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Self-esteem is an often talked about concept that I believe is largely misunderstood. Our self-esteem is how our internal beliefs about who we are (our self-concept) are played out in our outward actions or moods. Sometimes our self-esteem, or how we feel about ourselves, is demonstrated in how we treat ourselves. Do we put ourselves down? Do we think we are less than others? Do we feel unworthy of happiness? Do we punish ourselves? Do we feel unworthy of love? Do we feel significant? Do we feel important?

Consider self-esteem from the picture of a flower. The beautiful petals and colorful “top” of the flower is often what we immediately see and focus on. But follow the rest of the plant and see from where it comes. Below the flower is a stem that carries nutrients to the petals allowing for the creation of beauty. Below the stem is the base that is often accompanied by leaves that are not very colorful. Below the base is the root system, or in some cases the bulb, which is not seen. It is from this root system that the top beauty is determined.

Our self-esteem is based on our self-concept or “root system”. The key is to focus on the self-concept. The self-concept is determined by the inner beliefs about our self not our outward appearance. What we believe about ourselves is largely determined by what we do and more specifically by whether or not we do the “right” thing. What we believe who we are is also determined by what we have heard from others as we have grown up, as well as what we have taken to heart about our self from observing our behavior and the experiences we have had and how we have understood those happenings in our thoughts turning them into beliefs.

Sometimes parents and significant caregivers such as grandparents, aunt and uncles, teachers, coaches, etc., provide powerful words that have long term effects on the development of children and young people. I wish I could say that these words are not as powerful as we get older, but self-concept is ever-changing. The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me!” is anything but the truth. Words never go away and they have a profound influence and impact on us.

One of the first and probably the most important step to changing our self-concept and then our self-esteem is to do the “right” thing all the time. Also we can change self-concept by changing what you are basing it on. Perhaps some of those people who put you down really are not important. They were or are likely struggling with a strong dislike for themselves, so how could they be positive with you. Those people who really care about you and want good things for you are the important ones. Sometimes these people are not who we think they should be. Yes, our parents or relatives “should” be the important ones but…

Our main source of our self-concept should be how God sees us. This will likely come from becoming familiar with and meditating upon what He says about us. The Bible strongly states that we are so valuable and that He loves us so much He sent His son to die for us. God did this just so we could have a relationship with Him. God wants us to know we are valuable to Him. Also, it is important to find those who will share God’s love with us through relationship and investing in our lives with significant words and encouragement.  Seek out these people, and do not listen to those who are trying to tear you down.

Pursue significance through a caring, loving relationship with God.

Recommended Reading: Perilous Pursuits by Joseph Stowell