By Carol McLeod, Crosswalk.com
Self-esteem is comprised of two potentially lethal words: self and esteem. When these two words are placed innocently together with the olive branch of the hyphen between them, the battle begins in the soul of a woman. In its simplest reduction, the concept of “self-esteem” is a mere enigma to us. Yet, when it is considered in the extreme, it has the potential of blowing up the very psyche of a woman who is trying to live in Christ-like humility but doesn’t fully understand how she has been made in the image of the Creator God.
As a pastor’s wife for over forty years and someone who has mentored and ministered to women for nearly half a century, I can assure you that you are not alone in your internal conflict over the meaning of that dreaded compound word, “self-esteem”. As we tackle this sticky issue of self-esteem, one thing is vital: you need to answer this explosive question for yourself: “Who do you think you are?”
Throw away what the world may say about you, what your parents believed about you, how men have treated you, and how your friends have assessed your personal worth as a human being. Who do you think you are? If you believe that you are a woman of value, significance, and destiny, then that is how you will approach life. And you will treat others with value, importance, and worth regardless of how they have treated you.
Conversely, if you believe that you are a loser and that God forgot you when it came to talents, looks, and intelligence, then you will respond as a defeated human being. You will allow others to take advantage of you, and you will react out of emotions rather than out of purpose and destiny.
So then, in light of the facts of the importance of self-assessment, I’d love to share with you 6 ways that you can develop a Godly, appropriate self-esteem in order to live life fully yet honorably.
1. Your Identity Comes from God’s Word
First of all, as a woman of faith, you must extract your identity from the Word of God. You must agree with who God says you are! God says that you have been made in His exact image-likeness. You, my friend, have been created in the very image of God, your Creator. You are His exact representation upon planet earth today. Although I am not perfect, I have been created by the One who makes no mistakes. You were not created to be the mirror of past rejection, abysmal failures, childhood abuse or of poor choices. You were created to reflect the character and the nature of the One who made you. In God’s esteemed and perfect opinion, you are “very good.” Everything else that God created was merely good. Orchids, diamonds and pure gold were only good. Giraffes, the Redwood Forest and the islands of Hawaii were just good. But you, in God’s esteemed opinion, have been declared “very good”!
In the ancient Hebrew language, there is no word that correlates with the English word “very”. “Very” is an adverb or an intensifier; the manner in which the Hebrew language expresses the concept of “very” is simply to use the chosen adjective two times. My friend, you are not merely good but in words of the One who made you, you are “good-good”. This grammatical phrase is known as the emphatic doubling. The Hebrew phrase “good-good” could also be translated as “muchness”. Hence, you are the “muchness” of God’s wonderful creation!
2. You Are More Than the Packaging You See in the Mirror
Secondly, remind yourself daily that you are not defined by your packaging. If you insist on extracting your identity from your “packaging,” you will never unwrap the beautiful gift that you are to the world. If your mousy brown hair that is now turning gray, your too-large nose, or your extra-large shirts are setting your internal value, you will always be held back by inconsequential living. Your genetic features—whether gorgeous, mediocre, or forgettable by human standards—are only your outer covering. They are not the essence of who you are and should never be given the defining voice in your life. The powerful truth is this: You will never know yourself until you know yourself in God. You will never stand amazed at all of the gorgeous facets and intricate details that are uniquely yours until you stand amazed at your Creator and all that He is!
3. Refuse to Compare Your Life with Someone Else’s
The third manner in which a woman is able to develop a Godly self-esteem is to adamantly refuse to compare herself with others. When I compare myself with other women, it is a decision of sure and certain defeat. If I look at another woman and find myself lacking in terms of achievements, personal disciplines, or income, I will experience disappointment and perhaps even disgust with my life and the woman that I am. There are other times in life when I play the comparison game and I realize that I am a notch or two above another woman in terms of the behavior of my children, my healthy marriage or the home in which I live. When I realize that my life is somehow better or fuller than another woman’s life, I might be tempted to gloat or to splash in human pride. Comparison is a 4-letter word and I must resolve that this lethal word will never become part of my emotional foundation.
4. The Enemy Is Always Crouching at the Door, but God Is Greater
Fourthly, if you desire to develop a healthy and Godly self-image, you must remind yourself daily that there is indeed an enemy and that he doesn’t want you to like yourself or to agree with God’s opinion of who you are. The enemy of your soul, Satan, is privy to the power that you will access when you to tap into the richness of who you were created to be. He endeavors to distract you with distorted thinking, a misguided mind-set, and an illegitimate self-image. Knowing that you have been appointed to bring the light of Christ to the earth, his goal is to keep the world in darkness. Satan tries to abort your identity by convincing you that you are not enough and that you will never be enough—and absolutely nothing could be further from God’s eternal and exciting truth! You are who God says you are!
5. Be Grateful for the Life You Have
The fifth manner in which you will establish a stable view of self is to choose to be assertively grateful for your life. Every day you must make a list of the things for which you are thankful so that your heart and your mind focus on the blessings of your life and not upon the disappointments. There is no more powerful choice that a woman can make on a daily basis than to just choose to live with a heart of unmatched gratitude. When you wake up in the morning, your first thought should be, “Thank You, Father, that I get to live another day for You!” And, as you lay your head upon the pillow at night, you should fall asleep with this prayer on your lips, “Thank You, Lord, that You were with me today.” Gratitude will enable you to fall in love with the life that you have been given.
6. Think Less of Yourself and More of Others
And finally, if you want to embrace a God-honoring self-esteem, you will stop thinking about yourself and begin to think about others. You must become less aware of “you” and more aware of “them”. You must make it your goal to smile at others, to serve others and to encourage others. I dare you to refuse to whine and complain one more day of your life but to determine that you will be a giver – a generous and liberal giver! There is a world in pain who is desperate to be touched by the wonder that you are.
When you live in the vibrant awareness of who God is and of who He has created you to be it is then, my friend, that you will be the reflection of His love, His power and His kindness. He has created you to be significant, indeed!
Carol McLeod is a best-selling author and popular speaker at women’s conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Her latest book, Significant, helps women discover God’s unique purpose, passion, and plan for their life. Carol also writes a weekly blog, “Joy For the Journey,” that has been named in the Top 50 Faith Blogs for Women. Carol also writes a weekly column for “Ministry Today.”
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/ThitareeSarmkasat