SELF IMAGE AND SELF ESTEEM
Each one of us carries around within our hearts a self-picture/description of our strengths, weaknesses, physical features, abilities and character (self-image) and evaluation of our worth, competence and significance (self-esteem). Self-image could either be a good/bad self-image while self-esteem could be a positive/negative self-esteem. These have great influences on how we present ourselves to others, feel, think, act and do other things. People with good image and positive self-esteem have good self-description and positive evaluation of their worth, competence and significance. They see themselves as being good, worthwhile and capable. They feel good about themselves, love and believe in themselves. They take good care of themselves and are courageous, confident and bold and what other persons do or say about them has little or no effect on them.
On the other hand, those with a bad self-image and low self-esteem have an awful picture of their self-image and low evaluation of their worth, competence and significance. They evaluate themselves as been unworthy and capable. They feel bad about themselves, they don’t feel loveable or lovely and they don’t take care of or believe in themselves. They are not courageous, not confident and often allow what others do or say about them have a negative effect on them.
EFFECTS OF LOW SELF ESTEEM
We all have experienced some form of inferiority at one point or the other in our lives and which we simply overcame. However, there are some people it has become part and parcel of. Bad self-image and low self-esteem causes mental anguish, loneliness, depression and is capable of leading to suicide. It makes one miserable. It hampers achievements and fulfillment. It makes one compare oneself to others, wishing to be like someone else. It makes one have a negative attitude life’s challenges as well as a pessimistic outlook on life. It makes one have self-defeating habits and behaviors, striving to become something or someone else instead of appreciating and enjoying who they are. Bad self-image and low self-esteem have devastating effects on those given to it as we see in the life of King Saul.
Prophet Samuel’s statement in 1 Samuel 15:17 about King Saul reveal something very important that could be said to be among the things that influenced the way he behaved and acted. The prophet Samuel told King Saul “When thou wast small in thine own sight…” (1 Samuel 15:17). Is it not surprising that this remark was made of a man whose father was said to “be a man of power” and himself described as ‘a choice young man, and goodlier’. “And there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people?” (1 Samuel 9:1-2: 10:24). The statement Saul made about himself in reply to Prophet Samuels words of praise of him and family affirmed he was truly small in his own eyes; “And Saul answered and said; Am not I Benjamite, of the smallest tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou to me?”(1 Samuel 9:21). This statement is that of someone that believed he is insignificant and unworthy! It is a statement of low self-esteem/inferiority complex and bad self-image! King Saul suffered from inferiority and a bad self-image.
Among the traits of people with inferiority complex are negative opinions about themselves; they believe that they are incompetent and unworthy. They find it difficult to accept praise and are fond of making belittling statements about themselves.
Can you imagine Saul, an adult and a father with all those rugged physical qualities going into hiding among “the stuff” “baggage” when he was to be revealed to the people as king? (1 Samuel 11:22-23). This he did because like him, people with insecurities have negative self-consciousness about their appearance, performance, and status which most times causes them to withdraw from others. Although, Saul was a perfect match for Goliath the head of the Philistine’s warriors considering his height, and his experience in the many battles he had already fought and won, (1 Samuel 14:47-48) he couldn’t confront Goliath because he thought he was not good enough and afraid of the threats by Goliath (1 Samuel 17:10-11). People with a sense of insecurity always have self- doubt; they are never good enough in their own eyes. They fear challenges and taking risks.
Inferiority complex and a bad self-concept was what made him see an innocent young chap (David) of his own son’s age as his competitor and enemy and he kept a “jealous eye on him” (1 Samuel 18:9) simply because of mere words from the songs by some women. His jealousy turns to paranoia. He started throwing javelins and running after the poor boy’s life. Insecure people are always jealous and have critical and judgmental views of others. They view others as competition to beat and not as friends. Insecurity was what made a God-anointed king like him to fear and listen to the voice of his subjects under his control and disobeyed God. This is because people with an inferiority complex are extremely afraid of other people and also sensitive to the opinions of others. They don’t act independently but like to follow the crowd. King Saul consulted the witch at Endor he had outlawed as evil from the land because insecure people tend to always return to their vomits (1 Samuel 28:3,8).
