You’re just a mean girl.”
These were the words I heard my friend say over the phone. As a die-hard good girl, I was surprised to hear such a description of myself. But then my friend clarified her statement.
You’re a mean girl to yourself. You say things to yourself about yourself that you would never say to anyone else.”
As women, we struggle to feel good about ourselves, don’t we?
Take, for example, how we feel about our appearance. In 2014, a national online study was conducted called the TODAY/AOL Body Image Survey. Among the highlights of the study is this finding:
(This quote and other highlights of the study can be found here if you want to read more.)
Do you find this “data” to be true for you? For most women, I’m guessing we entertain plenty of negative thoughts not just about our appearance, but about every aspect of who we are.
And sadly, as Christian women, we may have an even greater struggle. We want to be pleasing to God and do what is right, and yet we are so aware of all the ways we fall short and often hate ourselves for it.
Even the term “self-esteem” seems like something we should avoid because we’ve been taught to avoid all things related to self. Is it even possible as Christian women to feel okay about wanting a healthy self-esteem?
One of the greatest truths I’ve latched onto for my life is that it really is okay to feel good about yourself and accept who you are. I hope I can persuade you that your desire to feel okay about yourself is valid and part of being human.
Also, please don’t worry that wanting a healthy self-esteem will be displeasing to God. On the contrary, having a healthy self-esteem can actually free you from much anxiety and despair to be and do what you long for.
Let’s look at this together.
GOD GIVES US WORTH AS HUMAN BEINGS
In the very first chapter of the Bible, we’re told that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit were having a conversation about creation. They said something really amazing:
“Let’s make man to resemble us, in our likeness.” (Gen. 1)
Have you ever pondered on this idea of being made to resemble God? They weren’t talking about our physical appearance, like when we talk about a son resembling His father.
We were made to look like God in the very essence of who we are. His heart was for us to be like Him. This gives us so much possibility, so much potential!
The Psalmist says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, our physical bodies are incredible and intricately fashioned, and scientists keep learning new things all the time about how our bodies work.
But I think we are also fearfully and wonderfully made in personality and giftings and everything that makes us who we are.
Who you really are deep inside was designed by God in such a beautiful way!
This design of being made in Their image gives you dignity and worth and value.
Paul says in Ephesians 2 that you are His “workmanship” . “Poiema” is the Greek word. It refers to the work of God as Creator, designer, artist.
You are His artwork, uniquely designed as a work of beauty because the artist who made you is a Master Artist.
GOD GIVES US WORTH AS HIS CHILDREN
We often define the worth of something as the price people are willing to pay for it. Their estimation of value helps determine the worth of the object.
This is why the Gospel is good news! God so wanted to have a relationship with you, so valued you being part of His family, that He paid the ultimate price of having His Son die on the cross for you.
Our son, Caleb, passed away in 2010. I felt like my heart was ripped out of my body, and a huge gorilla filled its place, camping its heaviness on my chest. In the days that followed Caleb’s death, I thought a lot about God giving up His Son.
I can’t even begin to imagine asking my son to willingly die for someone else in their place. There is no one that would even come close to giving me reason to do so.
Yet God asked His Son.
Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. I believe that joy came from knowing He was making a way for us to be with Him in Heaven.
Oh, how much He values you! The price paid for you gives you great worth!
Because of the cross, we can see ourselves as His children. He chose to adopt us into His family, and now we belong. It has nothing to do with our performance or our ability to have it all together.
We are His because Jesus paid that price.
We did nothing to earn that grace. His grace is really not dependent on us at all. He loves us because we are His.
The price He paid for us to have worth reveals the value He places on us.
SELF-ESTEEM AND HUMILITY CAN EXIST TOGETHER
I don’t know about you, but for most of my Christian life, I equated humility with self-degradation. To be humble meant I needed to be harsh on myself.
If someone praised me, I needed to point out all my flaws. If I started to feel good about something I had done, I made myself start thinking about all the terrible things I had done that outweighed the good.
To be humble meant I needed to keep myself in line, saying degrading and derogatory things to myself that I would never say to anyone else.
I even felt like I was more spiritual if I hated myself.
Where do we get this idea?
Where do we believe that if we are harsh to ourselves, whipping ourselves under submission, that we are being holy? That bashing ourselves is somehow a spiritual indicator of our humility? UGH!
In our attempts to avoid pride, it can be far too easy to go to the other extreme and end up hating ourselves. Neither extreme is good.
What I have learned is that humility is seeing yourself as God sees you. Everything that you have, everything that you are comes from Him. You can’t take credit for any of it.
But you also don’t need to diminish or dismiss what He’s given you!!!
Hear me, dear friend: God sees you in a positive light because of Jesus and you can, too!
OUR FATHER’S OPINION AFFECTS OUR OPINION
Isaiah 61 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It’s often called the “Great Exchange” passage because it talks about all the things Jesus has done for us so that we can exchange the old for the new.
One of the things He offers us is a beautiful headdress in exchange for ashes. (Isaiah 61:3) Think about this image.
If you struggle with low self-esteem, don’t you feel like you’re in the ashes a good bit of the time? That you just can’t seem to get off the bottom of the heap?
Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for “ashes” in this verse, also can be translated as “worthlessness”.
Look at the beautiful picture the Lord gives us in this passage. If you feel worthless, buried in the ashes of life, and someone comes along to give you a headdress, what does that mean?
It means He lifts you up out of the ashes,
puts His hand on your chin,
raises your head,
and crowns you with this ornament of beauty.
Crowns you with dignity and honor.
That is what Jesus came to do for us!!!
Because of Jesus, God sees you as righteous. Righteous – right as you should be.
You are placed in Jesus and God sees you through Him.
Your debt of sin and what you owed to God has been paid. Your sin and all your failures and mistakes were dealt with on the cross. He now sees you through Jesus.
And He calls you His beloved. Your are His and He is yours. Good news!
SELF-ACCEPTANCE FREES US TO LOVE OTHERS
Having a healthy self-image also frees us from the incessant navel-gazing that keeps us focused inward. When we know we are loved, that we belong, that we are okay, there is such a sense of freedom to stop worrying and just be ourselves.
This freedom in turn gives us energy and brain space and capacity to think about other people. We can engage with others without having to constantly be asking ourselves how they are perceiving us.
After years of wrestling with crippling low self-esteem, when I finally was able to accept myself, I was amazed at how much easier it was to be tuned in to people, to see their needs and their hurts and their desires.
I could actually have real compassion for them. I found people interesting and not threatening. Our conversations were not spent with me worrying about how I was coming across. I could actually hear what they were saying.
Being able to accept and love ourselves enables us to accept and love others. We can have confidence without having to resort to comparison. We can have empathy without twisting things into pity parties for ourselves.
Jesus came to set us free, free from all that binds us and holds us back. He has big plans for us because there are so many other people who need to be free. Just think:
You being able to accept yourself, just as you are, might be the very thing that helps set someone else free to love God and be His child, too!
Dear one, my prayer is that you will be able to see the great lengths to which God has gone to give you worth and value and dignity as a human being. You don’t have to fear pride or see humility in a negative light ever again.
God’s opinion of you is what counts. His value of your worth is the great price Jesus paid.
It really is okay to have a positive self-esteem as a Christian woman. Having a healthy view of yourself will free you to be and do all He’s created for you.
Choosing with you to see my worth as God defines it,
In the comments, we’d love to hear one truth that God has shown you about your worth in His eyes. Even if you don’t feel it, let’s declare the truth to each other. Declarations can sometimes make the truth feel more true. Let’s encourage each other! Thanks!