Restore Your Self-Esteem

Written by Claire Colvin

life_restoreesteemIt is amazing what we accept as truth if we hear it enough times.

Has this ever happened to you:

You take a risk and get a drastic haircut. You look fabulous. You leave for work the next day in your favorite outfit feeling like a million bucks,  You think “I’m so glad I did it, I love it!” You step into the elevator at work and someone turns to you, frowns, and says, “O, you cut your hair, what made you do that?” Your hand goes to your hair and you’d give anything for a hat. You feel terrible. Why did you have to go and cut your hair?

Self-esteem is an issue for many women and in these days of ultra-thin models and SuperMom expectations it shouldn’t surprise us. What is surprising is how quick we are to accept another person’s judgement and how serious our lack of faith in ourselves can become. For me it started during high school because of a group of four or five guys who told me that I was stupid and ugly every single day. I believed them.

It didn’t matter that I came from a home where both parents still loved each other and there was a steady supply of love and encouragement. It didn’t matter that my grades were excellent and that I had a best friend who had stuck by me since third grade. I was told that I had no value and I believed them with all my heart. My self-esteem was at an all time low and it almost killed me.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem can be hard to define. More than just feeling good about yourself, taking pride in your accomplishments or liking what you see in the mirror, self-esteem is concerned with the way we judge our own worth. In his book Foundations of Psychopathology, Dr. John Nemiah defines self-esteem as the “ability to look upon yourself as having value.”

We tend to look at the equation backwards. We think that how we look dictates our level of self-esteem when in fact it is our self-esteem – our ability to see ourselves as having value – that dictates how we react to the face in the mirror.

Impact of low self-esteem

As my confidence faltered and my self-esteem withered away I stopped talking in class, in groups, or in the hallways. I dreaded lunch hour, never stepped foot inside the cafeteria and the thought of class presentations literally made me sick. I withdrew and stopped smiling altogether.

Convinced I was worthless, I stressed over every test and paper even though my grades were consistently excellent. My whole life revolved around being as invisible as possible. I thought that I couldn’t get hurt if everyone forgot I was there. The situation continued and I needed a way out. I couldn’t imagine anything that could help me. Because I saw myself as the problem, I began seriously considering suicide. I wasn’t dreaming about an escapist fantasy, I was frighteningly practical. My experience is a common one.

Low self-esteem and depression

Low self-esteem does not necessarily lead to depression but studies have shown that the two often go hand in hand. In fact the World Health Organization (WHO) uses low self-worth in its description of depression. 1 Low self-esteem makes you your own worst enemy. Thoughts of “if only I were prettier, if only I was good at sports, if only I was funny or popular, if only I was strong enough to fix this” crowd out everything else. Even if we receive praise, the voices inside our own heads discount it. Like Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman “the bad stuff is easier to believe.”

The symptoms of depression are often internalized, and so the problem may be dismissed as unimportant, hormonal, or just a part of growing up. The WHO has found that, worldwide “fewer than 25% of those suffering from depression receive appropriate care”. 2 It is critically important to pay attention to low self-esteem, especially in teenagers where suicide is in one of the three leading causes of death. 3 Even as adults low self-esteem can affect performance and advancement at work, make us a reluctant partner or a ineffective parent. Low self-esteem affects every part of a person’s life. It is overwhelming.

Healing

For me, things did not improve so halfway through grade eleven I transferred to a different high school. The insults stopped but I still had to face myself, running wasn’t going to fix that. Recovering a sense of self worth takes more than a change of scene, it requires a change of perspective.

The summer of that year I attended a conference with a group from my parent’s church and found answers in the last place I would have expected. At the conference I came to realize that God loves me very, very much. Here, finally, was a lasting source of value I could fall back on. I had a sense of self worth to build on and the healing could begin.

The world is a scary place when you stop liking yourself.

Now I had hope. I had learned about God as a child, but just trying to survive had consumed me and I had long since forgotten about Him; God had not forgotten about me. During my second year of university, I came across the verse in the Bible that is one of my favorites,

“I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:9&10)

Who am I? What a terrifying question when you don’t like yourself very much. Now I have an answer: I am a woman loved by God. You can say the same. You matter to God. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you. You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Saviour and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.

If you invited Jesus Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest.