Instead of Him as a king to develop a good relationship with David as one of his loyal subjects, his son’s friend, a son in-law, a captain over his army and comforter, he removed David from himself, 1 Samuel 18: 11-12. This is because people with low-self esteem have difficulty getting along with others. King Saul wasted precious time he could have used to prepare and strategized for war against all the enemy nations surrounding him to chase after David a man at peace with him because inferiority makes one leave the real subject unattended to while chasing after shadows.
It is pathetic to see the devastation inferiority and low self-esteem brought upon King Saul, one of the Bible characters with the best introduction in the Scripture and one of the most gifted. He was a man with great potential, a leader, a warrior, an anointed king, and a prophet.
Many in the society especially youths have chronic low self-esteem issue that is seriously hindering every area of their lives and health. Low self-esteem has reduced many with great potentials to mere shadows of themselves as it did to king Saul.
CAUSES OF INFERIORITY
Inferiority is not something developed in a day but developed over time from childhood or in younger years. Some of the causes are thus:
a) Saul’s statement about his family as the least of all the families of the tribe Benjamin, and Benjamin the smallest of the tribes of Israel, revealed one of the causes of inferiority complex is racism, classism and ethnicity, discrimination and degradation of people belonging to a minority group and tribe by the people from the majority group or color. Going through the Bible one discovers that the Israelites of old were found of saying derogatory statements against smaller tribes.
b) In places or communities where people’s worth are measured by their wealth, achievements and high educational levels, people from poor homes tend to suffer from inferiority complex than those from rich homes.
c) Saul’s outstanding physique was yet another likely cause of his poor self-image and low self-esteem (he towers from shoulder upward above all members of Israel). Having outstanding features, looks, talents, gifts, and abilities has its own advantages and disadvantages. People with very outstanding features, beautiful looks, academic prowess like those with physical deficits and handicaps and other rare features suffer inferiority alike. One of the disadvantages is that their uniqueness draws other’s attention to them and it is this uniqueness they will use to bully them, due to jealousy and envy. People don’t like or appreciate the unusual because they are afraid of what they don’t understand.
d) Abuse: Those who have suffered grievous physical, verbal, cyberbullying, emotional and sexual abuse tend to suffer insecurities than those who didn’t. Sarcastic remarks from teachers or disciplines meant to embarrass children in front of others, name-calling, ridicule all rob children of their self-esteem.
e) Experiences of defeat or failure: Some individuals, families, society, and religion set certain goals and high standards of attainment. Failure to attain these when others have succeeded will definitely make those who couldn’t meet up to feel inferior.
f) Parents with issues of inferiority and insecurities themselves usually bring up their children the way they are thereby passing their inferiority and insecurities to their children.
g) Faulty thinking: We all self-talk and think about ourselves. Ironically, most of the thoughts and talks that many of us have and entertain in our minds concerning our selves are those that undermine self-esteem which in the actual fact are lies we believe about ourselves.
HOW TO OVERCOME INFERIORITY ISSUES
The good news is that all hope is not lost for those suffering from low self-esteem because it is a feeling one can overcome through God and with determination to change as well as a commitment to reading the word of God. It is something one can overcome in gradual but progressive way over time.
- TURN TO GOD
The first step to true self-realization and self-evaluation is to turn to God our creator by embracing His gracious salvation through Jesus Christ who died for us on the cross of Calvary. Jesus Christ the Captain of our salvation is a Champion in the area of right self-description and good self-evaluation and humility. His indwelling spirit in us is the spirit of love and a sound mind. His Words in the Holy Scripture and fellowshipping with other believers enables one to get over inferiority complex. Going through the Scripture, one discovers that all the genuine believers such as Abraham, Noah, Joseph, Job, King David, and Apostle Paul just to name a few all passed through situations capable of making them feel insecure. However, they did not since they knew who they were as children of God. Knowing who our God and father is will help us know and understand who we are. They were bold, outstanding, courageous, outspoken and outgoing yet humble.
