Updated: Aug 21, 2022
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BEFORE YOU BEGIN...
Have you ever wondered: "Is this it? Is this life?". Generally, things aren't all bad, yet there is discontentment, and you can't quite figure out why. Your self-talk goes something like this:
"I know should be grateful, happier, and just make the most of it. Everyone else seems to be doing OK. In fact, they seem they seem to be doing a whole lot better than me. They all seem to have it together, to be further ahead, to be achieving big things. Maybe I am a misfit. Defective. Maybe I don't have what it takes. Maybe this is life."
Spirals of negative thoughts darken the nights, and pervasive anxieties gnaw at the days. You feel stuck. Hopeless. You begin to believe that your lot is a life of mundane and mediocrity, inferiority and insecurity, struggle and stagnation.
"Not all of us are good enough, that's just the way that it is."
If this sounds like you, it's fully possible that low self-worth has made itself at home in your life. Maybe it's time for an eviction?
Welcome to our second installment of Battles & Bridges. This week we are crossing the bridge to healthier self-worth.
• BACKGROUND: About Self Worth
• BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE: What Does The Bible Teach
• BATTLE GROUND: What to Look Out For
• BATTLE PLAN: Walking across the bride to healthier self-worth
There are several similar and overlapping terms in this area of self. Here are some working definitions for this Battle Plan:
Self-esteem is your internal assessment of your qualities and attributes.
Self-confidence is your portrayed belief in yourself and your abilities and is largely situational.
Self-knowledge is how well you know your strengths and weaknesses, gifts and talents, preferences, emotions, and desires
Self-worth is the measure, a core belief really, that you hold of your true value. As such, it has a profound impact on all aspects of your life. It is here that we will focus.
Generally, you derive your sense of self-worth from
Self-talk - the narrative in your head
Experiences - those that happen to you, those that you choose, and those that happen around you
Achievements (and more often, failures)
Repeated messages that have been internalized and become your beliefs
Childhood. Often, low self-worth is linked to Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). By definition, CEN is a parent’s failure to meet their child’s emotional needs during the early years. It involves unresponsive, unavailable, and limited emotional interactions between that person and the child. It is critical to note that blaming parents is NOT a step over the bridge to healthy self-worth. Blaming perpetuates the battle.
How others treat you (in thought, word, and action)
Low self-worth can be crippling. It produces feelings of inferiority and worthlessness, leading to anxiety, fear depression, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. These are some low self-worth symptoms*:
•Insecurity and painful feelings of inferiority
•Intense self-criticism and negative self-talk
•Excessive worry about what others think
•Fear of failure
•Fear of risk and trying new things
•Giving up easily
•Acting inauthentically to impress others or avoid conflict
•Compromising values to impress others or avoid conflict
•Defensiveness and hyper-sensitivity
•Chronic indecision, procrastination, and perfectionism
•Poor communication skills
•Lack of self-care
After reading that list, would you agree it's time to work on your self-worth?
Truth: True Self-worth Comes From God
There are many passages in the Bible, like this one, that tell you about your worth to God. (e.g. Gen 1:26-27, Ps 139:13-16, Jn 3:16 Eph1:3,13-14) All these passages have a common thread: they are not things that you earned, mustered up, achieved, or deserved. They are all things given to you and done for you by God. They are all received, by grace through faith.
According to the Bible, your sense of self-worth should not be dependent on or derived from the usual sources of self-talk, experiences, achievements (and failures), internalized messages, or even CEN or the opinions of others.
It should come from one place - God.
There's an incredibly freeing paradox here: your self-worth doesn’t come from yourself at all. If it comes from God, that means it's not determined by your successes and it means it's not
determined by your failures!
Your self-worth may too often be based on experiences, your childhood environment, and what other people tell you about yourself. You are valuable because God said so. The end.
Truth: True Self-Worth Comes with a Purpose
We talk a lot about how God created people on purpose, for a purpose. Eph 2:10 is famous and often paraphrased as 'you are God's masterpiece', and there is truth in that. However, it is not written to an individual. It says "we are God's masterpiece". Similarly, Jer 29:11 says "For I know the plans and purposes I have for you…" The 'you' is plural, not singular, as the message is for a group of people.
We can easily overemphasize individuality, thanks to our westernized world system, and miss that God has ascribed worth and value to each person as part of a community with a purpose - His Church. That is his masterpiece! This is where the plans and purposes come together.
Understanding that your self-worth is linked to your self-in-community is key. Self-worth is the belief that your life has meaning, value, and purpose. God has a plan and a purpose for you. He planned it all long ago. The place where that is discovered is in the collective of His people; you are one part of His body.
Truth: True Self-Worth Comes at a Price
There is not much worth in things that are dead, right? And that is what we were. (Eph 2:1). Yet, God loved us in spite of our unworthiness, and "made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God".
There is a great exchange here. Our unworthiness for the infinite worth of Christ, through his death on the cross.
