What Good Self-Esteem Can’t Do For You

Bondage to What?

There’s a link between self-esteem and self-consciousness, but not maybe in the way we initially think. Sometimes, when women struggle with self-consciousness, it means they’re worried what people think of them. So they try to get out from under the bondage, fear, and concern that dominates them by not caring what people think.

Or they try to build healthy self-esteem, and they think that if they just have enough of a good feeling about who they are, it will help them build healthy self-esteem, stop fearing what people think, and feel less self-conscious.

But that doesn’t work. Self-esteem doesn’t work, because underneath it we know our weaknesses and we know our sin. So trying to pile on all the good qualities we have can sort of just serve as a mask to the world that says, “Well I’m just going to not show you the bad things even though I know they’re really there.” Or, “I’m going to turn to turn a blind eye to the bad things in me and pretend they’re not there.”

It’s Christ-esteem we need, not self-esteem.

That doesn’t really get us anywhere. The problem with self-esteem is that it’s sort of a denial or antithesis to what Scripture says about us. Scripture says that we are depraved, we’re sinful, we are as bad as we think we are on our worst day—and we’re worse than that.

Who We Really Are

In fact, someone said that if we were to see the depth of our sin and really get how sinful we are, we’d go insane because we wouldn’t be able to handle it. So that’s why self-esteem does us no good. We’re way worse than we think, so we can’t pretend otherwise if we want to be faithful and true to who God made us to be, who we are and Christ, and who we are as fallen human beings.

Only in Christ do we have any sort of esteem. The esteem we have is the identity we have in him. It’s Christ-esteem we need, not self-esteem. It’s him. He comes and saves us and remakes us. We are transformed into his image and then we become all that God intended for us to be. We become the real us, uniquely made in God’s image as individuals only in Christ.

So divorced from that, there really is no self-esteem that we can lay hold of and feel good about. To that end, it kind of ties in with another remedy we hear: you just have to realize God loves you so much that Jesus would have died on the cross if you were the only person who ever lived. It's meant to constantly build up how much we’re worth in God’s eyes. But where is that pointing?


Lydia Brownback

This book aims to free women from self-focus and replace it with truth from God’s word about the abundant life Jesus promises them in the gospel.

It’s pointing to our worth and away from the worth of Christ. We need to see again and again that freedom from self-consciousness doesn’t come from a greater self-esteem, it doesn’t come from recognizing our worth—it comes from recognizing Christ’s worth.

Paradoxically, the more we’re focused there, the more we’ll find the very freedom, joy, and peace that we’re hungering for. That’s what sets us free from needing the approval of other people.

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