- SEE YOURSELF AS GOD SEES YOU
Saul was small in his own eyes, 1 Samuel 15:17. However, God who sees and knows everyone and everything He has created and the One who does not see as a man sees saw Saul in a different perspective. The way God saw Saul was the way he was described in 1 Samuel 9:1-2. God saw Saul as a beloved and wonderful person from a noble family and a wonderful tribe from among His chosen people of Israel. God saw in Saul a man he was fearfully and wonderfully made with unique and outstanding physical features no one else in the nation had; a man of inestimable worth and significance He had created in His own image and likeness. He saw in him a man of great potential, a youth with talent and a born leader and a man whose heart followed after him. God believed Saul could achieve greatness and made him a king over His nation Israel. God knew his areas of strength and weakness and anointed him with the Holy Spirit to help in areas of his weakness and spirituality.
The way God saw Saul best describes the way He sees and knows each and every one of us irrespective of tribe, sex, age, religion, nationality, status, strength and weakness (Psalm 139:1-17). God made each of us who we are, how we are and placed us in the families, tribe and the nation we belong to because He knows what is good for us. He has our best interest at heart (Jeremiah 29:11). He owns the earth, and everything belongs to Him (Psalm 24:1). God does not discriminate against anyone of us as coming from the least group or tribe or from a poor family but as one from a wonderful family lineage and tribe. With God, no race is superior to another. No complexion or stature is superior to another. To God, we are all humans and the same red blood runs in our veins (Acts 17:26; Colossian 3:11). In God are all families of the earth named (Ephesians 3:15).
God sees each of us as a special unique individual, the only one with his or her unique physical features, one of a kind that He had created wonderfully and fearfully, Psalm 139:14. He sees each one of us as His beloved child, one in His image and likeness, each having his or her own share of His spirit and characters. We are his offspring, Acts17:28. As his children, each of us is greatly loved and of inestimable value to him, as he tells us in Isaiah 43:4. He sees each of one as someone with great deposits of potentials, gifts, and talents, one who could achieve greatness in life because we are the crown of His creation, Psalm:5: 5-8,
His great love and value for us made Him redeem us back to Himself when sin dented His image and likeness in us. He brought us back to himself with the most precious blood of His only begotten son Jesus Christ because we are of inestimable worth, 1 Corinthians 6: 20; 1 Peter 1:18-19. He made us new creatures and gave us His Holy Spirit within us. We are complete in Jesus Christ, Colossians 2:10. Jesus has made us kings and priests to our God, Revelation 1:6. All written above and much more are what the Word of God says you are. Believe in what the word of God says you are and act who you are in Christ.
- KNOW YOURSELF
The foremost thing you should always have at the back of your mind irrespective of the condition of your body and situation of your life is that you are a human being having a body, soul, and spirit and with blood ruining in your veins like everyone else. You are created by God in His image and likeness, born of a woman and with the God type of life in you. You are everyone else’s equal as a human; therefore don’t be afraid or intimidated by anybody. As a carrier of the spirit of God in the inside of you, you are not ordinary, you are loaded and full of potentials and capabilities. You are loaded because you have the spirit of God in you. You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. You are an overcomer, the child of the Most High God. No matter what may come your way you have what it takes to overcome it.
- LOVE YOURSELF
We know that being humble is one of the Christian traits. However, our being asked to be humble does not imply having low self-esteem or not loving oneself. To love God and others, one must first love oneself. Therefore love yourself, respect yourself, be kind to yourself and take very good care of yourself. What others see you do to yourself is what they would do to you. Dress as you want to be addressed. Carry your posture well and smile always.
