Developing and Maintaining Healthy Self-Esteem

By: Pine Rest Staff

Spirituality often becomes more important to us in times of tragedy, loss, suffering and illness because it connects us to both our higher power and those around us, helps us to find meaning and purpose, and brings us hope and healing. Sometimes, these very same conditions can make us question ourselves, our spirituality and all we know. In our Spirituality and Emotional Health blog series, our clinicians and chaplains explore what it means to be spiritual beings, how it affects our interactions with the world and how we sometimes struggle with and question our own spirituality.

I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, creative enough, strong enough, motivated enough, compassionate enough…

The list of ways we fall short of being who we believe we “ought to be” is often infinitely long and grows even longer as we peruse our friend’s Facebook pages, watch television, and hear about all the wonderful things others within our church accomplish. Many of us are plagued by the belief we are not good enough and no matter how many wonderful things we do, it is never enough for us to feel good about ourselves.

Our beliefs about our personal worth and abilities create our self-esteem. Individuals with healthy self-esteem appreciate their worth and take pride in their abilities. Without healthy self-esteem, we feel worthless and lack confidence. Individuals with poor self-esteem have consistent negative self-talk about who they are and the things they do. While everyone can experience fluctuations in their self-esteem, it is important have an overall healthy self-esteem.

Scripture clearly states we were created in the image of God

Each one of us was uniquely knit together in our mother’s womb much like a painter creates a masterpiece.  We are each a one-of-a-kind, priceless work of art. However, we were also born needing someone to tell us who we are and what is true of us. Babies have no sense of who they are separate from their mother for the first few months of life.

We were designed to get our sense of worth from our Heavenly Father who created us, loves us, and is constantly with us. Unfortunately, instead of anchoring our identity in Him, we often anchor it into what others think of us, our performance, or how we believe we compare to others.  Because we are uniquely created in the image of God, comparing ourselves to others it is like comparing the Sistine Chapel to the Mona Lisa…both are priceless works of art but they are so different it is impossible to say one is better or worse than the other. They are different and yet both have incredible worth and value. The same is true of us.

Look Up, Not Across

What God thinks of you is most important. Find verses in Scripture which remind you of what God says is true of you and remind yourself of them frequently throughout your day. You don’t have to be liked or approved of by others. You don’t have to keep everyone around you happy or outperform your peers to be valuable. When you find yourself basing your value on these things, it is important to move your gaze from people and performance to what God says.

Take Care of Yourself

“Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others,” (Phil. 2:3-4) is often interpreted in ways that leave people feeling guilty for setting boundaries and engaging in self-care. However, the verse states “look NOT ONLY.” So, the verse assumes you ARE looking to your own interests and need to balance this with also looking to what others need.

Taking care of yourself requires physically, emotionally, and spiritually attending to what you need and to what allows you to continue growing and developing. This means setting limits and saying “no” to things—even good things—at times.

Watch Your Self-Talk

We all have an internal dialog telling us what is true about ourselves, what we do, others, and what they do. When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself or comparing yourself to others—STOP! Remind yourself of the truths about God’s love for you (and for others) and work to replace this negative dialog with His truths. As hard as this can be, it is essential to developing healthy self-esteem.

Suspend Judgment

Judgments are evaluations we make about whether something is good or bad; right or wrong. When we engage in judging, we often take our opinions and turn them into facts. Instead of it being our opinion that we aren’t pretty, we make it a fact and then assume others believe this as well.

In the end, only God’s opinion matters. This means we can stop worrying about what other’s (including ourselves) think and allow God to have the job of judging. Suspending judgment frees us to do the best we can, accept God’s forgiveness and forgive ourselves when we fall short, learn from our mistakes, and continue growing and becoming the individuals we were created to be.

Nothing can change our value to God. We have done nothing to earn His love, and we can do nothing to lose it. Anchoring our identity in this fact is the basis of healthy self-esteem.

Jean Holthaus, LISWJean Holthaus, LMSW, LISW has been providing outpatient therapy services since 1995 when she earned her Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Iowa. She has worked for Pine Rest since 1997. She currently serves as manager of the Telehealth Clinic and the Hastings Clinic and is also a Pine Rest Outpatient Regional Director.








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