404 Why You Don’t Need More Self-Esteem

Why You Don’t Need More Self-Esteem

The I love me some me.topic of self-esteem has gone through many changes in the world of psychology. Traditionally it was thought that you must increase low self-esteem. This was done in a variety of ways including positive thinking and self-motivation methods. In recent years though, even that seems to be changing as people realize that trying to like yourself is hard. But not only is having high self-esteem hard, I believe that it’s the problem.

Self-Esteem Isn’t Enough

Self-esteem is a a term in psychology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. In other words, the more you like yourself, the higher your self esteem.

The problem is that our self-perception is filtered through our experience. If we write well, we feel good about being a writer. If we sing well, we feel good about being a singer. But if we fail, we feel terrible about being successful. If we fall short, we feel terrible about finishing.

If we use our accomplishments as a measuring stick for our self-worth, it will lead to pride. With the idea of high self-esteem as a catalyst, we should feel good about ourselves when we do well. The more we do right, the better we feel about ourselves. This ultimately leads to pride and self-sufficiency.

Conversely, this mindset enables our failures to lead to low self-esteem. We begin to dislike ourselves and spiral into disappointment and depression.

When self-perception is based on experience, it’s no wonder there is such a huge disparity on how each person values themself.

The Alternative To Self-Esteem

We don’t need to increase or decrease our self-esteem. We need to get rid of it all together. Self-esteem is too fickle a concept to convey the worth and value of each individual.

The only way we can truly love ourselves is by first being loved by another. 1 John 4:19 says that “we love because He first loved us.” We can’t pretend to love ourselves, much less anyone else until we first learn to receive love.

Our self-worth will not truly increase by thinking positively or mastering techniques. We can only rightly see our value from the One who created us.

He calls us loved (1 John 3:16). He calls us His children (John 1:12). He calls us righteous (Romans 3:22). He calls us complete (Colossians 2:10).

There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about your accomplishments or feeling bad about failures. But your self worth is not determined by what you do or don’t do. Our value has nothing to do with what we think of ourselves. Our thoughts and feelings are fickle but His thoughts toward us are what give us value.

What were you taught about the idea of self-esteem?
How else is the performance-based mentality detrimental to our self-worth?


  1. I really enjoyed this post. The battle for identity is huge today.

    There is a big difference between self-esteem and self-worth.The passionate pursuit of self-esteem has lead to a culture that cries out, “Look at me, pay attention to me!” Behind the cry for attention is a longing to find true self-worth.

    Self-esteem is really self-impression. Self-worth is the sense of internal value. Self-esteem is defined by external peer pressure. Self-worth is defined by a divine acceptance. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. Self-worth is what God says about you. Psalm 139:1 says the Lord knows me. If God knows me, then He defines me.
    Tim Gill recently posted..An A.M. Testimony

  2. Katie Kuba says:

    Tony! I love this post so much. Self-worth > self-esteem… all the way. Self-worth is a given from God.

  3. The problem with self-esteem is self-esteem itself. “Self” reflects our dependence on ourselves instead of our dependence on God. We don’t need more of ourselves, we need more of God. We don’t need to validate ourselves, or have other people validate us. If we stop trying to do it all ourselves and really look to him who strengthens us we won’t have to try to increase our self-esteem. Additionally increasing our self-esteem will only be temporary. Becuase the minute we become disappointed or disillusioned with an aspect of our lives, our self-esteem meter will run low, and we will look to things to help us increase our self-esteem. It will just become a vicious circle.
    Juan Cruz Jr recently posted..Tired

  4. Good words,Tony. I have had this topic on my list for about 8 months now. Every time I pull it up to consider someone (you with this) writes a great post and I get a little shy about writing mine. That has happened 4 times now. You guys are covering it so good I may toss it out.

    I think the self esteem idea insulates us from reality many times. The human condition is such that we should feel down at times. It is the mechanism that calls us to our creator without it we may not look for Him.
    Ken Hagerman(The Barba) recently posted..Caption This…….

  5. Great post, Tony. I can relate to many of the comments made. My identity and worth comes from Christ. If I try to find it anywhere else, I am left discouraged and empty. I spent too many years living that way.
    Eileen recently posted..Older Than Dirt

  6. I tend to think self-worth is overlooked for self-esteem nowadays… Sad to think about.
    dustin recently posted..What Do You Want?