- FORGIVE YOURSELF
The wrongs or mistakes you made in the past were as a result of you being human. We all make mistakes and do wrong things. Although, the wrongs and mistakes of the past cannot be undone, however you can learn from them instead of dwelling on them which is of no good to you at all. You may have lost many opportunities in life, nevertheless many other opportunities lie ahead of you. The best thing you can do for yourself is to make amends by not repeating such things in the future and to forgive yourself. To overcome the feelings of guilt that comes as a result of self-condemnation you must confess them to God and receive His forgiveness. In Jesus Christ, there is no more condemnations, Romans 8:1.
- BE POSITIVE
It has been pointed out earlier in this write up that what you think of yourself and what you say about yourself both positively and negatively influences your personality and behavior. This is also true for what you believe about yourself. It is therefore important to stop saying, thinking and seeing negative things about yourself, family and tribe. Change from negativity to positivity. “Finally brethren, whatsoever things that are true, whatsoever things that are honest, whatsoever thing are just, whatsoever things that are lovely, whatsoever things that are of a good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praiseful, think on these things”, Philippians 4:8.
- DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS
We are all unique individuals with our individual differences. This implies you are yourself and others are themselves. You are unique, you are special, you are a class of your own. That is to say that in this world, there is no one else exactly like you. Note that in this world you are bound to meet people who you might consider to be better than you and those you are better than, which is just an opinion because a man’s life is not depended on possession or achievement. We start the journey of our lives differently and everyone has his or her own timeline to achieve certain things and or attain certain statures. Everything happens according to our time and purpose, Ecclesiastes 3. We are not in any competition in life; you are your only competitor. We are in the world for different purposes. So, find out your purpose and do all it demands to fulfill it. Face your own life and don’t let anyone destroy you with their timeline or another person’s own. At the appointed time everything will take its proper shape. So don’t get depressed because you have not achieved what your peers or mates have achieved.
- ACCEPT YOURSELF FOR WHO YOU ARE
You are who you are while other people are who they are. Don’t try to be anyone else but you. You are good and cool the way you are. Have confidence in yourself. Nothing is wrong with you. And accept the way you are. Your stature, complexion, height, looks are not your making but how God has created you neither did you choose your parents and tribe all of which contribute to our physical features and looks. Your physical appearance and looks are your own areas of physical uniqueness. You don’t need to be ashamed of how you look and you don’t need to feel inferior about anything about yourself. Don’t allow anything about yourself to make you sad. Accept yourself for who you are. Know that educational level, achievements or any disability does not make you less human and these are not the yardstick for measuring your strength and capabilities by anyone. So don’t you ever demean yourself by your words and actions. Don’t ever allow anyone to override on you.
- BE YOURSELF
Don’t try to be like someone else all because you want to be loved. Those who will love you will love you still; while those who will not love you will not still love you no matter what you do. Don’t force yourself on anyone, allow anyone that wants to walk out of your life to go their way, so that the right people would come in.
- LET GO YOUR HORRIBLE PAST
When we hold on our past, we miss the joy of the present and the glimpse of the future. It is important to let go our hurtful past, Isaiah 43:18-19. John Glidewell has this to say in this regard,” You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” Don’t dwell on your horrible past. It is very important you forget series of mockery, abuses that might have hurt you both physically and emotionally. People might have told you are a failure, a mistake, bastard, a no-do-well, a write-off, a human mistake, bad luck, a barren; all these are the opinions of mere human beings that judge only by outward appearances and not God who has the final say. It is important you understand that God is the only one whose words count in your life. Don’t let anyone or anything make you lose your joy and self-worth. Don’t stop doing what you do that you know is good even when mocked.
- ASSOCIATE WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE
Do you know that the company you keep has a lot to do with who you are? Yes, it does. Surround yourself with loving, happy and positive people.
GOD LOVES YOU AND SO DO I. If you need someone to talk to, I am available