when I tried the costume on, they started laughing because I had gained weight and they couldn’t fit the pillow in! I think I must have turned as red as the costume as I tried not to cry from the humiliation. This incident and others convinced me that my appearance made me unacceptable to others. I felt– and therefore believed– that I was ugly.
Incidentally, when I hit puberty I had a rapid growth spurt and dropped the weight for a time, becoming tall and lanky. But I still felt ugly (and the onslaught of acne didn’t help). And sadly, the bullying continued, with the slur “fatso” being replaced by crueler and more emotionally damaging taunts. My appearance changed, but my circumstances and self esteem didn’t, and I would be captive to the lies for many more years.
It may be hard to believe, but the reality is even the most beautiful people in the world have some feelings of inadequacy about their outward appearance. The people society deems beautiful or perfect have secret issues about their own appearance or body (heard any horror stories about plastic surgery lately?), so you are definitely not alone. Instead of constantly worrying about those aspects you deem as negative, focus on the positive. If you find yourself slipping into a dangerous or deadly habit, seek professional help as soon as possible. The world has learned to live with you, now you must make the decision to live with yourself. Once you are comfortable in your own skin, your self esteem will begin to improve.
Negative Self Talk
A third indication that you have low self esteem is the way you speak about yourself. Do you sometimes call yourself the same nasty names that others do? Do you publicly berate yourself for fun? Is your idea of a good conversation tearing yourself down at the expense of others? Would you rather talk about your failures and weaknesses than your successes and strengths? This is often the case with individuals with low self esteem. Instead of accentuating the positive, they verbalize that constantly criticizing voice they hear in their own heads. It is important to be aware of that inner conversation called self talk. What are you telling yourself about yourself? If your self talk is negative, that’s a habit that needs to be broken. Change your negative self talk to positive with affirmations from God’s Word. Begin telling yourself the truth of what God says about you, and tear down the lies you’ve been believing.
A main factor in low self esteem is negativity. Negative thoughts can pervade your confidence and crumble your self esteem. Fortunately, much has been discovered in recent years about the neuroplasticity of the brain. Scientists now know that neural pathways are not permanent, and new neural pathways can be formed. This means that a negative mental pattern can be altered. Once more science proves the reliability of the Word of God, which tells us to renew our minds!
You may need to make some practical changes in your environment for starters. If you find yourself surrounded by negative people or in a negative situation, try to remedy the problem. Often, individuals in a abusive relationship have their self esteem shattered when a supposed loved one constantly berates them and questions their worth. Similarly, a negative workplace environment can lower your self esteem with colleagues or bosses finding fault with your work. Maybe you have a friend who is consistently negative with everyone surrounding him or her. Whatever the source, distancing yourself from the negativity will help.
How To Transform Your Self Esteem
As you can see, people have low esteem for a variety of reasons. Some individuals suffer from poor body image and focus on all the negative traits of their physical appearance. Others have emotional issues that have caused their self esteem to drop or feel themselves unworthy of any praise. For whatever reasons your self esteem may falter, the key to building it up again is to find the root of the problem. Think of self esteem like a house. If you build a stunning house on a poor foundation, the entire structure will crumble. However, if you take steps to ensure the foundation is strong and capable of holding anything, the process may be slow, but your self esteem will be built soundly. (You may be reminded of a certain parable Jesus told about two builders.)
Many individuals look for help for their low self esteem in books or seminars. The number of available options on the market is phenomenal, and it may help you to realize that others feel as you do and that you certainly aren’t alone in this struggle. The self help industry has exploded in recent years. Self help titles have tripled in the last decade, and it is now a $10.5 billion dollar industry!
However, self help will only get you so far. You may find some helpful tips and tactics, but it’s going to take more than head knowledge to solve the problem. What you really need is the renewal of your mind, which comes from a growing personal relationship with Jesus and a sincere study of the scriptures. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Your self esteem will change when you discover what God has to say about you. It’s critically important that you understand your true value and your identity in Christ.
It is not easy to change your self perception. Often there are spiritual roots dating back to early childhood that must be dealt with. You may not even be aware of all the causal factors. I sought help from pastors and psychological counselors who helped walk me through the process of inner rebuilding. I believe that God worked through them to bring about much healing. You might consider seeking professional help in your journey as well.
It is also important to surround yourself with positive people. If you are going through a rough time in your personal life, you may wish to join a support group. These groups will allow you to meet other individuals like yourself and provide a safe for you to share your struggle. I spent time in two support groups at different times in my life, and the encouragement I found there was invaluable. Celebrate Recovery is an excellent resource for Christian struggling with all kinds of problems. See if there is a CR group meeting near you. Take advantage of the help that is available.
Change Is Possible!
Whatever the case, if you find yourself to be suffering from low self esteem, there are ways to rebuild from within. Low self esteem is a problem that should not be ignored. It won’t change by itself– but change is possible. Be consistent with the process, and be aware that it will take awhile. Don’t become impatient or despondent when the pace is slow. At times your progress will be “three steps forward, two steps back”– but the important thing is that you are making progress and God is there to help in time of need! Remember, you’re worth the work. If I can change, so can you.
You’re going to love living the transformed life!
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“Victory Over The Darkness” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/victory-over-the-darkness
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