Self Esteem

by Nicola Short

Exodus 3 v 1-12 Exodus 4 v 1-12

Have you ever felt that you weren’t good enough? That you weren’t clever enough, or pretty enough, or experienced enough or strong enough to do something you’ve been asked to do? In Exodus 3 & 4, Moses certainly did. God appeared to him in the burning bush and asked him to go and talk to the Pharaoh about freeing the Israelites. And Moses’ response… are you sure? Are you really sure? I don’t think I’m the right man for the job – I think there are people out there who’d be much better at it than me! In Exodus 4 verse 10, one of Moses’ excuses is that he is not as eloquent as some other people in Egypt. And in using this excuse, he was comparing himself to other people and feeling inadequate. And as is so often the case when we have low self-esteem – when we feel like we’re not good enough – the things that we measure ourselves against, and compare ourselves to, are created by the human world, not by God. And because these standards are created by us as humans, and not by God, it means that next month or next year, these standards might change, or the people we are comparing ourselves to will change, meaning we are always chasing after something and changing who we are in order to meet these expectations.

And of course, that’s impossible. And at some point in our lives, to a greater or lesser degree, we usually throw our hands up and say we don’t care anymore – people sometimes use the phrase ‘perfectly imperfect’ when referring to themselves – they are saying that they don’t meet society’s expectations, but they are ok with that. But actually, as Christians, I’m not sure that’s the right attitude to have, and I don’t think that’s how God sees us. I think God sees us like Andrew Lincoln’s character sees Kiera Knightley’s in the film ‘Love Actually’. In the iconic scene, where he holds up handwritten signs whilst stood at her front door, he tells her ‘to me, you are perfect’. And I think this is how God sees us. Psalm 139 verse 13 says that God created our inmost being – that he knitted us together in our mother’s womb; verse 16 says that that he had a plan for our lives before we were even born. And so, if God took so much care over the creation of each one of us, are we doing him a disservice by telling ourselves, and the world, that we don’t think we are good enough, and making excuses to him and ourselves about why we can’t dSo things like Moses did?

To counteract this, we need to learn how to love ourselves – not in an egotistical or narcissistic way, but in a healthy way. The ancient Greeks had a word for this – Philautia, which is based on the idea that if you love yourself and treat yourself with compassion and kindness then this actually enhances your ability to love other people. The Greek philosopher Aristotle, said that “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.” In order to love others, we first need to learn how to love ourselves. Now I know that this is all easier said than done – we all experience negative thoughts and we can’t control them popping into our head.

But what we can control is how we react to and deal with these thoughts. If we listen to the negativity and the doubt, and measure ourselves against the standards set by society we will start to believe it is true – that we are not good enough. But by reminding ourselves that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, to God’s perfect design, and that he has a plan for our lives that will prosper us, we can drive out the negativity and impossible standards and start to see ourselves as perfect in God’s eyes, rather than imperfect in society’s eyes, and start to be a little kinder to ourselves.

We can do this by keeping ourselves close to God and listening to him – by reading the bible and praying, and also surrounding ourselves with people who have similar standards and
outlook to our own. Another way that we can maintain this healthy self-love and self-esteem is to remember that although God perfectly created us, we are not the finished article – as we submit to God and the call he has on our lives he will continue to transform us through the Holy Spirit. We are perfect in that we are exactly who God intended us to be – he crafted us the exact way he did with a unique character and abilities so that we might accomplish only what we could accomplish in a way that only we could accomplish it. We see this with Moses – looking back on his life with hindsight you can see that God was preparing him right from his birth to rescue the Israelites, that everything that happened to him, was working up to that moment. And the same is true for us – we can’t see the overarching plan that God has for our lives, we just need to trust that no one else can do what each of us have been created to do. We all have a unique purpose, and a unique part to play in the reconciliation of our human world with God’s holy one. And so, instead of focusing on what we can’t do – these things that are viewed by human standards as flaws and imperfections, we should consider what we can do within the limitations of our unique self, using the strength that God gives us, and then work on loving that version of ourselves. Consider what Jesus achieved – limited by a human body, cut off from his Father in heaven, living alongside people who couldn’t even begin to comprehend what was going to happen, and sentenced to death because some people felt threatened by him. So next time you feel like you are not good enough, remember that God made you exactly who you are, and to him, you are perfect.