Low self-worth in a Christian can look like pride, but there is a difference. Here’s how to spot low self-worth using myself as an example.
I am a Christian who deals with issues of low self-worth. This mindset has been at the core of many other problems in my walk with Christ. Many people who read my posts, writings, watch my videos, and other forms of content I create might think that I have a big ego problem – pride – and their assessment based on my external qualities might find merit, but they would be wrong. It’s true that externally, pride and low self-worth can look exactly alike on the outside, but I created it to compensate for an image of worthlessness. Low self-worth has fueled my actions since I was very, very young. Let’s go back in time to trace the disease of my supposed worthlessness.
I was born blind and had continuing visual problems.
When I was born, I couldn’t see. Later on, I had surgery that restored my site at 11 months, to which the Optometrist fitted me with very thick “coke-bottle” glasses. But, even though the doctors restored my vision, I still had problems growing up.
Because I had missed developmental milestones early, I had obstacles to overcome.
I was a slow reader and had problems reading from distances. My slow reading hampered my success in elementary school. My lousy vision started my journey down the rabbit hole of low self-worth. I covered my handicap by being the class clown and procrastinating on school assignments. Unfortunately, being the procrastinating class clown had a dual effect of pleasing the crowd with humor, and if they weren’t laughing, they were looking at my thick glasses, which made me feel worthless. Delaying assignments to the last minute set the cycle of early failure, which fed the low self-worth engine for many years to come.
I was not athletically inclined and was clumsy due to my lack of depth perception. There was nothing quite like being a little boy who couldn’t play baseball, and when I did (Pee-wee, “The 49’ers”), I was petrified when a ball came my way as my lack of depth perception kept me from catching the ball.
I was compensating for my handicap.
There were areas in which I was talented. Music was one, as well as an early thirst for knowledge.
I excelled in music, specifically singing, at an early age. Because of this, I found that I could bring worth to myself by gaining expertise in this newfound talent. As a result, I learned more about music, took private voice lessons, earned high ratings in contests at high school, and even found success throughout college. These fueled the idea that “I was worth more based upon my performance,” which would later take me down an even darker hole in my Christian walk.
I found that I could find a false sense of worth by being “the answer man” in areas of knowledge. It didn’t matter the location, so I had the answers. So I geeked out in Music, Science, Sci-Fi,/Fantasy (I still love them) and loved it when people told their friends, “well, just ask Bob; he’ll know the answer.”
The areas of music and knowledge building and countless others would work at making me feel worthy, but they never lasted.
The backlash of failure.
When I felt worthy, things were great, but when the reality of my perceived worth came crashing down, things got real dark real fast.
I had constant thoughts of suicide, even after I came to Jesus in 2008. Because of this, I would get into continuous quarrels with people I loved, even strangers proving that I was right and they were wrong. I was unhappy with my life & accomplishments for the most part, but covered it up to look & feel “worthy.” My relationships were pretty crappy as I always found a way to sabotage an otherwise working dynamic. Many times, I got fired from several jobs (or walked off) when I felt “challenged,” even though there were no confrontations. I was hyper-critical of others as speaking about their faults made me feel better. There are so many more examples of internal struggles and external conflicts that my low self-worth was fueling, but none compared to when I got saved in 2008.
Salvation, or so I thought.
When I came to God through Jesus Christ, I still suffered from low self-worth, and it took on a whole new form – legalism. Now, I had to be the happy, free Christian without a care in the world (that’s what I thought at the time), so I learned to cover up for a while. Here’s how the monster came out.
When I met a Christian, I would immediately size them up to see how much better I was at m faith walk than they were. Then, I would manipulate the conversation to get into a conflict regarding Scripture, so I could “flex” my Bible brain at them rather than Glorifying God and leading the lost to Christ. To be sure, I was personally gaining incite into the Kingdom, but a large part of my motive was fueling the tank of my performance-based mindset of approval from men and God (sadly, in that order).
It had to be my way when it came to singing in church. If my performance didn’t work out, I would be distraught at myself, which fueled my low self-worth issues. When others wanted to sing with me or take charge in an area that I had felt was mine since I was little, I got very defensive. Oh, and don’t get me started with I met a better person than me. Let’s say that what came out of my mouth may have sounded Christian, but my thoughts were anything but godly.
When I accepted Jesus, I didn’t fully acknowledge who I was as a “New Creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) until much later. Things got much worse when others tried to help but mistook my low self-worth for pride. That’s when it got bad.
Pride, a mistaken diagnosis
My character traits were brought to my attention by several well-meaning Christians. They told me that I had a “pride thing going on.” I took their advice to heart and sought Scripture to kill off pride.
“A Christian is supposed to be humble, never seeking a crown for themselves, but give glory to Jesus.” These Bible passages were the cliff-notes version of the quotes I found. So, I tried to be humble in all the things I did.
It backfired in a bit way. It made me more aggressive and rebellious.
I won’t go into the litany of examples of how I confronted Pastors and Christians about me “not sniffin’ the dirt and coming up with a smile” anymore! They were trying to help, but it was the right solution to a different problem, and it wasn’t working. Remember, it’s true that externally, pride and low self-worth can look exactly alike on the outside, but one is created to compensate for an image of worthlessness.
The “ah-ha” moment from God
Years later, when I was in an argument with my beloved wife, she told me that “I wouldn’t get so offended if I knew my worth.” Her statement caught me completely off guard. My wife was right, but I forgot her sound advice and kept doing what I was doing for quite some time.
It wasn’t until God walked me through my life – showed me what I was dealing with – that things slowly started to move towards a breakthrough.
He showed me that it wasn’t humility but an understanding of my low self-worth, and I wasn’t addressing the core problem. He showed me my WHOLE LIFE and how – at the core – my feelings of worthlessness were never acknowledged by myself nor indeed corrected by finding out what God thought about me after I came to Christ. In other words, this one single thing had been the rudder that had guided my ship into waves of self-destruction, even after Salvation. It was time to make a course correction.
Does this all sound familiar?
To be sure, I can still knee-jerk into reactions based on an incorrect old mindset, but I”m aware of it, and I want you to understand it as well. If you’ve come to Christ, and I mean genuinely come to Him, know who you are NOW in the eyes of God. You are precious to Him as God sent His Son to die for you. He will continue to love you, even when you are going through bad times. Your Salvation and received love from God is not performance-based; it never was. God chose you first for no other reason than His Glory and Namesake. For me, I don’t care to know the specifics; I’m just satisfied that I’m His Child, God loves me, that love is not performance-based, and I have access to Him, the Kingdom, and all the promises He’s said “yes” to for me.
Only you can determine if you suffer from pride or low self-worth. Seek wisdom from God in this area – with faith – and He will guide you to a better you.