Biblical Principles for Developing a Healthy Self-Worth
Summary: In light of the fact that we are precious to God, it’s no wonder that when self-esteem techniques dismiss God as part of the solution, they do not produce lasting results.

In light of the fact that we are precious to God, it’s no wonder that when self-esteem techniques dismiss God as part of the solution, they do not produce lasting results. God has a plan for you to improve how you feel about yourself, to boost your confidence and improve your relationships with others. His plan involves seeking ways to help others.

Philippians 2:3-4 counsels us this way:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (NKJV).

Helping Others Helps You

Did you know that people who volunteer actually improve their self-esteem?i Science also seems to support the idea that helping others is good for us. Researcher Jennifer Crocker and associates found that, “People with compassionate goals feel clear and connected, cooperative, close, and have less conflict.”ii In short, people who consider the interests of others are more likely to feel loved and accepted and therefore feel good about themselves.

Maybe the reason that serving others helps us to feel good about ourselves is because we more accurately reflect the character of God when we do so.

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

We must remember, though, that we can never do anything to earn favor with God. The fact is, we are undeserving of His goodness which He pours out upon us—also called grace—since we have rebelled against Him through sin. It is God that lifts us up from our fallen, sinful state. We see our value in how He loves us. We do not have any inherent goodness, but all goodness we exhibit comes from Him. Each one of us deserves sin—“the wages of sin is death” says Romans 6:23—but God lifts us from our sinful state and makes us heirs with his Son and accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). So while helping others can help you to shift the focus away from yourself to others, the motive should never be to win God’s favor.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem

Here are some activities based on Biblical principles that can help you to improve your sense of self-worth. Volunteer. Find out what needs your community has and get involved. Helping others is a great way to get connected. In God’s economy, when you help others, blessings also come to you (See Luke 6:38).

Reject negative thinking. When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself and being overly critical, stop. Remind yourself that God loved you so much, He gave His only Son as a sacrifice so that He could live with you forever (John 3:16). God did this knowing that you are not perfect.

Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. As humans, we make mistakes. This does not gloss over our wrongs. When we make mistakes, we should admit our sin or error, and repent, asking God for forgiveness. He promises to forgive us and this enables us to forgive ourselves. 2 Corinthians 7:10 has this to say about guilt:

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

Choose your friends carefully. Spend time with people who do not criticize or condemn others. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to encourage one another and build each other up. Seek relationships that are mutually up-building.iii

Something to Meditate On: Facts About Your Self-Worth

1. What God thinks of you is most important. You do not have to be liked or approved of by others to feel valued. God proved how valuable you are to Him by sending His Son to die for you. He wants you to live with Him forever. You are of infinite value to God. Therefore, your goal in life should not be to please others and keep everyone happy. Your primary concern should be doing what pleases God.

2. God wants you to care for yourself. Although the Bible tells you to “esteem others,” you cannot neglect or abuse yourself. Since Jesus died for you, He requires you to “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit.” You cannot glorify God in a neglected, uncared for body. Even Jesus took breaks from caring for others to care for Himself. God wants you to look after yourself.

3. It’s okay to say “no” sometimes. Some people fall for the deception that caring for others at the expense of their own health gains them favor with God. This is untrue. It is also untrue that God condones covering up for others when they are sinning or submitting to someone in authority when they are asking you to do what is wrong. Rather than asking, “Am I expected to do this?” ask, “Does God require this of me?”

4. God is your judge, not anyone else. Since that is true, when others criticize you, you can take it in stride, even if it is unwarranted (See 1 Corinthians 4:4). But examine yourself first. If you are at fault, then it is your privilege to accept correction graciously, knowing that God often uses others to show us where we need to change. Proverbs 9:9 says, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” But remember, the Bible also says, “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently” (1 Peter 2:20). So regardless of whether the criticism is justified or not, if you submit your will to God, you can handle it with grace.

5. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Because you are loved by God, you can survive even if it seems that everyone else hates you. Many people hated Jesus and disapproved of Him, but that didn’t stop Him from living in a way that pleased God. He knew God loved Him. Because He trusted in God’s unchanging love for Him, He could face the abuse. He did not hide from people or quit doing what He needed to do when He knew that others hated Him and said bad things about Him. He will give you strength to carry on even when it seems like everyone hates you and disapproves.iv

Finally, remember that nothing can change your value to God. Jesus said that God, who notices everything, knows every detail about you and still He loves you with an everlasting love:

Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12:6-7; NKJV).


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