Self-Esteem Versus God-Esteemed and a Daily Challenge

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“I just don’t feel like I matter…to anyone…” her voice trailed off. Jerrica’s eyes were red and puffy. She half-laughed, through tears, unbelievingly, “I’m out of tissues…I’ve cried so much I’ve literally used all the tissues in my house! I just stared at her, not knowing what to say.

Jerrica, a high school Senior, just found out that she got accepted into M.I.T.—the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a full four-year scholarship! She had beat a multitude of the world’s best and brightest (almost 27,000  applicants, in fact) for this slot in a highly competitive program. The total cost of this scholarship was a whopping $330,880! And she, nor her single father would have to pay one single penny! And she couldn’t stop crying, but not because she was happy.

By her own admission, she should have been happy, but she couldn’t make herself feel happy, because when Jerrica was in primary school, her mother died in a freak car accident. And since that time, she had always struggled to feel like she mattered. She struggled with both depression and anxiety related to the trauma of the loss of her mother. She also admitted that she always felt guilty for any good thing that happened to her and she struggled to find peace and joy and fulfillment in anything.

Jerrica always seemed to feel “Like I’m not just never enough, like nothing I say or do will really make a difference. Like I don’t really matter.”

This is a classic case of trauma-based shame. Guilt is the feeling that something that you did was wrong, but shame is the feeling that someone that you are the one, the part that is wrong! This is what Jerrica was feeling all the time and she couldn’t shake the feeling. Ever.

Jerrica’s best friend, Cantrell, was the total opposite. He was a high school freshman, and he was one of the most popular people in his high school. He was funny, likable, energetic, and charming. He wanted to be an influencer, and he had several popular social media channels, and was already making enough money to be able to purchase a used car and help his single mother pay bills. Interestingly enough, what drew Cantrell and Jerrica together as friends was the simple fact that they each used the other to “fill in their cracks” so to speak; Cantrell loved Jerrica’s serious and unassuming nature and Jerrica, in response, praised Cantrell’s bubbly, fun-loving outlook. The two were quite a unique pair.

“Pay Attention to Me!

“Pay attention to me!” is the refrain that I, as a father of two small children, quickly got used to hearing. I would daily come home from work and anytime I tried to do anything else other than pay attention to my kids, they would rudely slap out of my hands whatever I was trying to pay attention to. They wanted my full attention—and nothing was going to make them change their mind.

This sole focus on self is normal for young children, and, it wasn’t that long ago that, I, along with many of my friends had dreams of being ballerinas, fireman, police officers, astronauts, and the like—it seemed that our focus was on important, image-rich, positions of prestige, power. What we all wanted was to be influential!

In fact, this perspective hasn’t changed. The only thing that’s changed is the way in which people choose to make themselves known. To that end, I submit to you that social media, is all about influence. In fact, with the advent of social media, came a rather unique skill set—the “influencer.” Interestingly, in a recent survey, most young people today see social media influencing as a viable career. In fact, Branding Expert, Jennifer Liu writes that 57% of Gen Zers believe that they could make a living as an influencer. She further goes on to report that consumer trust in influencers is growing while trust in friends, family and review sites has dipped. But, what the research is sadly showing is that social media does the exact opposite to us all: it makes us sadder, more anxious, and more disconnected than ever before. So, what do we do with that drive to be influential? How can we get our “influence” fix, and is this drive necessarily negative?

Self Esteem versus God Esteem

Realistically speaking, there’s nothing wrong with having healthy self esteem. In fact, I would say that, as a counselor, it’s crucial to have a healthy sense of who you are. I believe that as human beings we’re all created with a God-given drive to be different and to make a difference; with a sense of right and wrong; and a constant seeking to know who we are, and, conversely, who God is.

The Apostle Paul realized that people don’t have to necessarily be Jesus-followers to know that there’s something more than just us.  “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (Romans 1:20, NLT).

“Live Your Truth…?”

“You just gotta live your truth, man!” I hear this refrain several times a week, from someone who’s well-meaning. The problem is that when someone shares this, it’s typically in response to some sort of pleasure-seeking behavior that isn’t too healthy. The harsh reality is that:

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NLT).

This is a definite reality that we must not ignore, when trying to figure out where we begin and where God ends. However, the danger of using our own hearts as the measure of our importance versus being focused on what God thinks of us, first and foremost, is critical to get right. The Apostle Paul, when writing to fellow believers, made this bold statement: “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide” (1 Corinthians 4: 3, 4, NLT).

The wisest person ever (1 Kings 3:12), King Solomon, made this insightful observation about the human heart and experience, when he wrote: “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT). So, the most important issue is what God thinks of us and it’s critical for each of us to understand, that, even if, like Jerrica, our God-given “awesomeness” got turned upside-down, and traded in for self-doubt, self-hatred, and shame, that He still loves us. In fact, one writer, feeling shame and doubt, reminded himself of this fact: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8, NLT).

“We’re All Just Specks of Dust!”

Jerrica, in responding to my heart-felt congratulations to her incredible feat of receiving her scholarship, shuffled her feet and through sobs, softly said, “what does it matte, I mean, we’re all just specks of dust.” I sat still and silently threw up a prayer to find just the right words.

Jerrica, like a lot of people who have over-active thinkers, was very introspective and had a tendency to deal with and constantly think about a lot of deep stuff—in fact, that’s why she loved her best friend, Cantrell’s spontaneity and creativity.

Cantrell had challenged Jerrica to begin searching wisdom literature for answers to her heart hurt; and she came across Psalm 139.
She admitted that she, a Jesus-follower, was struck with the logic and reality of the simple fact that if this particular psalm was accurate, then she was worth more—infinitely more—than a speck of dust. I challenged her to print this entire poem out and read it daily, as a positive self affirmation, to remind herself of the way God saw her!

Jerrica agreed, and a week later, she returned to my office. She admitted that first thing in the morning, she feels dread, low self esteem and shame. Then she remembers what I told her about tearing down strongholds of “stinking thinking” (see 2 Corinthians 10:4). So Jerrica prays, reads this poem, and prays again.

“It’s like my brain—just gets new programming, and anytime I start to feel yucky again–I re-read this entire poem and it works. I realize and remember that I’m not a speck of dust!”

Daily Challenge

Can you imagine what kind of a positive change would happen if you decided to do that? I want to challenge you to daily remind yourself that, regardless of what’s happening in your life today, that: God loves you, God made you, and God knows you! You are influential to God. You matter to Him!

Psalm 139 – For the choir director: A psalm of David.
O LORD, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, LORD.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
your enemies misuse your name.
21 O LORD, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for your enemies are my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life (NLT).

 

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