The Cure for Low Self-Esteem

The Cure For Self-Esteem

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Mable walked into the woods one day, doused herself with gasoline, and set herself on fire. The newspapers said she suffered from low self-esteem. They were wrong. Mable was preoccupied with herself. She could not stop thinking about herself, her problems, those who mocked her, put her down, alienated her, and a myriad of other everyday disappointments from family and friends. Her thoughts would not release her from a self-centered preoccupation that led her into the woods, the only path she knew that would break the stronghold of soul noise consuming her.

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End of the Road

Mable had an extremely high view of herself, an ideal of what she wished to be. In her twisted and tormented mind, she could not become that person. Rather than resting in the Imago Dei (image of God), she wanted acceptance, respect, and love from the culture (Genesis 1:27). Regrettably, Mable did not know God; the only person she could compare herself to was the ideal defined by her culture, leaving her with no escape from a miserable life. She could not rise to cultural expectations, and all their mocking and alienation did not help. Mable accepted her fate and destroyed the person she despised.

Mable’s story is true. I knew her. I liked her because she was like me: quiet, reserved, and not part of the popular set. Though she was different from those who were outgoing, she was also the same. She is a snapshot of everyone. Since the fall of Adam, self-consumption has been a dominant aspect of our thought lives. Individualism, over-evaluation, and self-preoccupation are the Adamic trifecta that send the mind to dark places. When thinking about ourselves, personal loyalty is natural and expected, though there is an incredible downside.

Sin is always crouching at the door of our hearts, ready to push us further than we want to go. Mable’s admiration for herself had no holy parameters, so sin took her further than she intended to go and required more than she wanted to pay. She did not know any other way out of her mind (Philippians 2:3-4; John 14:6). The end of the road for the person drowning with accelerated self-thoughts is suicide. How could it be otherwise? The more she reflected on herself, the more dissatisfied she became with what she saw. Her hopelessness grew with each despairing look, and finally, the only solution was to remove the problem. She set herself on fire.

From Adam, We Came

To esteem yourself outside the parameters of the Imago Dei is to have an elevated view of yourself the way the culture does. Words like respect, admiration, value, and appreciation fit within the domain of these esteemers. Of course, if our estimation of ourselves cannot rise to that lofty place, then the esteemer will always wrestle with self-condemning strongholds. The biblical appeal is to assume your value from an Imago Dei presupposition, which changes our thoughts directionally. There is no need to spend our days thinking about ourselves if we’re resting and secure in the reality that God created us in His image. Our view of ourselves does not need realignment.

Every Christian knows and rests in their worth in God, so to spend time focusing on themselves is redundant, inward, and misguided. If you are a believer who struggles with worth, the answer is not thinking more about yourself but thinking more about Christ in you and the Father who created you in His image (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:14). We will never find hope in ourselves. If Adam had thought more about God than himself, he would not attempted to elevate himself into an ideological space that could never satisfy, as he soon learned. Satan was so determined to turn Adam into himself by suggesting that God was a liar—there is a better world than what God offered, a sales pitch that deceived Mable, too.

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You can read the entire sordid story of how Adam went from God-centered to self-centered in Genesis 3:6-12. Adam exchanged the truth of God for a lie and began to worship himself more than his Creator (Romans 1:25). Once he made his first move away from God, Adam had to double down by insulating himself with fig leaves. One wrong decision leads to another. Adam was feeling the effects of his movements, and rather than running back to God, he covered his shame while running from the Garden, lying about what was going on and throwing Eve under the bus. Adamic people caught in the trap of esteeming themselves more than God wrestle with these characteristics.

  • They will struggle with shame.
  • They will struggle with fear.
  • They will not find rest in the truths of the Imago Dei.
  • They will not want God poking around their lives.
  • They will practice deceit to hide the truth about themselves.
  • They will blame their problems on others.

Self-Esteem’s Cure

The culture will tell a person like Mable they need to esteem themselves more. The problem with turning yourself onto yourself to think better about yourself has never been the answer. Self-centeredness binds the soul until the weight of our thoughts buries us in a hole of hopelessness. The cure for self-esteem is to think of ourselves less while considering God and others more. If we continue to give our minds to thoughts about ourselves, we will end up like Adam with complicated views and distorted relationships. The message of the gospel is always counter to man’s wisdom.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:25).

What looks like wisdom and strength from the culture’s perspective is not, and what seems like foolishness and weakness of God is not. Adam should have let go of what was best for him, according to Satan, and grabbed hold of what was best from God. Jesus said we could sum up all the Old Testament’s 600 (plus) laws in four words—love God, love others. It’s the best advice we’ll ever receive if we want to be whole (Matthew 22:36-40). The fullest and happiest people you’ll ever meet are those who find no greater joy than to give their lives to others. The most miserable and angry people you’ll ever meet cannot stop thinking about themselves as they work to fill the insatiable hole in their souls.

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding (2 Corinthians 10:12).

Mable had an ideal of herself that she esteemed more than anything else. That version was a vision of what she wanted to be. Mable loved that ideal person as she compared it to who she was. She always came up short, as defined and determined by the culture’s view of wholeness. According to Paul, Mable was without understanding. According to the culture, she had low self-esteem. In the end, Mable hated the person she was; she loved her ideological view of herself. Her esteem of herself was on steroids, which could only end with self-destruction.

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Call to Action

Suicide was a last-ditch effort to end the misery and find restorative hope through those drastic means. She was hopelessly stuck on herself. It sounds harsh, but not nearly as harsh as the path she chose. Wholeness comes through Christ alone (Colossians 1:28). God makes us complete, the first step that releases us from self-preoccupation and self-consumption. Complete people pursue God and others more than themselves. Loving God and others will not deplete anyone. It will fill us with more of God’s character and attributes, releasing us for more of His empowering favor (James 4:6).

  1. What is the subtle and entrapping lie of high self-esteem?
  2. Satan did not tell Adam or Mable that if they tried to become like a god, it would not end well for them (Proverbs 14:12). Have you listened to those lies? If so, perhaps sharing with a friend what the pathway is like when we walk away from God.
  3. Have you been shaped to think poorly of yourself? How have familial or cultural perspectives, words, and actions shaped you adversely?
  4. Why is the path to freedom a steady stream of thinking less about yourself and more about God and others? Will you share how the two great commandments release you from self-consumption with a friend?

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