Self-esteem is defined as “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.” The difficulty with self-esteem is who or what deems you worthy? If we try something with great confidence but “fail” in the eyes of our family, boss, or self, we begin to judge ourselves to only be good or bad. Today, I’m good because I nailed the pitch. Today, I am bad because I lost the account. Self-esteem also becomes tricky because, with some groups of people, you may be a success, and, with other groups of people, not so much–they dismiss you. What group do you listen to?
With self-esteem, self-importance, self anything, you place yourself center stage and await the applause, the silence, or worse–the rotten tomatoes and boos.
In this desperate pursuit to feel confident and win favor, we have become a society with dangerous coping strategies. We are taught and teach our children strategies that “puff ourselves up”, compare ourselves to others, and put down those we feel are competing against us. The harsh reality of that last sentence is sobering. At times, it’s evident, and other times, the coping strategy is subtle or encouraged in a positive way.
If you look on the book shelf, you will find several books on Narcissism. We typically use that term to define an extremely self-absorbed person who can’t seem to look outside himself to understand the needs of others. It’s all about them. What is so interesting is that the very movement of self-esteem in our home and schools that we thought was such a powerful tool to increase success and self-worth in our children has caused poor coping strategies that have led to narcissistic tendencies. These tendencies have been rooted in bullying, excessive gossip, prejudices, depression, and negative self-worth. I’m never good enough. Dr. Kristin Neff has studied this trend.
After a personal battle of the mind with negative thoughts, I wondered if anyone else in the world was struggling, too. In my research, I stumbled across Dr. Neff and a few other women who had similar concerns with self-worth. What I found to be comforting and a paradigm shift is the term self-compassion.
Through Dr. Neff’s research, she discovered three core components to self-compassion.
- Relating to yourself kindly regardless of flaws and failures. Speak kindly to yourself.
- Common humanity. How am I the same as those around me and in my world? We are ALL imperfect.
- Mindfulness. Be okay with suffering and struggle, acknowledge it, and speak kind to yourself.
When we feel threatened we release cortisol and adrenaline. God gave us this so we can protect ourselves in a threatening situation. We will either fight or flee. When we constantly feel threatened by low self-worth, we are not only the attacker but also the attacked. Years of this will cause significant mental health concerns and poor health.
Imagine your child in a dilemma of failure or struggle. They come to you for help. Do you say to them, “What a loser! You should have known better! You’ll never amount to anything!” However, we often make these comments to ourselves after an epic fail, or we may blame others (putting someone else down). God not only gave us cortisol and adrenaline, but He also gave us oxytocin and opiates. These are released in us when we are approached with warmth, gentle touch, and soft vocalizations. What calms the crying baby? Remember wrapping your baby up in a warm blanket, kissing her face, and rocking her to sleep with a lullaby? Perhaps, more recently, it’s the calmness you feel when a loved one, or a spouse takes your hand and speaks gentle words to you.
“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14
The misnomer about negative self-talk is that it produces motivation. Maybe in the short-run you’ll pick yourself up and try harder, but when you spend years with this pattern, you begin to add the events up and become hopeless. The opposite is true. When you connect with God and His love for you and have self-compassion, you will be more motivated toward creativity and change. You will also create space for mercy and kindness towards others who are not very nice to you.
Therapist have found two extremes. Clients may struggle with a low self-worth, or, in some cases, feelings of guilt, because they are experiencing thoughts of superiority.
The center-stage self needs to take her final bow and exit stage left, please.
Once you exit, imagine yourself not as others define you, or how you’ve defined yourself based on how you think others define you. It’s you, your God-given soul, and the woman or man God is growing in you from glory-to-glory, or piece by piece. You could be in the midst of a mountain top experience, or in the valley of the shadow of death–your Shepherd is right there. My goodness, maybe you are in the mundane of the day-to-day. Live right there, in that moment, forget self, and cling to God.
Reflect on a time that God has given you immense opportunity to bask in creativity or love. These times are like the moments you lose track of time and all you experience is the moment. We have these incredible moments during a creative activity, yoga, rock climbing, intimacy, prayer, worship, etc.
We are purposeful and mindful.
I recently created a video which brought home the “how”. The video was a reflection of events that brought great focus on love, peace, connection, and purpose but also the known backdrop of our reality–the situations each of us were dealing with as humans–“we are all imperfect”.
God gives us a symphony in life. His masterful hand is creating, fine-tuning, and providing a cacophonous symphony of promise and redemption.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
If you take the time to watch my video, please listen to the song–the words reflect my purposeful intentions. Our family is imperfectly living together. We are just like you in that our life is filled with ups and downs, blessings, stress, habits, struggles, and disappointments. My favorite is my husband humorously waving the peace sign during a dinner date, in which, we were both struggling in a decision from God to make life-changes. The struggle; the symphony. Peace. I am worthy. You are worthy. Live NOW.
Natalie Grant, “Symphonies” Album is Be One