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69 Responses to “Restore Your Self-Esteem”

  • Sharon Sharon says:

    good article thank you for posting this good article

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Dear Father God

    Lord I lift up my sisters to You at this time in there lives, that you will bless them as Your children reaching out that you have created and formed them from there mother’s womb. I pray that You will help them to feel important to you first. In Jesus name amen

  • Christine says:

    Dear Elizabeth,

    As black girls we suffer from a lot of insecurities especially when we are teenagers. I am 27 now and I can tell you that your story reads exactly like mine – difference is that I am from Kenya. I had low self confidence, I found my skin too dark, I found myself too skinny, I even had (have) buck teeth lol. I can laugh at this with all sincerity coz I got over that. I am still all these but so much more, I know I am beautiful, I feel beautiful because I love ME. There can only be one ME as there can only be one YOU. Concentrate on knowing your worth, I wish had some scriptural references, but right now, I am just being real. LOVE YOURSELF and trust me it gets easier past high school. You must also eat healthy hun, no more fatty foods – trust me, your skin will start showing what you are putting into your body. Eat healthy, do some exercise, search the net for more info on how to add/maintain weight in a HEALTHY way. As for the comments from peers on being gay – just let those slide off your back. I got my first boyfriend at 21 which might be a bit old by normal standards but I was ready then. You know you are not gay so just let it be, the more you protest the more they will think you are and you seem to know you aren’t so who cares. I will pray for you my dear, remember you’ve got a friend in Jesus and someone many miles away is praying for you.

  • I’m glad that i found this because now i feel better and loved. I’m a fifteen year old black girl. And i felt the same way you did in high school. Ever since my first freshman year in high school i’ve been bullied by a group of girls and called gay. I knew i wasn’t gay but people constantly spread the lies and soon almost every one in the school believed it.I’m now starting to believe the reason everyone thought i was gay, was because of the way i nervously walked in school,but i use to think i was ugly and that no one would wanna be my friend. I made a few friends but i was always shy and i still am. I later started putting on makeup and stopped eating foods that i thought would make me fat, so i could feel beautiful and loved, and i worked. But i don’t feel happy.it became and still is a habit for me to for once stop worrying if a piece of cheese will make me fat and for me to look at mysel
    f for once without makeup. One of my biggest habits is looking stuff up on the internet.i mostly been looking up stuff about loosing weight ,even though I’m really skinny because i worry I’ll get fat when I’m older if i don’t start eating healthy now.i also been looking up information about how other races and people from other countries would feel about me, because i feel like if i move out of America then i would be loved more,but i later became depressed after reading how other races think black women are ugly and that even black men hate black women.I’m even a huge fan of Japanese culture , but now scared and worried of being called ugly and the N word there.i just wanna be happy see that I’m god prized creation but without the makeup and stuff.But it’s hard and i’ve been giving myself strong headaches. Im stating to pray to God for help in loving myself no matter what i look like or do,but i still worrying in life. But when i dream of Jesus and read scriptures like the one you listed above (Isaiah 41:9&10) i feel better.i’m glad i saw that scripture because now i feel Gods love rushing through me.And if your reading this comment, can you prayed for me to love myself and that i read the bible more especially Isaiah 41:9&10.you helped feel better right now and so did God????????

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi feeling, I am sorry that no one has responded to your comment.

    Conflict amongst brothers and sisters in Christ can be awfully hard to deal with. So often we try to hide it rather than respond as Jesus instructed us to in Matthew 18:15-17. We are called to speak the truth in love to one another (Ephesians 4:11) and allow Jesus to be the sinews that bind us together (Colossians 2:19).

    I know it can be a scary path but I encourage you to go to the one who was hurt by you and talk about what happened. Find out how your words were hurtful and ask for forgiveness. Pray together and ask Jesus to bind your hearts together in unity. Don’t let bitterness and fear take root in your life. That spreads a destructive disease through the whole Body.

    Lord God I pray for this person and ask that You would help bring healing and unity to this relationship. Help them all to come together in humility seeking to meet the needs of the other. Guard them from the destructive path of self-centredness. Amen.

  • feeling like i suck at everythg says:

    Lately, I feel like a suck at ‘everything’ I have these thoughts that completely bombarde me to bring me down. Even though I know that God lifts us up, I feel like lately He is only reprimanding me. The effect is causing me to withdraw.
    My pastor called me recently to tell me another member of our church complained about me. This has ‘never’ happened before ever! But since, I have had really bad dreams about him not being happy with me. Apparently, I said something that did not go over so good. I apologized, and felt terrible, it was an honest mistake and I promised him it would not happen again. But I felt so bad from it, that I do not even want to go to church now. I just feel like I can do nothing right, and should not converse with anyone ‘ever’ because I do not know how to.
    Im actually afraid of him now. I feel like he is not happy with me, and I feel so ashamed that he would have to reprimand me, and what a fail I am because of this. I just don’t know how to trust this guy again.

  • Sharon Sharon says:

    to Maria- thank you Claire, good comments to Maria for me what works is to say I chose to love myself and for others to appreciate you and say so

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi Maria,

    I think one of the most helpful things to begin with was to change the way I spoke to/thought about myself. I really tried to pay attention to thoughts like, “I can’t do that” or “it’ll never work” or “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t” and replace them with more optimistic thoughts. You would be amazed how often we think negative things about ourselves when our esteem is low. I had to practice being nice to myself. (Weird right? But it worked.) I also tried to celebrate the things I did well and include something in the week that was an activity I was good at to show myself that I was good at things. It was not a quick process, but it happened over time.

