Articles self_esteem

Published on March 5th, 2013 | by Ana Harris

The Problem With Low Self-Esteem

Back by popular demand, we have a new post from my wife, Ana — this time in response to an email from a girl who signed her name “nobody” and said she wasn’t good at anything. Ana wrote the following response:

Hello friend! Thank you for contacting us. I definitely understand the discouragement of feeling like you’re bad at everything and have no talents.

I’ve been there too — always comparing myself to others, always feeling bad about myself, always focusing on my weaknesses and wondering if I could ever be good at anything.

It is indeed, a miserable way to live! And I have come to believe that it is not only a miserable way to live, but a sinful way to live. Let me explain…

Most modern people would say that young girls who are perpetually feeling down on themselves have a low self-esteem problem and need to learn to accept themselves for who they are, and even love themselves. I absolutely believe that this is the wrong approach and that “good self-esteem” is a terrible goal to pursue.

Some people put a Christian spin on it and basically say that we need to feel good about ourselves because God feels good about us. But that completely misses the point.

Feeling good about ourselves was never meant to be the goal of anybody’s life!

The problem with low self-esteem isn’t the “low” part — it’s the “self” part.

When I was an anorexic thirteen-year-old, I spent a good deal of time thinking thoughts like, “She’s’ more beautiful than me. She’s funnier than me. She’s better at sports. She’s smarter than me. She has more friends than me. I can’t do anything right! Nobody likes me!” Do you notice how selfish those thoughts sound? Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!

Now, If I had embraced the world’s solutions I would have learned to replace those negative thoughts about myself with positive ones, “I am the most beautiful me. No one else could be better at being me than I am. My true friends love me. I’m good at this and that, etc.” Certainly, thoughts like these are less destructive to my immediate happiness but they are no less me-focused.

I am so grateful I had parents who offered me a different solution to my supposed “self-esteem” problem; parents who preached Christ and urged me to repent. I am so grateful they recognized how sickly and narrow a self-focused life really is, and spurred me on to love and good works (Heb. 10:24). So now, I want to offer you the opportunity to embrace same solution they offered me.

Here are some thoughts:

1. Repent.

If you have desired the talents of others, repent of your envy. If you have wasted time wallowing in self-pity, repent of your selfishness. If you have written yourself off from useful Kingdom work, repent of your pride. If in your self-doubt, you have neglected to serve others, repent of your lack of love. If you have desired the praises of man more than the pleasure of God, repent of your idolatry.

Stop, acknowledge your sin, and run to the cross. Look to Jesus, the only one who can blot out your sins. Place your trust in Him. Ask him to change your desires. Ask him to incline your heart to his testimonies and not to selfish gain (Ps. 119:36). Ask him to use your life for His glory. Our God is gracious and forgiving. He delights in answering these prayers.

2. You do have gifts and talents.

“I’m not talented” is a lie. It is a lie that fuels endless pity parties and a disturbing self-centeredness. It is me-focused and paralyzing. It is a lie from the Enemy who wants to keep you ineffective and unproductive in the Kingdom of God.

You must learn to shut your ears to these lies and fill yourself with the Word of God. You may not be “talented” in the ways you would like, but you have everything you need to live a fruitful life in Christ. Seek to renew your mind. Memorize Scripture and meditate on it.

God made you and called you into his Kingdom. (1 Pet. 2:9). He has given you everything you need to serve Him and His body (2 Pet. 1:3). He has prepared good works for you to walk in (Eph. 2:10). If you are part of the Body of Christ, you are an indispensable part (1 Cor. 12: 14-26). You have been given gifts and will be given gifts through the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-8).

3. Seek the glory of God’s name.

Our gifts and talents are not really about us. They have not been given to us that we might enjoy attention and bolster our self-image.

God has invited us to quit wallowing in our putrid selfishness and join Him in spreading His Kingdom. When we accept this invitation, we must put to death any desire to make a name for ourselves in this world.

We live for the glory of God’s name, and His name alone.

We choose to walk in obedient submission to His commands and learn to love what He loves and hate what He hates.

We give our entire selves to God and employ all our gifts and talents for His service. When we do this, we find that our gifts and talents are given that we might love others.

4. Seek to love others.

Love should be the driving force in the discovery and development of your gifts. You do not need to identify everything you’re good at in order to start loving.

Look around you. Then do something about it.

Who do you see? What needs are there? Is anyone sick? Pray for them. Is anyone discouraged? Write them an encouraging note. Is your mom stressed out? Clean the house for her. Does your church need someone to teach Sunday School? Volunteer.

You get the idea.

Just start doing things to serve the body of Christ and reach out to the unbelievers around you. As you do, you may find that you are better suited for certain kinds of love and service and so discover what gifts you already have.

Even more, a growing love for God and others will likely push you to step outside your comfort zone and work hard to develop new gifts so that you might serve even more effectively.

So, stop trying to figure out what you’re good at, and start serving with what you have. God will direct your steps. He may even give you new gifts.

