There are many different ways of looking at ourselves, but which way is correct?
We can view ourselves through society’s standards and expectations, which are commonly revealed through the mass media including film, television, radio, magazines, and the internet, as well as through schools, the home, and social settings.
Unfortunately, society says that our worth depends upon our intelligence, attractiveness, education, money and achievements. Our society places too much value upon being successful, and often rejects or criticises people who attempt something but fail. Such people may become so disillusioned that they stop trying.
Society also teaches the theory of evolution, telling us that humans have evolved from animals as a result of random chance, and are therefore have no significance.
We can also view ourselves through our parents’ eyes. As a person’s self-esteem is formed during the early years of their childhood, it is important that parents encourage and build-up their children so that they develop a positive self image. Sadly, this is often not the case, as some parents criticise, shame, reject or over discipline their children. Such unnecessary criticisms and negativity gives the children a negative view of themselves. Upon reaching adulthood, such children often view themselves through their parent’s eyes, and even continue to treat themselves as their parents treated them, criticising, rejecting, even hating themselves.
Many parents also place unrealistic or impossible standards or goals before their children. They expect their children to be successful or famous. If the child fails, or is not interested, the parents say that they are hopeless, or punish them harshly.
The way that our friends and peers view us can also have a large influence on the way we view ourselves.
If we do not behave like them, they can be critical or reject us. Throughout my years at school, I watched some classmates bully and mock any child who was different. Some children tried to change so that the bullies would accept them, even doing what was wrong in order to please them. Other children suffered beneath the yoke of such oppression every day.
Another way to view ourselves is through our own eyes. This is not healthy either. If we have had a difficult childhood, we tend to carry that baggage into adulthood, falling into the trap of being too hard on ourselves, especially if we have made a mistake. And if we stumble and sin, even though we repent and receive God’s forgiveness, waves of guilt and condemnation continue to plague us long after the event. Pursuing unattainable goals and setting unrealistic expectations causes us to become even further disillusioned with ourselves. If we fail when attempting something too hard, we may conclude that we are a failure, no good at anything, or that no-one likes us.
So then, how should we look at ourselves?
We should view ourselves through the eyes of the One who loves us so much that He died for us, so that we may live with Him, both now and for eternity.
Hebrews 12:2 says Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. What was that joy set before Jesus that motivated Him to die for us? The answer is in 1 Thessalonians 5:10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake (on earth) or asleep (in heaven), we may live together with him. Jesus treasures us so greatly that He wants us to share our whole life with Him.
God did not wait for us to be perfect before He loved us. While we were still sinners, He reached out to us, drawing us, dirt and all, into His loving arms. That means that we are significant, that we are special. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
God forms His children, those who believe in Jesus, into new creations, conformed into Christ’s wonderful likeness. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
God thinks of us as His treasure. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 17:8
2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that, God made Jesus, who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God. So if God looks at us and sees the righteousness of Jesus in us instead of our sinful nature and problems, we should look at ourselves in the same way.
Zephaniah 3:17 is one of my favourite verses in the Bible, because it shows so clearly how God thinks of His children. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
Instead of looking at ourselves through the eyes of society, parents, friends, or ourselves, let us look at ourselves through the eyes of Jesus. Then we will know that we are accepted, appreciated, treasured, and loved.
This was a lesson that the Lord re-taught me while stuck in the pit of severe depression:
From my diary, 15/5/1990 –
Self-hate keeps descending upon me like a swarm of angry hornets.
I look at myself and find nothing but contempt
for this pathetic person that I have become.
But I know that this is wrong.
If I examine myself through Jesus eyes, I see someone special.
I see how much He loves me, and cares for me,
how much I mean to Him, and that He understands.