According to Dictionary.reference, self-worth is,
The sense of one’s own value or worth as a person.
In other words, the sum of your overall beliefs about yourself which may include beliefs about your appearance (Ex: am I handsome or not?), your possessions (Ex: how much money I have), your behaviors (Ex: do I do good?), your relationships (Ex: how many friends I have or how many people I’ve dated in the past), and your experiences (Ex: what someone did to you in the past).
How does this definition contrast with scripture?
Biblically, we know that our self-worth is rooted in Christ, you can’t increase or decrease your value by changing your appearance, increasing your possessions, being a better person, or getting more people to like you.
This may boost your overall belief about your self-worth but it doesn’t change your actual self-worth which is based on Christ.
So what happens when you start to drift away from the central theme that our self-worth is rooted in Christ?
Its pretty simple really, you slowly give your power away by chasing after all of the wrong things which ultimately end up hurting you more anyway.
Here are some ways that we give our power away.
1. Placing a higher value on what people think about you over what God thinks about you.
Take a moment and really think about what your doing when you place people’s opinions about you higher than God’s opinion of you?
You are creating a dependent relationship where your beliefs about your worth and your power is dependent on what someone thinks of you.
Why is this bad?
People are imperfect, subjective, and their opinions can change over time. I’ve had people in my life who I thought loved me and ended up leaving me without even saying goodbye, I’ve been backstabbed by friends, and I’ve been hurt by people in the Church. In retrospect, it sounds relatively simple to say, “Well, just because someone’s opinion changes about me doesn’t mean I will take it personally or change how I view myself.”
Yet, that’s exactly what we do. It’s in our nature to value relationships which ultimately leads us to valuing what people think about us.
However, its important to keep separate and realize that while its important to value people’s opinions, wisdom, and beliefs about us, it will never change how God sees us and our actual value which is rooted in Christ.
2. Giving up and thinking (___________) is impossible.
Whatever you decide to insert into the blank above, whether thats a trial, health issue, financial burden, etc, the moment you give up and lose hope is the moment that you give your power away. Matthew 19:26 says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Impossible exists only in our minds and if we let it get to us it will take away the faith needed for God to make the impossible…possible.
3. Never accepting yourself.
All of us have experienced and bear the conditional scars of love from people in our life who hurt us. Its only natural for us to formulate our self-worth based on the things that happened in our past and the important people in our lives who hurt us.
But if you continue to believe the lies that your hurtful experiences may have caused you to believe, you will never fully accept yourself.
You will essentially rob yourself of a life filled with joy and beauty that God wants you to experience.
So what can you do to build self-esteem God’s way?
1. Show a Christ-like compassion toward yourself.
According to a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, people who showed more compassion toward themselves showed a significant improvement in their psychological health. Improvements in psychological health refers to increases in happiness, optimism, curiosity, exploration, extroversion, and conscientiousness. Furthermore, people who demonstrated more self-compassion towards themselves were found to be more successful in reaching their goals.
So what does a Christ-like compassion towards yourself look like?
To me, its being kind when you fail, make a mistake, or experience pain. Its understanding that everyone falls short of God’s glory but by His grace, we are saved. Its realizing that you are a human being, not a human doing. God loves you for who you are, not what you do. It means accepting all of you, the good and the bad, the things you love and the things you hate, and appreciating all of it because you were made in Christ’s image.
2. Change your inner belief about how you view your life.
A study done by Barbara Frederickson, a researcher at the University of Michigan, looked to see if people who thought more positively made any difference. Three groups were divided up based on the short film clips they were shown which either elicited positive, negative, or neutral emotions and thoughts.
The participants were then asked to think of a situation which might stimulate similar feelings and thoughts and to write down, “What you would do in that situation?”
The results, people who were shown more negative based clips wrote down fewer possibilities than the people who were shown more positive based clips. What this means is that how you view your life can actually limit or expand the possibilities you see in a situation.
How does this relate to the Christian life?
There are countless scriptures that tell us to continue to praise God in the storm, to have faith during tough times, to fix our thoughts on God’s glory. Why?
Because your inner belief vastly changes how you deal with everything that happens in your life. If you constantly think that your the victim and nothing ever good comes your way. If you constantly look for all of the negative things in your life or believe that you are undeserving of things such as love, than you will continue to limit yourself and rob you of the joyful life that God intends for you.
3. Be grateful for all of God’s blessings, savior the small things, and value experiences over possessions.
Having a grateful heart has a profound effect on improving how you think and feel about yourself. If you want a more in-depth look at the benefits, check out this article.
A study published in Psychological Science found a few things. One, the wealthier you are, the harder it is to savior and enjoy the small things in life. Two, when people do savior the small things in life they have higher reported measures on happiness. Perhaps this study explains why God talked about how difficult it is for the wealthy to inherit the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24).
Finally, think about all of the “things” you’ve accumulated over the years? Some you bought because you really needed them, some you thought you needed them, and a large majority were just stuff you wanted. There is nothing inherently wrong with this but scripture reminds us that we shouldn’t store up possessions here on earth but instead, store up possessions in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
The relevance of this is that a lot of us spend far too much of our time and resources trying to accumulate more and more possessions for the temporary feeling we get from buying things. A study done by San Francisco State University found that our experiences make us happier, not our possessions.
The time you spend with your friends and family, the precious memories where God used you to speak to a person who needed to hear the exact words you said, and the moments we spend with God. These experiences will always be far more valuable than the greatest possessions in the world.
Do you struggle with self-esteem? If so, what do you find most challenging about it?