Self Acceptance as the Way to Personal Strength
As I have continued to journey through life trying to make sense of good ways to live and move forward as a fallen human being, I have found the distinction between self-esteem and self-acceptance to be infinitely important. Aiming for the one versus the other says a lot about where you are headed and how alive you will be along the way. Self-esteem is defined as confidence in your worth or ability. It is a measure of how valuable or worthwhile you see yourself. Your sense of self begins and ends with you and is dependent on your ability to hang onto the essence of who you are.
The problem I see with self-esteem is that it is rooted in the individual and their confidence.
That type of confidence is awful hard to build and takes significant denial to maintain. You have to push away profuse amounts of information that contradict your self-confidence.
If your sense of self is dependent on your performance and how you interpret it your weaknesses are going to be a problem. Whenever you encounter situations that confront or expose your weakness your self-esteem is up for a vote. I am pretty introverted and don’t crave or enjoy social gatherings of more than a couple of people. Years ago, I would avoid such situations or feel pretty terrible after them because I felt like a fish out of water. Whatever self-esteem I had, the barometer got pretty low when I had a lot of social engagements. If my ability to have confidence in navigating the world was based on my assessment of myself, I would have had to withdraw from human community to retain a sense of self. This is what often happens when an individual is the source of their confidence. They have to isolate or find a community where most everyone is like them or will not uncover their weaknesses.
I would argue that if you become confident in yourself and your abilities without seeing and accepting your weaknesses than a vast majority of your energy, although likely unrecognized, will be expended to hide from what is true. This could entail avoiding certain individuals, situations, or topics of discussion.
In whatever way you try to do it, becoming confident in yourself by your effort and your evaluation will inevitably lead you down a path of tiredness and insecurity.
Paul articulates this well in his letter to the Romans. He says that what can be known about God can clearly be seen through what has been created. God’s invisible attributes - his eternal power and divine nature – can be witnessed in creation and when you don’t let that expose your human fragility in a way that leads you to deeper appreciation of God you actually have to push the truth away through unrighteous behavior (Romans 1:18-25). You have to expend considerable energy to hide from the truth that you are a frail human in need of more than you can manufacture. When you do that it leads to all sorts of disorder that Paul goes on to name. Self-esteem as it is commonly taught leads to that kind of disorder. The more you have to pretend to feel secure the more you move away from genuine security.