  7. It’s amazing how many “roads” there are in today’s world to find “ourselves”. Psychology will use words like self-esteem, willpower and others to aid us in finding who we are. The fact is that outside of God we will never find our true selves.

    When I read that we are made in the image of God, it tells me that until we find the source of our “being”, we can’t really know who we are or what we are capable of. You did well in saying that we don’t need more self-esteem, we need to know who He is to truly understand who we are. Trying to explain the branches who they are outside of the vine makes very little sense. This is why I love when Paul says to the Philippians that he doesn’t come to them with a righteousness of his own, but all he wants to do is know Him and the power of His resurrection. He knows that by knowing Christ, He gets to know who He is.

    Good stuff meng!
    Moe recently posted..Discipleship: Trusting The Next Generation

  8. Right on, Tony. I struggle with placing my identity in His acceptance, and often fail to realize that in my worst state of existence He loves me perfectly. Love your thoughts on how this way of operating ends up in pride.
    Stephen Haggerty recently posted..The IKEA Life

    • Thanks man. The whole self-esteem race has resulted in more than it’s share of pride in my own life. It’s a constant battle to overcome a performance-based mentality and walk in humility.

  9. When I was leading the young adults class at my church back in my early twenties I constantly was measuring my worth. If I didn’t have more individuals show up for class than I did in the previous week then I automatically thought I was failing somehow…this always led to me feeling worthless at some point.

    Most of my life I’ve been taught that if someone was a trouble maker, or seemed depressed all the time, or slept around, or did drugs then they had low self esteem. Even I have thought, “Man, why can’t this person value themselves more?”

    I can understand what your saying, Tony. If it’s possible for us to somehow raise our level of esteem or value, than it’s also possible for us at some point to boast about it…to take credit for our achievement. But even God’s word says, “Our righteousness is as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64) I can see why it’s important that we allow ourselves to be valued by God…because no matter what we can’t take credit for God’s work in us…not really.

    • In the same thought process, if we can increase our self-esteem, we can also lower it. That’s why I don’t like the idea.

      But value? That stays constant if we receive value from the right place. And you’re right, we can’t take credit. We just take it.

  10. The whole idea of self esteem keeps my eyes on the wrong subject. Well said, Tony!
    Larry Hehn recently posted..A Burden of Silence

  11. I think you gotta start somewhere — a Jesus-less view of oneself and the world begins and ends with self-esteem. Self-esteem could be considered a humanist viewpoint, but, when I’ve witnessed a very young child with wounds left scarring his spirit, where there was no concept of self-value, I was saddened beyond belief. A child should never be consumed by self-loathing. However, self-esteem improvement alone will not heal that spirit nor save the soul from sin’s destruction. When we respond to the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we can accept the truth that the Bible teaches about who we become as children of God, or we can deny this life-transforming truth and continue to battle the lies that the enemy throws at us. “There is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.””Oh what manner of love the Father has lavished unto us, that we should be called the children of God” “You are God’s workmanship” – these are just a few. Talk about an image make-over!
    Alyssa Santos recently posted..A Fine Focus {Soul Calibration}

  12. Once again you have posted another great one. Thanks.

  13. Interesting read. Thanks for the post

  14. This is good Tony. I have a problem with whole self-esteem gospel. I have seen first hand of parents who in an effort not to hurt the self-esteem of their 2 children touted them as the king and queen and when anyone did not bow down to the kids’ wishes, they ranted and pouted (parents and kids). i see this whole thing having an effect on discipline. “Don’t want to hurt their self-esteem by spanking or taking something away.” As you state, it makes it all performance-based.
    bill (cycleguy) recently posted..SmallStuff

  15. I actually don’t even use the term self-esteem anymore. I used to have such a bad view of myself, that no matter what I did, my self esteem wouldn’t go up. It wasn’t until I allowed God to tell me my worth, that I began to see myself differently. I don’t want self-esteem back. I like seeing myself the way He sees me much more.
    Jason Vana recently posted..Taking Time to Dream

  16. Kim Quinn says:

    I don’t think the concept of recognizing talents is evil. It’s not that we need to do away with the whole concept. You speak of God’s love and of course that is our foundation and framework. But if we are given talents and ability from God and we use them to the best of our ability that is deserving of praise. We need to praise people for how they use and develop their God given ability and then praise God for giving them the ability. It’s not an either or situation. And no it shouldn’t be our primary sourse of identity, but we are still fleash and blood and need that reinforcement from others. Even God says “well done good and faithful servant”

    • Oh absolutely not. I am an advocate of each of us finding our unique call and living life to the fullest to glorify God with our own talents.

