When I was only 11 years old, my dad passed away after a battle that began with sickle cell anemia. Every kid wants and deserves to grow up with their father. It seemed as though I would have another chance at it when my mom married my stepdad. Unfortunately, he paled in comparison to my biological father. As much as I tried to spend time with him and develop the relationship I desired and needed, it never seemed to be a priority for him. He seemed to favor my younger brother – playing with him, coaching only his teams, and so on. My relationship with my stepfather became very contentious. So much so that after a particularly intense shouting match I considered running away. After losing one father and being rejected by the next, my self-esteem was seriously challenged and I began to question God and everything about who I thought I was.
My low sense of self led me to some very reckless and even illegal behaviors as I grew older. It all came to a head during finals week of my freshman year of college. I was talking to my mom on the phone and she informed me that the emotional abuse, the lying and the gambling had finally brought her to part ways with my stepdad. I finally felt as though I could tell my mom the rejection and anger I had felt. I told her that I believed that he never loved me like my younger brother. Maybe he was expecting, or even hoping, that she would assure me that that wasn’t the case, and that he had loved me. She didn’t. She confirmed that it was not my insecurities that made me feel unloved, that he had openly expressed to her his desire to focus solely on my brother. Until that moment, my feelings were only suspicions. Now, they were confirmed.
If the story ended here it wouldn’t be a great one. If this challenge to my self-esteem had been successful, you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now. To this day, I don’t know why he played favorites or why I was chosen to endure that type of rejection in my childhood. I do know, now, that those things made me who I am and gave me the fortitude to persevere through anything. Additionally, I now possess the ability to give others the tools and inspiration to do the same. Sometimes we are challenged and the attack prevents our progress, but sometimes the attack precipitates our purpose.
Here are some truths about how you should view your self-worth.
- Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to. (This goes both ways. Don’t think too little of yourself either.)
- Don’t compare yourself to others. I know we live in a society in which we are taught from a young age to compare ourselves to others and to compete to be the “best,” but this can be a recipe for disaster if you can’t control it.
- Assess yourself based on your capabilities and honest effort. It is impossible to do better than your best. Be honest with yourself as to whether you could have done more.
- Everyone has a purpose and that makes you inherently valuable to the earth. It’s up to you to make sure what’s inside of you, comes out. Be the solution to the problem you see. Usually, whatever frustrates you is what you were put here to solve.
Your circumstances do not determine your self-worth. Your purpose exists in spite of your circumstances. Isaiah 46:10 says, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’” The way God works is that He sees the end, then goes back to the beginning and starts building. When it comes to fulfilling our purpose in life that is how we must attempt to view the circumstances and situations we go through as well. Unfortunately, we don’t have the foresight of God, which is why trust in Him is of utmost importance.
If you are having difficulty regaining or maintaining a healthy self-esteem here are some action steps to take:
- Focus on the things you can change. Sometimes things happen in life that are out of your control (like my father passing away or my stepdad not loving me).
- Spend most of your time focusing on what you can control, fix, or improve.
- Write down what you are good at and spend time maximizing those attributes.
- Don’t try to be perfect. Try to be successful. Identify what steps you need to take in order to succeed in your career, in your ministry, or in any area of life and hold yourself to that Perfection is relative and therefore doesn’t exist.
Remember, that a life lived on purpose will increase your self-worth