The root of many people's self-esteem issues is the belief that they are not good enough, pretty enough, or in possession of the 'right' qualities, or abilities or assets.
Often, we perceive the answer to conquering such insecurities in obtaining the things we think are lacking - if I only had more academic success, if I just apply a little more make-up, if I just earned more and so on. But to really address the issue of low self-esteem or poor self-confidence, experts argue that individuals need to reach a point of acceptance - an acceptance that they are fine just the way they are.
In some ways this sentiment is compatible with our faith, certainly when it comes to self-esteem issues over appearance. But for Christians, complete confidence has to come from an additional source - God.
Markers such as success, recognition, admiration or beauty are always in flux, and when we rely on these to measure our self-worth our confidence will always be in flux too. While we can be caught up with the latest trends like everyone else, the one constant is God's love for us, and His power to equip us with the qualities necessary to achieve things which we wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
What should we put our confidence in?
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man, Psalm 118:8
Self-confidence is ordinarily about having trust in one's abilities, qualities and judgement. But for Christians, self-confidence is about more than this. Yes, it can mean trusting that we can do all things but the important point is: not on our own. Instead it's trusting that we can do all things through God (Philippians 4:13); it's a belief in His ability to enable us.
Biblical encouragement for confidence in our appearance
One of the biggest self-esteem issues is a lack of confidence in our appearance, and not just in terms of how we see ourselves but we think how other people see us. Self confidence movements which aim to promote high self-esteem encourage people to embrace their flaws and imperfections. As Christians, we don't want to embrace the flaw of our sin, but what we can do is embrace God's grace and salvation that we experience as a result. In relation to our outer beauty, we can definitely find biblical reasons to be confident about it - "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well," Psalm 139:14. God looks at you as beautiful so why care whether anyone else does?
The root of constant Christian confidence
Striving for self-confidence in societal terms can lead to us comparing ourselves to others, whether it's in achievements or their character or possessions, and we don't always take the successes of others as inspiration. Sometimes we relish the failures of others as a way of validating our own worth. This attitude doesn't resemble the God we want to emulate. We should be able to be confident that Christ is living in us and that our actions reveal this. This means acting with love and compassion towards others.
Feeling unloved is often at the root of self-esteem issues. When we believe that Jesus gave his life for us we have to trust that he has an incredible amount of love for us. When we accept this to be true it removes the need for continual comparison against others because despite what others might have, God loved us all regardless.
We're a work in progress
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus, Philippians 1:6
We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves when we doubt our worth because we haven't reached certain milestones - marriage, kids, home ownership - or "got ourselves together" by a certain age. What Philippians 1:6 reminds us is that we are not a finished product. Instead of feeling hopeless about not having or having done something, we can have great hope in God's plan for our lives and who we will become when He has completed us.