The One Big Mistake You're Making That Seriously Affects Your Self-Esteem

There is no way you to know yourself without a spiritual foundation.

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This thing we call self-esteem affects the way we view ourselves and the world around us.

It factors into the school curriculum, discipline practices, sports development, and even office management.

It's the topic of lectures, workshops, and sermons. It pervades all of Western life.

So with all this attention on self-esteem, why is there so little of it?

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Chasing the fallacy of self-esteem 

How come our kids are still unfulfilled despite the dance lessons, the personal soccer trainer, and the hundred-dollar shoes? Why is it that despite the self-help book industry, the self-focused retreats, and insistence on self-development, adult self-esteem is still elusive?


And where are we to look for a healthy example of a secure role model or mentor when so many success stories in this media frenzy culture are falling on their swords, victim to their own success? And what the heck is self-esteem anyway?

Psychology defines self-esteem simply as the view one has of oneself. However, defining self has almost as many definitions as words in a thesaurus. 

"Self-esteem" originated before 1900, and was popularized by Humanistic Psychology, which emphasizes the goodness in humankind and suggests that through education and development all human beings can reach their potential.

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Why is self-esteem so elusive?

Yet, after a century of research and reinforcement, self-esteem is still elusive as ever. Chasing self-esteem is as satisfying as quenching your thirst by sucking in steam. Steam is made of water droplets, but you will die of dehydration before you ever get enough steam to make a difference.  

We have to go back further than a century to look for some real answers. The quest for authenticity means you must first ask the right question. Replacing the self-esteem chase with self-concept development sounds like a play on words but means a total change in perspective.

We were created in God’s image, we know, but what do we know about God? And what attributes did He give us?

We were given spirituality, emotions, intellect, communication, sociability, creativity, and moral law. Certainly, you can find bits of these abilities in animals but the quality and quantity we possess are like no other beast. We are unique. We are Imago Deo, the Latin term for the image of God.


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How self-esteem and spirituality are connected

To deny our spirituality is to deny who we are as humans. The Jewish/Christian belief in our godly image is like no other religion. Psalms 8:3-8 says, "When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you established what is (hu)man that you take notice of him or the son of man that you pay attention to him? You made him a little less than divine, but you crowned him with glory and honor." 

The one big mistake we are all making is that we replace our spiritual pilgrimage with the self-esteem race. You might as well replace chocolate with a tootsie roll.

A tootsie roll sort of looks like chocolate, kind of tastes like chocolate, and feels a little like it too. It might have some cocoa but we all know it’s just not the same thing.


Interestingly, tootsie rolls originated around the same time as self-esteem. Sure, a tootsie roll tastes good sometimes, and over 84 million are made in one day, but it’s just not chocolate.

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Are you really trying to 'know thyself?'

The goal of self-concept development is not knowing yourself. The goal is knowing God. From Him flows all those good attributes of self, security in others, and confidence that He has a plan for you in this seemingly chaotic world.

Replacing the lie of self-esteem starts at home. I’m a strong believer that we can experience God through sport, the arts, and science, but these pursuits only supplement the attributes we learn at home such as morality, creativity, sociability, communication, intellect, and emotional expression.


We teach our children by modeling God's attributes. We demonstrate our spirituality by what we focus on and if we focus on activity, results, and achievement, then we are selling our children short. If we focus on our relationship with each other and God, we cultivate a good self-concept.

The best thing you can do for your children and yourself is to have a strong relationship with God and with your spouse.

When your children see a healthy relationship between Mom and Dad, they grow up healthy. It’s not the soccer, not the dance recitals, not even the honor roll that gives them self-esteem. You can teach your children how God relates by showing them a strong commitment to your spouse.

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Know God and know yourself

That’s it? That’s it. Seems too simple. It is. But don’t confuse simple with easy.

The opposite of simple is complex, and the opposite of easy is difficult. Developing self-esteem has been made complex to avoid difficulties. Developing an accurate self-concept is a simple but difficult walk.

Begin by having dinner — a real dinner — with your family and begin dinner with grace. End dinner by talking about your day. Don’t expect your kids to talk about their day, at least not right away.

Cultivate spirituality by talking about how God was a part of your day and you will cultivate a positive and accurate self-concept because it will be based on a positive and accurate God concept.


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Dr. Andrew Davidson is a Board Certified Clinical Psychologist with more than 20 years of dealing with military members and their families, relationship issues, grief, and bereavement. He's the author of  When Sunday Smiled: Walking Through Life and Loss.