Low self worth in single Christians: By whose standards?

Low self worth is a common problem among single Christians but is rarely talked about because we have conflicted feelings.

On one hand, we want to have confidence in ourselves and our skills so we can succeed in life. On the other hand, we're all afraid of that dreaded Christian bugaboo: pride. It's still a widespread teaching that if you have too much faith in your own abilities, you're guilty of arrogance.

What can you do, then? Scuff your feet and practice phony humility, or constantly tell everyone how great you are to overcompensate?

Neither choice is godly. Let's look at a healthy, biblical approach to self worth.

Many of our feelings of low self worth stem from comparisonitis. This widespread trait uses the wrong ruler to measure ourselves--other people. But our culture encourages us to hold ourselves up to others for many reasons, from business productivity to sales manipulation. It's a false way to gauge your true value.

Low self worth: The competition treadmill

As soon as you enter preschool or kindergarten, you start comparing yourself to others. Teachers do it and your parents do as well. Every society is competitive, and you're encouraged to develop an assertive, proactive attitude toward life.

This is good to a certain degree, but the truth is that everyone has different abilities. I had trouble passing high school chemistry, while some of the students in my chemistry class could hardly write a complete sentence.

It's simply unrealistic to expect to be great at everything you try. It's not going to happen. It takes many failures to learn this lesson. Even so, when we flop at something, we tend to beat ourselves up because our society fosters the illusion that we can do anything we set our mind to.

Women today, especially, think they can "have it all" and cram their lives so full that sooner or later they just collapse. We are, after all, mortal human beings, not supermen or superwomen. We have limits.

This "superiority through achievement" mindset is a tough habit to break.

The myth of achievement-based self worth

You can see where this is headed. High achievers are judged by our society to be more valuable. They make more money. People with money are courted by businesses and flattered by advertisers. They begin to feel "special."

Obviously not everybody can be in the top 5% of income earners. Many single Christians, especially men, won't "do whatever it takes" to make a big paycheck, and they feel ambivalent. They watch their peers get promotions and wonder if their faith in God is worth it. A sense of failure may overtake them, and as a result, they struggle with feelings of low self worth.
We all want to succeed. We want to do well and be rewarded for it. Performance is held out as the way to get that reward, and certainly we owe our employer our best effort. The same is true for college or training.
Continuous improvement is a worthy goal, but we need to check our motives. There's nothing wrong with increasing your wages by working harder, but there are questions about basing your self worth on your performance.

Modern trap: appearance-based self worth

It's a fact of life: People with good looks go farther.
You've seen them catch the breaks. You see people fawn over them and you can't help feeling jealous. Why them and not you?
You may be more talented, more intelligent, and harder working, but they get treated like princes and princesses. Our culture is so hung-up on appearance that it's the reverse discrimination no one is willing to talk about.

If you're not in this tiny minority of the drop-dead gorgeous (and I'm definitely not), you find this one of the unfairest snubs in life. I know I have.
But is this measurement system reasonable? Is it logical? Is this idolization of good-looking people simply another form of discrimination?  Is it, in fact, an accepted forms of bigotry?

Sadly, it's so entrenched in our customs that you and I are not going to change it. What we can do is always give our best effort and not become discouraged. That's hard, and an uphill battle, but the record is crowded with plain-looking people who excelled in life.

What about family influences?

Many singles come from dysfunctional, unsupportive families. What's more, they may have been victims of emotional abuse and ridicule. Such treatment can really cause your self worth to plunge. If you were emotionally abused by your family, I urge you to seek professional counseling. Helping you is beyond the scope of this web site.

Remember, your family is not the ultimate judge of your value. God is. God is the ultimate judge of everything.

God says you are of infinite value to him, even if you're struggling with feelings of low self worth. He created you in his own image, which is the greatest compliment he could have paid you. He wanted you to be like him.
Here's something important to understand: God does not judge you on your achievements. He loves you unconditionally. Unlike our society, he does not keep a scorecard on the size of your paycheck, the value of your home or car, your job title, or whether you own the latest stuff.

God loves you for yourself. Period.

The entire message of the Bible is that you will get to heaven through God's grace alone, a free gift earned by the death of his son Jesus Christ, and not through your own works or achievements. God thinks so little of achievements that he eliminated them in the standards for spending eternity with him.

And looks? What does God have to say about judging people by how beautiful or handsome they are?

"Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

It could hardly be more blunt than that, eh? God sees you as gorgeous and precious, regardless of what you look like. He is concerned with your love for him and your neighbor, not with superficial beauty.

So what can you do?

Overcoming feelings of low self worth is a tough, lifelong battle, even for Christian singles. The propaganda of the world is loud and it's constant. It's also false.
In the end, we each have to decide whose approval is more important to us: the world's or God's. The world's approval is fleeting, lasting only until you start to age. God's approval, however, is eternal and renews your soul daily.

You dig your way out by building your intimacy with Jesus. You can do that through praying and regular Bible reading. The Bible is the counterbalance to society's lies. It reveals the real standard, based on God's unassailable truth.
Only when you know the truth about yourself in God's eyes can you defeat low self worth. As I said, it can be a lifelong struggle, but if you listen to God's voice, a voice soft with unconditional love for you, you will gain an ever-unfolding sense of who you really are.

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