When I was young, I lived for my father’s approval.
Dad was a strong Christian, a great provider, and a morally unwavering and faithful husband who doted on our mother. But he wasn’t perfect. No earthly father is perfect. For many years into my adulthood, most of my achievements were driven by the desire for my father’s approval.
The inner child inside me was longing to hear him say, “That’s wonderful, Shelly, but you don’t have to do anything for me to love you. I love you just the way you are.”
This desire for belonging and inherent value is wired into all of us–men and women alike.
And if we don’t have a clear understanding of the difference between self-worth and self-esteem, we will struggle for a lifetime.
Self-worth is the unchanging reality of my value and worth. Talking about self-worth is like saying that a five dollar bill is worth five bucks. My feelings don’t influence the value of the money in my purse (now wouldn’t that be fun?). If it did, I might try paying for a Caribbean cruise with a $10 bill. Our self-worth is fixed and set by God. As my friend Pastor Dawn Damon says, “The most important thing about me is I am who God says I am.”
I can’t change my self-worth by impressing God because my value is based on what Jesus did for me. I’m already priceless.
I can stop living for approval.
Self-esteem is the value we place on ourselves, based on the things we do and how we feel about ourselves.
Our understanding of our true self-worth as Christians should determine our self-esteem.
We are who God says we are. God sees His children as flawless. We’re joint heirs with Jesus Christ. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have a bragfest when they talk about us because they see us as perfect kids.
Can you imagine? But it’s true. God DELIGHTS in His children.
Unfortunately, we often refuse to believe or accept this. We can’t seem to find a way to get off the well-beaten path of approval-seeking. We struggle for the approval of parents, friends, church leaders, bosses or fellow employees, those in our social circle, people we admire or want to impress…the list could go on and on.
This was me for a very long time. And sometimes it still is because I make the mistake of listening to negative emotions and self-talk. We struggle with self-esteem because we believed the lie that we need other people’s approval to measure up. But this is because we don’t understand and claim our self-worth. When we recognize that we are immeasurably treasured, loved, valued, and accepted apart from performance, we can free ourselves from the approval of others.
I still live for my father’s approval–my Heavenly Father. But it’s not to gain His grace or favor. It’s because I’m grateful for everything He’s done for me.
I invite you to listen to a candid and heart-changing discussion about self-worth and self-esteem this evening at 8:00 ET on FreedomGirlsSisterhood Radio with Pastor Dawn Damon, Wanda Sanchez, and myself. You can also read more on this topic in my book The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk.