This is what happens to me when I walk through a mall: I observe another woman’s effortless elegance, hour-glass figure, or the handsome dude she’s with, and feel like a pitiful excuse for a human being. I might have felt like a million bucks when I left home, but once I saw what she was wearing… jig’s up.
And so I take the next left into the clothing store, or the makeup counter, and spend money I shouldn’t–or I medicate with a Pumpkin Spice Latte (no need for a spoonful of sugar to make that medicine go down). This insidious form of low self-esteem, called comparison, lurks at every corner of the mall.
I say to myself: “There must be something wrong with me. If I was beautiful like she was, I’d have a man.” Or, “It’s bad genes that keep me fat.” Or I just medicate with a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
That would be a lack of pride, right? I don’t feel proud of myself, so I lack self-esteem.
Edward T. Welch has a different take:
“Low self-esteem usually means that I think too highly of myself. I’m too self-involved, I feel I deserve better than what I have. The reason I feel bad about myself is because I aspire to something more. I want just a few minutes of greatness. I am a peasant who wants to be king When you are in the grips of low self-esteem, it’s painful, and it certainly doesn’t feel like pride. But I believe that this is the dark, quieter side of pride—thwarted pride” (1).
That’s a head-scratcher. Let me get this straight: low self-esteem equals thinking too highly of myself?
But it actually makes sense. Welch said “I feel I deserve better than what I have”—as if the hand I was dealt by the Creator is beneath me. I’m too good to be single. I’m too good for acne. I’m too good to be fat. I should have been given a better hand!
I’ve always believed that if someone was truly great at cards, they could win with whatever they were dealt. The glory was in winning against the odds, not with a stacked hand. We root for underdogs—just watch any sports movie Hollywood puts out.
Reason number one to stop bemoaning my life: if it’s bad, all the more impressive when I win. I must make the best of it.
And the biggest reason: God gave me this life and its set of circumstances. How prideful of me to say he was wrong!
“Yeah, you’re Creator and omniscient, but you should have given me a better face.” Tear, sob, sip of PSL.
Stop it, you big baby! (Talking to myself, here—or the person beside you). Put on your big-girl panties and get to work.
I’m not preaching fatalism, here. I’m saying play the hand you’re dealt, and play it well. It wasn’t given to you at random, but for a particular mission. If you don’t believe there is a creator, that doesn’t exempt you. What makes you so good that chance should have dealt you a better hand? Make good on it.
Get your focus in the right place—not on yourself, not on the other person’s stuff, but on the face of Jesus Christ. “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
Let’s work on this together, shall we?
(1). Edward T. Welch, as quoted in Confidence of a Champion by Tim Marks.