  • Maria says:

    Great article. Wouldn’t mind more on this experience and how you over came your struggles with self-esteem issues. Thank you for sharing and your faith is admirable.

  • Jacqueline Darville says:

    Hi, I am looking to overcome severe low self esteem but am not sure how to go about this. I feel it is beginning to take over my life.
    I have been through a very traumatic childhood, had to cope with my parents splitting up when I was 12 years old, a violent childhood with my father suffering from a mental illness. My mother doesn’t show any love and puts her relationships with men who often appear to be abusive, more than her children. Had to cope with being forced into a sexual relationship with my ex best friends father. I lack confidence and don’t see anything positive about myself. I am in a part time job, looking for full time work, struggling to afford to look after myself. Have recently passed my driving test which Made me feel very happy but the next day, my mother decided to have another go at me over various issues.
    4 years ago, I fell in love with the most amazing guy, who is forever supporting me and paying me compliments but i don’t see what he tells me. He is the only person I can talk to and who appears to care for me.
    I want to overcome this lack of self esteem in order to achieve more in life and be able to find a better job and afford a car so that I can move up in life. Please can someone advise me on what I can do to help myself.

  • Karol says:

    I support the Article writer and everything is about God, not us and he should be glorified…if you think it is your doing to overcome and you claim to know God that is a wrong doctrine i love it when people bring out things with biblical support not just typing
    “Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise
    Your glorious name.”
    1 Chronicles 29:13

    “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify
    Him with thanksgiving.”
    Psalms 69:30

    “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His
    love endures forever.”
    Psalms 118:1

    “And whatever you do, whether in word or
    deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
    giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
    Colossians 3:17

    “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually
    offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of
    lips that confess His name.”

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi Alan, It’s not up to you to dictate the length of the comments on this site. Sometimes a longer comments is exactly what is needed. (And as a courtesy, we’re not girls, we’re adults.) You’re welcome to believe what you like about God, but so am I, and I will continue to bring God up in my own story because he plays a huge role in my story. When you’re writing your own articles you can feel free to include or exclude whatever you like. When I’m writing my articles on my site, I will do the same.

  • Alan says:

    Rebecca does have a point, not everything is about God so maybe you should not have confused/included God/path to God in a low self esteem article. Cause yes it might won’t be entirely convincing for those who does not believe in them. Anyways girls pls just keep it short ok, don’t need to be so long-winded :-D

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi Rebecca, I must have missed the part of my comment or my story where I suggested that every decision of my life is made for me by God. If you’ve read that in my comments here then I have not expressed myself very clearly. I do not believe in a God that directs people like robots (or one that provides parking spots – if God was in the business of deciding for other people wouldn’t his time be better spent ending wars or world hunger?) I’m not sure how you expected me to react to a statement like “you obviously find no value in yourself”. I’m trying to imagine how that could be read as a non-combative statement.

    Open-mindedness does, as you correctly noted, refer to being receptive to new ideas. When you use words like “fixated”, “naive”, and “delusional” then I hold to my contention that you have formed a fairly specific view on God rather than remaining open-minded. I’m not saying that having an opinion about God is a bad thing – I clearly have an opinion about him myself – but it’s not logical to have an opinion and claim to be remaining open-minded about the issue at the same time.

  • Rebecca says:

    This is going to be my last ever comment on here, I know you’re completely completely going to miss my point of view, however brief it was. I think it is better though to leave you all in your naive and delusional view and i hope for your sake, Claire, that proof of ‘God’s’ nonexistence does not ever come to pass.

    Read into my quotation of the word ‘God’ what you will. You cannot as I cannot to you, tell me what I do or don’t believe or what I mean by my beliefs. That is not to say that i don’t know. In my opinion, my open mindedness relates to the ‘possibility’ hence the ‘quotations’ of there being a ‘God’ or ‘God-like’ ‘being’, regardless of which religion that ‘being’ originated. Proof for you may come in a dream in your sleep, and that’s fine, however if I listened to my most vivid dreams, the ones that seem so real, so impossible to be purely from myself then it surely would be interesting to see where I would be right now. To me ,though,this is merely a naive approach to life.

