Friday, May 10, 2013

On Self-Esteem

A few weeks ago, I stepped out of my car at a Starbucks parking lot and stopped. Something in the car adjacent to me caught my eye. A large piece of paper was firmly taped to the dashboard, just above the glove box, with something typed up in a bold font. A quick glance in the passenger window revealed that there were five or six similar pieces of paper taped to various locations around the car--above the radio, near the speedometer, and squarely in the center of the steering wheel. Written on each piece of paper was a concise and somewhat frank motivational statement. Here's what the dashboard read:
Right now, today, you have lived the worst day of your life financially. This is the brokest you will ever be and the most difficult your business will ever be to build.
Here's the steering wheel:
Who got up this morning? The Winner or The Loser?
It reminded me of Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live:

"I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me."

I honestly don't think these statements boost one's confidence or self-esteem. I think they sadly remind the reader of how deeply insecure they truly are. The thing about identity and self-worth is that it can't be entirely self-generated. As human beings designed by the trinitarian God, our very selves are more clearly defined in the context of relationships with others. I wrote about this in Leading Up:

When a leader’s identity is completely founded in who they are in Christ, someone is completely defined. Christianity is unique in that our identity is a gift that is graced upon us, not an effort of our own existential exertion.

At his baptism, before Jesus did any miracles or teachings or rose from the dead, the Father made an identity declaration: "this is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." The beauty of the gospel is that I don't have to stare into a mirror or read aloud self-motivational statements to define myself. I simply have to give up my pursuit of self-actualization and self-esteem, and allow the Father who designed me to call me His child.

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