Self-esteem (or as some call it, self-worth) is the thoughts and feelings one has toward self. Inflated self-esteem (thinking and feeling too highly of self) can be harmful in that it can produce arrogance that repels others, a narcissistic attitude that harms more than helps.
A deflated self-esteem (thinking and feeling too low of self) can also be detrimental to one’s life, career, relationships, and emotional and mental health. It can be accompanied by self-harm, suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, personality disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. Low self-esteem translates as insecurity in relationships and the workplace.
The goal is to have a healthy sense of self, or a healthy level of self-esteem, so that one can reach their goals, have thriving relationships, do well in their education or profession, and simply love themselves well.
Christians can struggle with this concept because they are taught not to think more highly of themselves than they ought (Philippians 2:1-5). Indeed, an inflated sense of self is not what God wants for his people. He wants humility, and he does not commend selfish behavior.
There is much biblical truth that points to emptying self, considering others, loving others, and sacrificing at times. However, he also wants people to love God and love others as they love themselves (Matthew 22: 37-40). He never intended for selfless actions to turn to self-hatred or self-loathing.
He wants his people to love as he loves, and to think low of oneself is not what loving self looks like. One of the enemy’s biggest methods of attack is the lie. He is a master manipulator and liar, and he tells people everyday things about themselves that are unkind and untrue, to pull their self-esteem down to almost nothing, producing emotional pain.
8 Ways to Build Self-Esteem
To view oneself as God does, to love oneself as He does (which was always his intention), people need to learn how to build their self-esteem in a healthy way. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it is a start.
1. Replace lies with truth
When people struggle with self-esteem, they often believe lies and unkind statements about themselves. These statements or lies could be:
- I am fat.
- I am ugly.
- I am dumb.
- No one wants to be my friend.
- No one cares about me.
- I’m better off dead.
- I am nothing.
- I am worthless.
- I am a failure.
These statements are damaging and can become like poison in one’s heart if not replaced with truth. A simple way to do this exercise is to write as many negative beliefs as possible about oneself that come to mind on the left side of a piece of paper. On the right side, find a counter statement that is true and kind. Some of those statements could look like:
- I am not in shape right now, but I am not fat. I can choose to exercise and eat clean to get in shape.
- There is no such thing as ugly. God made me, and that makes me beautiful and lovely.
- Just because I cannot figure this out does not mean I am dumb.
- This person did reach out to me the other day to ask how I am doing. It seems like she wants to be my friend.
- Here are the people that DO care about me: ______, ________, ________
- I have a purpose in this life.
- I matter because God made me in His image.
2. Do a survey
Ask your close friends and family to describe you in three words or tell you what your strengths are and write them down. This can be an enlightening and surprising exercise because often people do not see the good in themselves as others do. It gives you a chance to hear someone else affirm you. Though self-esteem should not solely come from the opinions of others, this can be a helpful experience.
3. Practice positive affirmations
This is similar to replacing lies with truth, except you think or say affirming statements about yourself daily. It helps to write them down where you can see them regularly.
These statements could be something like:
- I am brave.
- I can do hard things with the strength Jesus gives me.
- I am beautiful.
- I am doing a good job.
- I am not a failure.
- I am enough.
- I am loved.
- I am wanted.
- I am doing what I am made to do.
4. Keep an affirmation box
If you look back, you will probably be able to think of kind things that others have said to you. They may have sent an encouraging text message or card in the mail or email. They might have sent you a message through social media.
Those messages are not publicly seen most of the time, but they can be uplifting when one feels their self-esteem disintegrating. It is a good practice to keep all of those notes somewhere so that they are easy to find to go back to when feeling discouraged or when being hard on oneself. This could be a box, a drawer, or a file. Just keep them and read them.
5. Do a strengths inventory
Another helpful practice is to write down the strengths and weaknesses of your personality. When writing weaknesses, simply notice them without judgment and commit to growth in each area. Healthy self-esteem requires knowledge of strengths and weaknesses. Then in the same practice, write down as many personality strengths as you can think of that you possess.
6. Accept compliments
A sure sign of insecurity is when a person does not accept a compliment well. When someone says to you, “I like your hair today,” and you say, “Oh, I haven’t washed it in a week.” They may say, “You sang that song so well, and you say, “I messed up in a few parts.”
Accepting a compliment is simply looking at someone and saying thank you. This simple practice helps a person feel comfortable hearing good things about themself, and accepting a compliment is a statement of agreement. It shows another (and self) that that statement is true.
7. Take care of your health
Many times, a person struggles with negative thoughts toward their appearance or body. This is one of the most common manifestations of low esteem. Men and women alike dislike their bodies or how they look. One simple way to overcome this is to take care of one’s health in a balanced way.
Make time for exercise, because it not only increases body-positivity, but it also releases the “happy hormones” that can help you feel better when down. Drink the water you need every day. Choose to eat in a healthy way. Take your vitamins and prioritize your physical health.
8. Remember who you are
This goes much deeper than exercise and eating healthy. This is a conscious decision to understand the false beliefs you’ve held about yourself and choose to remember what is true. This is digging into scripture to find out who God says you are. Some scriptures to meditate on and memorize are:
For it was you who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, And I know this very well. – Psalm 139:13-14
I have loved you with an everlasting love. – Jeremiah 31:2
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2: 9-10
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10
Now this is what the Lord says – The One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel – ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.’ – Isaiah 43:1
“Love Who You Are”, Courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Truth”, Courtesy of Markus Winkler, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “You are loved”, Courtesy of Tyler Nix, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Workout”, Courtesy of Jonathan Borba, Unsplash.com, CC0 License