Do you feel like you lack self-confidence or judge yourself very harshly? As the old saying goes, 'You are your own worst critic'. Many do, and many often feel struggle with this from time to time. How would you rate your self-esteem?
Today, I want to discuss ways we can assess and improve our self-image, with the Word as our ultimate guide, to stave off negative thoughts that greatly affect our self-esteem.
Avoid thinking that performance means everything
Many people think and live like this and don't realize it. If life was an equation, it would be something like this:
MY PERFORMANCE + THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS = MY SELF WORTH.
Now, this doesn't mean stop trying to perform and doing your absolute best at whatever you do. That shouldn't never stop.
Colossians 3:23 (NIV): Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
But, think about this aspect of judging ourselves. We judge ourselves on performances in many areas of life.
When we do well, we naturally feel really good.
But when we fail at something or make mistakes, we don’t feel good about ourselves. This is where we often think others are "watching me fail".
Does this sound familiar so far?
We place a ton of value on how we believe other people perceive us. These things often control how we view ourselves and have a huge impact on how we live our lives. As long as we live this way, our self-image will always be defective. We'll never be good enough for ourselves.
Considering this, let's take a look in the Word again. The Apostle Paul wrote about this concerning our attempts to be righteous before God:
Philippians 3:1-9 (ESV): Righteousness Through Faith in Christ - Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh - though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith -
The message is simple. We should have all the self praise and gratuitous feelings we need through Jesus alone - everything else is just gravy on our lives. Certainly, we all have personal goals and success we want to achieve, and that's OK! But the motivation should not come from just how we feel others perceive us, for our Lord and Savior already loves us and thinks we are amazing. That is enough. Truly grasping this concept is
Stop constantly seeking the approval of others
This one goes hand in hand with my first point. If you have a constant or semi-constant need of approval from others, that is a huge problem. Why? Because you may never gain the approval of others, or gain the approval from others to the level you expect in your mind.
Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek approval through good work, say, at your job or something similar. This isn’t about a free pass to just not care about doing good work or having a high level of performance and integrity at things in life.
But, getting back on topic, consider this - even if you do “get this approval”, you will always have someone else you are seeking the same or similar approval from, and the cycle just continues when you think like this all the time.
This aspect can affect other parts of your life as well, such as jobs and relationships. If your co-workers or significant others “peep out” that you constantly need approval to feel good about yourself, then they can use that to their advantage to control you.
Take heed, my friend, the ONLY person you need approval from is God. And guess what? He approved of you when you were created and born. It’s your choices through His permissible free will in this world that can make a difference in your life. Remember - God is your Judge, and no one else.
Ask yourself - am I constantly trying to gain approval from people, or am I living a life trying to gain approval from God? I’d rather be a slave to Christ any day than someone trying to be a people pleaser - because at the end of the day, these people go home and live their own lives and don’t think about you at their core. But guess what? God does:
Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV): for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Stop Assuming you Already know what People think about you
One of the absolute worst things you can do is assume you already know what people think about you, without even actually knowing. Often, this is just your self-opinion taking from in reality in your mind about how you think people perceive you, but you often couldn’t be further from the truth.
Now, if you are a shady person and do a ton of bad things and constantly “play games” in life, and you are completely aware of it yourself, then others more than likely see that plain as day, too, and you would be correct to assume it.
However, back on topic, sometimes because of how we see ourselves we can assume that other people see us the same way, and we often talk ourselves out of certain opportunities because we already believe we know what other people think about us or what they will say and do. We find ourselves afraid to ask for things because we assume the other person doesn’t want to give it to us or do that thing for us.
Honestly, when you don’t ask or try diligently with a great effort and high integrity at something, you’re already accepting “NO!” as the answer!
Are you starting to see how this type of thinking can prevent you from experiencing all that God has for you in this life?
Stop thinking you Need to be Perfect
I’m sure we all struggle with this, myself included, but what helps me is getting to a point in my mind where I give myself permission to not be perfect. Trust me, it is difficult. I harp on myself a lot, especially when I mess up on things at home or work. This doesn’t mean I have lowered my standard of performance - it more so means I realized that I am not Superman.