      I’m also not an advocate of false humility. When we do well and people praise it, we need to say “thank you,” not deflect the praise. Actually, words of affirmation is my love language so I LOVE to hear affirmation! 🙂

      But we can only truly be humble when we know that our worth comes from Him and no one or nothing else. Ultimately it’s all for His glory!

  17. Good stuff..

  18. Tony, this topic is near and dear to my heart. I have written about it myself, in fact.

    I think you touch on some great points. The self-esteem movement has ushered in a generation of kids and now young adults who think they should be rewarded for showing up and that they are great, without striving for greatness.

    The Bible says the Lord is our confidence (Psalm 71). I’ll take that over some fluffed up accolades or misplaced confidence any day.
    Nicole Cottrell recently posted..Mark Driscoll is My New Best Friend

    • I’ve been reading your stuff for awhile now, Nicole and we are very like-minded. This is one of those central topics for me and I consider the topic of identity my life message.

      I’m all about lining up with what God has to say about me and throwing all the self-help, positive thinking mumbo jumbo out the window.

  19. I have always had a problem with self-esteem and I think very poorly of myself especially when I fail in one way or another. I base the perception of myself on what I do or don’t do. I also base my self-worth on the opinions of others which are mostly unfulfilled expectations that I place on myself. It’s no wonder I was diagnosed with depression a couple of years ago.

    I am fully aware that I need to base whatever worth I have on the worthiness of Christ and what He has already done for us. But whenever I attempt to consider believing what God’s Word says I am in Christ, my sin nature naturally becomes more dominant and usurps Christ’s view of me.

    Tony, you seem to write a lot of things regarding identity in your blog. I assume, therefore, that this is something you now battle with or have battled with in the past. What brought you through your self-esteem trap? What practical steps did you take or are taking that would help those of us who cannot rise above this?
    Thomas Mason recently posted..Love Is…

    • You’re right, Thomas. Identity is such a big deal for me because it has been such a huge part of my journey with the Lord. I struggled with performance-based living and I’ve had multiple “identity” crises in my life ranging from my cultural identity, my identity as a man and my identity as a son. It’s been a life-long journey in which I’ve learned a lot and still have quite a bit more to learn.

      I don’t have a formula or solution, unfortunately. I will say that the turning point for me in my struggles with performance-based living was when I went through my divorce in 2007. I felt like such a complete failure that something HAD to change. Either I was going to spiral out of control in despair or meet God in a real way.

      Thankfully the latter happened and when I had my first REAL encounter with Holy Spirit, my life began to change. It’s been a continual growth but one that has absolutely changed my life for the better.

  20. I’ve struggled with low self-esteem most of my life…and find myself at times, still, the temptation to enter into moments of depression. Struggling with such a real, yet worldly, force takes a tool – an external something – to help lift me out of the pit I am slowly cascading down. In moments like this, I believe the external offers can be a device God uses to bring us closer back to Him – things like worship music, theologically correct & uplifting sermons reminding us of the truth God speaks into our lives, a good movie to have a visual reminder that life isn’t all circumstantial, etc.

    And the danger of what self-esteem issues can lead us into is all based on a co-dependency upon these external motivators. These things are only to be utilized as tools to help us get closer back with Christ, not to completely fulfill and replace Him. The Holy Spirit is to fulfill, to instate the joy we have in the Lord – but at times, life’s circumstances can overwhelm the body, and even our spirits, and we need a little external help.