    I could debate with you for days and days ahead about the existence or non existence of ‘God’, however I do find that those who are fixated in their beliefs, are open to nothing else and it is like to me having an argument with a brick wall. Quite honestly, i don’t care about how you live your life. This is your blog, your views. I thought, i’d just through an extra opinion in the mix, while you all seem to be wound up in revolving your life around a mere possibility, and basically giving this possibility the credit, or not so much the credit, but basically everything you are, everything you are going to be.
    To me, it is irrational to have this being, basically just as an excuse. For example, something in your life doesn’t work out :the response; God mustn’t have wanted this to happen, you drive to the supermarket and there is a free car park right in front of the door; response; oh ‘God’ must have been feeling awfully generous today. Milk prices go up; ‘God’ must be slowing milk production in cows for a very good reason (wow creative example right there). Is there any part of your life that you take responsibility for yourself?

    While I find your last response condescending I would not have expected anything less. I find that the majority of religious people i have met, many being from my own family, put themselves up high on the pedestal compared to everyone else who they believe are naive and ultimately stupid for not believing in ‘God’, but each to their own.

    I’ll leave you with this: an official definition of open-mindedness just for your benefit.Open-mindedness is receptiveness to new ideas. “Open-mindedness relates to the way in which people approach the views and knowledge of others, and “incorporate the beliefs that others should be free to express their views and that the value of others’ knowledge should be recognized.” I hope that clarifies thing for you. Although i’m sure had you prayed to ‘God’ he would have enlightened you to this. Or ‘possibly’ not.

    Sure, I would class myself as open minded, as had I not been, as it says, ‘receptive to new ideas’ (please not this is in quotations because it is a quote) I would not have found myself reading and responding to your blog. Also, if you hadn’t actually been comprehending what I said, at no point have I said i am not open to your beliefs, or at all that I have been entirely discouraging (although maybe a little to your extreme (I was going to write extremist, but then thought that would be being a bit extreme on my part) point of view).

    Thank you, Claire, for this truly ‘enlightening’ conversation. I hope ‘God’ makes all the right choices for the rest of your life.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi Rebecca,

    Being open-minded is a lovely idea but every time you put God in quotes you undermine your own statement. If you really were open-minded then in a conversation with someone who believes in God you’d just refer to God, in the same way that if I was talking to someone with a profound faith the Buddha I wouldn’t write about ‘Buddha’ reminding them each time that I felt their belief was imaginary nonsense. That’s not open-mindedness it’s passive aggression.

    It’s interesting that what you’re taking from my story is that I “obviously still find no value” in myself. Perhaps you missed the verb tense? It was past tense. At the time in my life when I was suicidal, then yes, I felt I had no value and my sense of worth was replenished by something outside of myself, in my case God. However, if I still felt that way I would be still be suicidal, which fortunately, mercifully I am not.

    I’m curious, how would you define open-mindedness? You mention the word often as a way to describe yourself but from what you’ve written here you don’t seem particularly open to the idea of God but quite closed to it. What does it mean to be open-minded?

  • Rebecca says:

    Hi Claire

    I am an open minded person and I respect your views and opinions as we are all entitled to our own. I could not in fact dispute what you say, for I have never experienced anything of the same. It honestly does not matter to me, as I said in my comment previously, whether or not the existence of ‘God’ or any ‘God-like’ being is or is not true. It is the fact that constantly those who believe place all their faith, and yes their worth, and value of life, their strengths, their weaknesses, their skills, their courage, their emotions, their everything into the hands of ‘God’. You say the reason you are here today is entirely up to ‘Him’. He gave you that vision, that dream, that courage, and as true or not as it may be. You are the one who made the change, you are the one who stood up to follow the ‘plan’, you are the one who came to realize your worth. If as you said ‘God’ saved you and that is great and all, but you are the one who acted, who implemented those changes. I’m open to anything, I can’t say that I am a believer, all I can say is that you obviously still find no value in yourself if you cannot credit yourself, and be proud, of those changes you made, that were not down to ‘God’, but to yourself. That is all.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi Rebecca,

    You are, of course, welcome to believe that there is no God, but you won’t convince me of it. I believe that God is very real and He genuinely did help me at a time when I could not help myself. There’s more of my story here. Here’s the short version: at a time when I was working out the details of how I was going to kill myself I had a dream. And that dream changed everything. I cannot explain it any other way except to say that I believe the dream came from God. It has never happened to me again and I know how weird it sounds to say, “God spoke to me in a dream” like something out of the old testament. But here’s the truth: he really did. That dream was 20 years ago and I can still describe exactly what it looked like, exactly what happened and exactly why when I woke up from it I knew that I could not take my own life. What was in that dream is not a story I could have told myself. If you’re skeptical of that, I completely understand, but for me, I was there when I happened and I would not be here now if it had not happened.

    When you’re convinced that you’re worthless, how could you reach inside yourself and find worth? Either the value was always there and you suddenly find a new way to see it or the value comes from somewhere else. For me, it came from God.

  • Sharon Sharon says:

    thank you Shelley– thank you for that prayer good prayer for those of us who are very getting healed from low esteem love sharon

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