5. Cultivate an attitude of gratefulness.

The fact is, God made you the way you are and gave you the gifts you have. You may never be able to dance like your friend does. Are you okay with that? Can you thank God for what you have?

Thank God for the opportunities he’s given you to love and serve him. Thank him for who He is. Thank him for His gift of salvation. Thank him for the everyday blessings. There is so much to be thankful for! Trust me, you will never run out!

6. Open your eyes and worship.

The secret to a happy life is not feeling good about ourselves, but finding something big enough to knock the planets of our me-centered universes out of orbit. That something is God, the One we were made for. And His glories can be seen throughout the earth. All of creation shouts His name.

I’ve found that there is so much to notice and appreciate when we finally tear our eyes away from our pitiful navel-gazing. There is so much wonder in the universe! Why should the water be so wet? Why should the trees have leaves? Why should the eye perceive color? Why should the ground be so firm? Why should people speak with audible words? Why should the fire burn so hot?

So my advice is, open your eyes. Look around. There are beautiful sunsets and terrifying oceans. There are delightful melodies and delicious foods. There are brave men and brilliant women. There are babies crying and children laughing. There are fish swimming and birds flying. Open your eyes and worship God for what you see.

These are the things that helped me to get out of that miserable pit of discouraged self-absorption. I hope they help you too. I believe that as you throw yourself into loving others, practice gratefulness, and enjoy God’s creation you will forget yourself and find true life and lasting joy!

Love you sister!

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About the Author

is the happy wife of Brett Harris and a joyful follower of Jesus Christ. She is currently waging an intense battle with Lyme Disease, but when healthy she loves to worship God through ballet ministry. She has a passion for writing and evangelism.

  • Emily

    Ana, they are amazing words of wisdom- for all of us! Thank you, Brett, for sharing this!

  • Bethany

    I really loved how you pealed back the deceptive layers of “self-esteem”. The world loves to tell us it’s all about me. My pastor recently said, “Sometimes, we get so decieved that we actually start thinking that this Christian life is about us.” Think about it: “God’s not answering MY prayers.” “Why didn’t God let ME do that?” When really all He wants is for us to lose our lives in His. A young man put it this way, “God, please get more me out of me, so more of You can flow through me.” I really liked point number 4. That is my constant prayer. Thanks so much for thought provoking post!

  • Thank you so much for posting this, Ana! I love how you point out that even when we come out of depression about not being good enough into “positive thinking”, we’re still damaging ourselves and others because our thoughts are focused on ourselves! Thanks for your advice on loving others and simply marveling in God’s creation. God bless!

  • WOW, thank you SO much for being bold enough to speak the truth about this issue! The modern Christian view of self-esteem that’s being fed to teen girls is so destructive, and I’m speaking from experience. It’s so awesome to hear the right message…that the answer isn’t focus on self but abandonment to Jesus Christ.

  • Hana

    Thanks so much for that! I’ve never struggled really in this area but I do have friends who do. I’ll be sure to let them know!

  • Mykah S

    AHHH!!!!! (I just screamed for joy after I finished reading this) Ana thank you so much!

  • Lilia

    Thank you so much for this post. This has been one of my greatest struggles as a Christian and I constantly need to be reminded that my life isn’t about me. God bless!

  • Darcy

    This is so true! I definitely needed to hear this, I’ve been hearing a lot of the “love yourself”, and self esteem talk lately, and its important to remember that LIFE IS NOT ABOUT US!
    Thanks for your words of wisdom!

  • Elizabeth Keil

    Yay for parents’ good advice that can be shared to help other folks struggling with this issue.
    I think the only thing I would add, or mention, is that depression can affect self-esteem. Depression is not something very much talked about in the conservative Christian circles, but it is a real thing. And it is not a sin to be depressed. If you have very low self-esteem, talk with your doctor to see if depression may be part of the reason. If you are depressed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have low self-esteem and if you have low self-esteem it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are depressed. If you are depressed, you should still follow the above advice. And especially pray. Pray lots. As giant as the pit of despair may seem, God is more giant.
    But yeah, we’re living in the “me” culture of instant gratification and it can be easier to see all the things that pull our attention away from where our eyes should be -on Christ. (Colossians 3:1-2)
    Thanks for posting this!

  • Sisa

    Thank you! Amazing words for everybody especcialy for me. I learned a lot from these words, really thank you! I had the same problem. This is very helpful for me. Again, thank you! :)

  • Alison

    WOW, thanks Ana! I think we can all take note from what you have said. You don’t know how that has blessed my morning. I hope that you will continue to write posts. Just curious…what are the posts supposed to be about if I ever wanted to send one in? Anything in particular?

  • Wow, this is a great reply, Ana! And Brett, thanks for posting it! The world wants us to divide people into those who have “talents” and those who don’t. God’s view, however, is entirely different. To Him our “talents” are really of no use if we don’t use them for His
    glory. That’s the sole reason He gave them to us – not for our benefit, but for His!

    I also like that you (Ana) pointed to service as a solution. We all, whether we know it or not, have God-given abilities, and those things are best seen when we begin to serve others. May we use our gifts to serve the One who gave them to us!