A recent “car repair” attempt of mine comes to mind. I did a particular repair on my old 2008 Ford, and attempted the same repair on my wife’s 2015 Nissan, and long story short, I ended up having to tow it to a repair shop in town and pay $2000 to fix everything after I originally only spent $250 on parts to try and do it myself in our garage.
Talk about feeling worthless in front of your wife and kids as a man and husband who is supposed to always “figure it out” and be Superman. Now, I had to call our insurance company and then get into our savings account to pay a bill and be without a vehicle for a week while waiting on the repairs to be completed. The icing on the cake was when the repair shop called me and wondered how the damage I did under the hood was even possible without purposely trying to do it! Talk about feeling like the size of an ant and worthless.
This event was recent, but reminded me of a lesson I learned before. I gave up trying to be perfect and realized that I was so hard on myself that it was destroying my own self-image.
That car situation, that day working on it and getting more and more frustrated and energy deprived, leading into the evening of getting the car towed to a shop on a Sunday - it ruined my day, it ruined my week, it hurt my finances and savings - it sucked totally and completely! But I learned something - do your best to set high standards of excellence, and know your realistic limits, while at the same time giving yourself the permission to be less than perfect. In this case, I am NEVER getting under the hood of a car again! I may do small and simple repairs and oil changes, where I have clear instructions and procedures, but I will never go in blind on a car repair that I assume is the same on a 2015 model car as a 2008 model!
Stop talking negatively about yourself
How you view yourself does affect your overall outlook on yourself and life.
Look at Proverbs 4:23 (ESV): Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
If I could record how you talk about yourself in your own head, would you even want to hear me play it back for your?
When you degrade yourself, it hinders you from believing in what God created you to be and knows that you can accomplish. Study the Word of God and truly understand it and apply it to your life.
If you could record both verbal and mental conversations you have with yourself on a daily basis, how much of it would be negative? When you consistently degrade yourself, it hinders you from believing in who God created you to be and what you can do if God moves in and through you. Study God’s word and replace those negative thoughts about yourself with thoughts of truth, and you will truly see a difference. This was one of the biggest and best changes I made in my own life - reading the ENTIRE Word of God, understanding it, and applying it to my life, not just the cherry picked parts that I liked.
Stop Focusing on your Failures
Failure is a part of life - accept it, learn from it, and MOVE ON. You are not worse than someone else because of your failures or lack of accomplishments.
You more than likely feel this way is because you don’t know the failures of others. You see the smile on their face, their fancy car, and their beautiful family, the riches, the aura, the “all that good stuff that I want”, and assume your failures are worse than theirs and that’s why you don’t have those things.
Well guess what? When you focus on your failures you will start to believe that you don’t deserve to receive anything good in life. You’ll start to think that you don’t deserve God’s blessings. You’ll see every negative thing that happens to you as a punishment for your mistakes. You may even think it is God Himself punishing you instead of accepting God’s forgiveness and grace through your trial and error. Don’t focus on your failures. Instead, redirect that energy to thank God for His grace and mercy, because as you look around your life, there is always something that could be worse!
Stop allowing what Happened to you in the Past to Define you
Unfortunately many people have been victims of abuse, infidelity, adultery, theft, or other painful experiences. Sometimes, we even get into a place of thinking we deserve these things!
Instead of seeking to be free from them, we start to accept them as a part of who we are. And this leads to shame. And shame leads to a defective self-image.
Consider this: No child asks to be abused. No person deserves to be cheated on. No one deserves to have their hard earned money or belongings stolen in the night. Do not believe the lies the enemy will try to plant in your mind to keep you feeling like a victim instead of a victor! You never know how close you are to your big victory, if only you would trust in God’s plan that you have prayed for!
Philippians 3:13 (NIV): Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
I hope that by reading this article you will be able to attain a better self-image and understand that it starts with reading the Word of God and truly understanding His commands in it. It is God’s will that we see ourselves in the same awesome way that He does every day. Stop thinking you aren’t worth it, because He already created you to be awesome no matter what your stature in life is!