    I kind of think of it life a life rope being thrown to someone who is drowning or in quicksand…and the life rope is the external God uses to bring us out of the pit we are slowly (or quickly) being sucked down into. So motivation can be quite the helpful tool – but it needs to be respected as such; never becoming the fulfillment of joy we can only find in Christ. We should never let the tool become the crutch, for therein lies a whole other set of problems to arise.
    Marni Arnold recently posted..Change Hurts

  21. This is a tough one. I do a lot of work with teenage girls and the one thing I’m constantly hearing from mothers is, “She just has such low self-esteem.” What I want to say is, “That’s good!” Personally, I don’t want my daughter to be in love with herself, I want her to be self-confident, and I want her to have self-respect, but in this world I think the less she loves herself the better off she’ll be. Let’s kick this term to the curb and re-evaluate what we’re trying to do. Rather than working on their self-esteem, I try to focus on who they are in God’s eyes; their worth, their beauty, and their security in Him. In the end, great self-esteem isn’t going to do much for our relationships with God. BUT, if we can wrap our minds around how highly HE esteems us, then we’ll have it; regardless of what you want to call it, we’ll have it.
    Nikki Weatherford recently posted..God Loves You

    • That’s why I love the characteristic of humility. I see it as positioning yourself as God sees you, nothing more and nothing less.

      I know exactly what you’re saying but I think there is a matter of semantics. I think your daughter needs to love herself, just not the way the world loves themselves in a vain type of way. If she loves herself the way God loves her, then she will naturally respect herself based on the value He gives her.

      But then, I’m pretty sure that’s what you’re saying. 🙂

      • Yes, tricky rhetoric. I want her to value herself, and I want her to love what she is in God’s eyes. I’m certainly no expert on this, but my focus with the little girl that God has entrusted to me is to emphasize, over and over and over again, that the self that she should love and value and respect, is the self that is reflected in God’s eyes. No matter how much I build her up she’s going to have a world of criticism and expectations to live up to. It will take more than her mother’s adoration to convince her that she’s beautiful and special and perfect; but maybe I can convince her that it’s not the world’s approval that matters, it’s God’s. In the end I don’t think low self-esteem is the bigger problem, I think it’s lack of identity. Once we discover who we are in Christ, the world’s appraisal of us really doesn’t matter anymore.
        Nikki Weatherford recently posted..God Loves You

  22. The concept of self-esteem inevitably leads to comparing yourself to other people. We begin to think in terms of “I’m not as good as he is” and “I’m better than she is”. On one end of the spectrum, you feel inadequate because you’re never going to be as good as “that guy”, on the other end, you think to yourself, “at least I’m not as bad as this loser”. Either way leads to a life of self-centeredness and misery. A life far away from what God intended for us.

    “Consider yourself lightly; consider the world deeply….Do not envy another’s good or evil.” – Miyamoto Musashi
    katdish recently posted..Words with friends: An idiot’s guide, Part 4: Know your opponent

  23. I struggled with this for years and years.

    It wasn’t until I learned that my worth comes from how He sees me. Ephesians 1 is a great chapter to read if you want to know what God thinks of you.

    It’s hard to be down about yourself after reading that.

    Great stuff, Tony.
    Ricky Anderson recently posted..Beautiful Absurdity

  24. Totally agree – performance based acceptance is a no-win situation and if you get your value from performance – it is a long dark road.

    When I was in my counseling class, we talked about the difference between “self-esteem” and “self-concept”… it is the first time I had heard about them described differently…

    Esteem is how we “value” ourselves
    Concept is how we “describe” ourselves

    I suppose the latter often being derived from the former. Both seem malleable and as you said “are filtered through experience” – however – even in the bible God talks about “esteem” and teaches us how and why to “value” self (because we are new creations in Christ, because He first loved us)… so what is the alternative would be my question… because it IS important – not only how God thinks of us, but of how we think of our selves. So for the follower of Christ, what is the “word” we can use for esteem/concept in this instance?
    Jenny recently posted..Monday Weigh in | Solitude

    • My thoughts are coming from the foundations of this perception. I don’t believe that we can have a proper value or description of ourselves until we understand what Jesus says about us. With that foundation, these other ideas line up.

  25. I struggle with the term self-esteem. It makes it all about me when you rightly point out that it is all about Him. I do not mind self-worth because self-worth really comes form the Worthy one.

    Thanks for sharing this Tony.
    Jim F recently posted..Thinking before we speak

  26. Great and new thoughts for me here, Tony. I especially liked this line, “Self-esteem is too fickle a concept to convey the worth and value of each individual.” Thinking about that.
    Jonathan Pearson recently posted..30 Times You Shouldn’t #Tweet

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