  • Nik

    I love this! She should do blogs more often! I’m definitely saving this page… I have a few friends who I think would find this intriguing. Thanks a lot!

  • Shelbi

    This was wonderful, Ana! Thank you!

  • Emily

    I wish i had heard this at an earlier time in my life, I may not have been the self absorbed teenager i used to be. It’s EXTREMELY important for people to realize that, this life isn’t about them… it’s about bringing glory and honor to an Almighty God :)

  • skyla

    wow i couldnt thank you enough for that blog!! that is actually what my youth group has been talking about the “Using your talents God gave you to bring him glory” my bible teachers always comments how “God is gracious enough to give us these gifts, the least we can do is give a part back by serving Him with the gifts he has so graciously given” and i couldnt agree more. thanks again!!

  • Thanks Ana! It’s easy (I’m working on it!) for me to wallow in self-pity, so thank you very, very much for giving me words of truth to focus on instead!

  • Thanks, Ana, for sharing this! It was very encouraging to me!
    God bless!

  • Wow…. awesomely written post! Very motivational, and very Christ centered. You married a wonderful woman! You are very blessed to have her! :)

    – Ruthie

  • Thank you Ana!
    I have also struggled in the past with being “no good at anything.” I shared with my mom how I felt, and she encouraged me to keep trying new things, but not to worry, because I was still quite young, and had plenty of time to develop an interest. She was right! God answered my prayers in an interesting way.
    I love to read so much, and we had so many books in our house that there was no room for more, so my parents bought me a Kindle e-reader for Christmas. I like to take notes, so I purchased a notepad app for it. That is how it all started! I began to write more than just notes, but stories on my Kindle, and came to realize that that was what I wanted to do, write books. It’s one year later, and I now have a laptop where I write down, and edit my stories, and ideas. I am so glad that God gave me a gift that I can use to honor Him!

  • Ana, I hope you can write more for this website! This post has been such a great help to me. Do you have a blog of your own?

    • Hey Angelle, I totally agree with you. I can’t wait for Ana to write more for this website either. 😉

      She really would like to, but she’s been very sick since August with Lyme Disease and might not be able to post again until she’s feeling better.

      Please keep her in your prayers!

  • Lilia

    Ana, I was wondering, what exactly is ballet ministry? I dance ballet, so that sounds interesting to me. Oh, and by the way, this is one of my favorite posts on this site. Thank you!

    • Ana Harris

      Hi Lilia, I’m glad you asked. =) It just means using dance as worship and as an opportunity to encourage others and share the gospel. Have you heard of Ballet Magnificat? I was a trainee with them for a year. They do a great job of creating powerful ballets that point others to Christ. If you’re interested you should check out their summer dance intensive:

  • Ana,
    As a young teen, I struggled with chronic Lyme disease. The battle may be long and hard, but it can be won! Keep on fighting, there is better health in the future! Praying for you…

    • Ana Harris

      Thank you so much! I appreciate your prayers.

  • Allison

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about how God’s Word directs us to live our lives in light of the matter of low self-esteem! I needed it!

  • Anna L

    This article was really good! How would you suggest that a teenager fixes the addictions that come from being self absorbed? Like cutting and purging? I am having a really hard time stopping.

  • Anna Matherne

    Hi Ana! I love that you use your talent of ballet for the Lord. I do the same. I just got back from Ballet Magnificat!’s Summer Dance Intensive 2013. There, my counselor (Omega company) saw me reading “Do Hard Things” and told me that you were in the Trainee Program and told me to search about you. I went to a Christian dance studio for years but left last year to move to a more intense ballet studio because thats my love. At my old studio I found it so easy to dance for an audience of One. Since moving I find it harder and harder to dance for Him. Im dancing more to please my teachers and get their approval when I know in my heart I want God’s approval. Going to BMag SDI reminded me to dance for Him, yet upon returning to my regular classes I want to lease my teachers so so that I can land the role of Clara in this years Nutcracker.

  • Brooke Lauren

    Thank you so much for writing this! These steps are perfect because they not only are steps to fight low self-esteem, but also “high self-esteem” as well! I have struggled and continue to struggle with both, so these really help me! thanks!

  • Patty K

    Ana- WOW!!! Thank You for tough love! I’ve been reading articles all morning (yawn) about “SELF” esteem. “GOD” esteem, and lots of other fluff…
    Thank you for validating my reality! the problem is the “self” part. As a Christian woman, everything was contradicting what my spirit is led to believe; the quicker I get out of SELF the better I am. You know, (S)He who loses his life will find it…
    I was diagnosed with depression before I was in kindergarten and have had a battle the past 8 years with an autoimmune disease and I have found by my own experience, what you say in this article is the ONE TRUE CURE!
    Amen Ana!
    I send this comment with a Prayer;
    I pray for my sister. I pray that Your Spirit be ever present, reminding Ana that You are our Strength, our Joy, our Comfort and our Hope!
    We love You Lord- and when we can’t get out of bed, we will still sing for joy!
    Ps. 149;5
    In Jesus name I pray and Bless Your Holy Name >

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