Lesson 1 – Overcoming Low Self-esteem

Romans 8:1, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …"

Everyone has feelings of inferiority, condemnation, and hopelessness from time to time. Many people cannot fully enjoy life because they feel inferior and guilty. This burden causes depression, discouragement, and fear. Christians should not feel inferior or condemned because God redeemed them from sin and its effects by the sacrifice of His precious Son, Jesus Christ.

What causes low self-esteem?

We are all sinners. It is natural for us to feel guilty. However, there are several factors that especially cause feelings of condemnation and inferiority.

1. Accusations of Satan

The Bible says that Satan constantly accuses God’s people. Even the name Satan means “accuser” in the Hebrew language. When Satan accuses us, we feel a general condemnation that leads to hopelessness, since there is nothing we can do about it. This is different than the conviction of sin that comes by the Holy Spirit, which targets specific sin and leads us to repentance.

Revelation 12:10, "Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down."

2. Unrealistic stereotypes

Society puts pressure on people to conform to stereotypes, and we may feel something is wrong with us if we don’t match those stereotypes. If we accept those stereotypes, we will compare ourselves unfavorably with others who match those stereotypes better.

3. Harsh words

Many people look down on themselves because of something said to them in the past. Perhaps their parents, relatives, classmates, friends, or teachers said something that made a lasting impression. They may carry those words around as though they were branded on their forehead.

4. Wrong perspective of God

Some people come from a home where there is little praise for success, but lots of punishment for failure. If we come from these types of environments, it is easy to have a wrong perception of God. We may see Him as a cruel master who demands perfection and is ready to punish us when we fall short of His standard.

5. Past failure

Our past experiences of failure may make us feel inferior. If we sinned terribly, that sin may haunt us. Whenever we have an opportunity to succeed or be happy, we may remember our past and feel that we are unworthy or doomed to fail.

How to overcome low self-esteem

1. Resist Satan’s lies

Ever since the Garden of Eden, Satan has used lies to destroy people and drive them further away from God. Satan will accuse us and do everything he can to steal our joy and make us feel defeated. But we need to remember what Jesus said about Satan in John 8:44.

John 8:44, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

We need to recognize the lies and accusations of Satan. Whenever we feel condemned in a general sense and as though there is nothing we can do, that is the accusation of Satan. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, He will always direct us toward a solution or specific action that we can take. Conviction from Holy Spirit is specific and guides us to the right actions, but accusation from Satan is general and leads us to further defeat.

2. Stand firm on God’s promises

When Jesus died on the cross, He paid for all our sins. We do not need to pay for our own sins because His sacrifice was once for all. We simply need to repent and believe.

Hebrews 9:14, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"

Hebrews 10:10, "We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

He extends this forgiveness to us by grace—not by our own merit. It is a free gift that we cannot earn, but simply receive by faith when we repent.

Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast."

We need to remember these truths. It doesn’t matter what we feel because we aren’t saved by our emotions. We are cleansed from sin by God’s actions.

Romans 8:1-2, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."

3. See ourselves as valuable in the church

The Bible says that all Christians are valuable to God. God has prepared a role for each one of us to play in His church. We are like parts of the body that function together in different ways.

Romans 12:3-8, "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity he that ruleth, with diligence he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness."

1 Cor 12:12-27, "Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."

4. See ourselves as valuable to God

Apart from our usefulness in the church, God loves us simply for who we are. As the author Philip Yancey writes, “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make God love us less.” God loves us as a Father. We are His special, unique creation, whose purpose is to live in close fellowship with Him.

Luke 15:11-20, "Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."

5. Accept our shortcomings

We need to realize that only Jesus was sinless. We all fall from time to time, but by God’s grace we can get up again. Paul realized that his weaknesses were actually opportunities for God to show His power. We should accept that we cannot overcome our weaknesses on our own, but instead wait on the Lord for His strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."

6. Respond to correction or accusation with love and forgiveness

Invariably, someone will say something to us that could make us feel guilty or condemned. Maybe they are warning us out of love, or exaggerating our sin out of spite. Whatever the reason, we need to respond in the right way. We should imitate Jesus, who forgave those who condemned Him to death on the cross. When we can respond to correction or accusation in this way, we will close the door to Satan’s work in our hearts.

7. Leave the past behind

Christians do not need to be burdened with their past sins once they have repented and made restitution. God has removed our sins from us and does not remember them any longer.

Psalm 103:12, "… As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

Discussion Questions:

Have you had experiences with low self-esteem?

What are some of the accusations that Satan made against you?

How has God assured you of your worth and His love?

Why do you think it is important for your self-esteem to respond to criticism with love and forgiveness?