You might spend a lot of time and energy trying to be a copy of someone else instead of the original you. Yet, Jesus has paid the ultimate price for you, to be you, as part of His plan, with His people.
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Ephesians 2:1-3 reminds us of the three things that are always opposed to the Kingdom of God and the will of God, the world system, the domain of darkness, and the fleshly nature.
I. The WORLD SYSTEM The environment and culture we are in. It is the place of desensitization and relaxation (dropping your guard).
you used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world,
Look out for: messages of if… then… E.G. if you are better, prettier, smarter… then you will be worthy. These all point to the wrong source of self-worth, and are founded upon a striving spirit.
Counter a pervasive narrative with Truth: True Self-Worth Comes from God The true authority on your self-worth is God himself. What is the source of your self-worth? If it's not God, it's not going to be good. Part of the journey is to continuously find your self-worth in God and to start to live aligned with His truth. If your connection with God is sporadic your self-worth will stay low. Stay connected to the source of your self-worth by spending time with God.
II. The DOMAIN OF DARKNESS The enemy works by deception (lies) and destruction (of your purpose)
obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.
Look out for: lies about your worth and your purpose. Pointing you to faults and failures, sowing seeds of doubt about God's view and value of you. Reinforcing feelings of worthlessness and meaninglessness, and keeping you solely focused on yourself.
Counter Deception with Truth: True Self-Worth Comes with a Purpose. As you start to understand more of your self-worth, purpose, and God's plan, can you see how the place to work that out is in community and not as an individual? Find your place, find your purpose!
III. The FLESHLY NATURE This is where we battle temptation and rationalization
All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature.
Look out for: cycles of negative self-talk, overinflated self-esteem (pridefulness, narcissism),
Comparison, coveting, compromising on values for approval, living inauthentically, and trying to be something you are not (a copy instead of an original) because you don't realize the value that you have.
Counter temptation with Truth: True Self-Worth Comes at a Price. God sent his own Son for you to give his life on the cross, paying the ultimate price. He did this, for you to be you because he values YOU. Stand upon that, and resist the temptation to try to be something you are not. Only an original has true value.
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Crossing the bridge to healthy self-worth requires persistence and consistent hard work because the lies that have been internalized run deep. It often seems easier to stay in a cycle of denial, but it's so much better to take a step forward!
Here are ten big thoughts as you put together your battle plan:
You are worthy because God said so
You have strengths and weaknesses
You will make mistakes
You won't be liked by everyone
God has a plan and a purpose for you (us), and the place to start figuring that out is together in the community of a local church.
Be willing to graciously accept the compliments and encouragements of others, else you are discounting their opinions and their desire to express gratitude to you. These positive words will reinforce your God-given self-worth.
Counter negative self-talk and lies with Biblical truth. For example
Instead of saying "I just can’t seem to do anything right.” rather declare that “God is able to make all grace abound to me, so that in all things at all times, having all that I need, I will abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:8).
Instead of saying “I can’t forgive myself.” rather declare that God says “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isa 43:25).
Decide to take responsibility for your self-worth. That means you decide where it comes from, and inherently you will need to stop blaming others for your low-self worth. You may also need to determine which relationships are toxic and set boundaries in place.
Every win is worth celebrating, no matter how small. Celebrating every step, every goal achieved and getting up after every failure reinforces your God-given self-worth.
Friends. Talk to them about what is going on in your head, and what you believe about yourself. Secret things, including the negative thoughts you have about feeling unworthy, are strongholds. When you are vulnerable enough to share your struggle with someone, the strongholds start to lose power.
Gratitude - Thank and acknowledge God for all that He has given to and done for you, even while you were dead in your sin. Thank Him for his forgiveness, mercy, and grace, and live in that.
Have a picture of where are you going. Imagine what would it look like for you to live with healthy self-worth. Remember you are on a journey. It takes time, but you will get there. Keep this picture in front of mind.
Invest time in learning about your strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. You can use a tool like Gallup Strengthfinders, and ask people close to you to share feedback on traits and characteristics that they appreciate.
Journal - Start a prayer journal. The battle for self-worth is a spiritual battle, and prayer is a powerful weapon to take down strongholds. The Holy Spirit will reveal lies that you have believed if you ask Him to. Confess these lies, and begin to replace them with truth. Prayerfully recognize areas where you are elevating human comment above God's opinion of you, and ask God's forgiveness for that. Write down the truth of who God says you are. A journal is incredibly helpful because you can come back to it to remind yourself of lies that have been uncovered and broken, and truths that God has spoken.
Scriptures to meditate on
Recommended Reading / Audiobook
(also available on Scribd)
You ARE worthy because God says so. This is a fact that is independent of your feelings.
You CAN confront and kill negative thoughts. You ARE able to change.
No matter was has gone before, remember that the past was then, and this is now. Learn from mistakes and failures, yours and others, and focus on the future as you walk across the bridge to healthier self-worth.
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* List sourced with thanks from Project Exodus Recovery material