To develop a "proper" self-image, we must first decide to whom we are going to listen. Are we going to listen to saTan and the world? Or are we going to listen to God and His Word? As we have already seen, saTan and "the world" are in direct opposition to God and His Word concerning how we should think about ourselves. Unfortunately, we live in the world and are constantly bombarded by the almost endless philosophies of the world. So let's examine some of the ways the "world" tells us to determine our self-image and then compare them with what God has to say.
#1 - Appearance
How we look is one gauge we use to determine our self-image. Most commonly, if you notice yourself and those around you, if we think of ourselves as very pretty or handsome, we tend to have an "acceptable" self-image because of...what? Many people will "accept" us into their social circles because physical beauty is a desirable trait among people. Many people even worship physical beauty... Yes. Even today.
If we think of ourselves as physically "ugly", our self-image could suffer greatly. We will probably tend to consider ourselves as "undesirable"..."unwanted"... Mostly we will be shown by the world that we are not "acceptable" to it, and thus, we'll tend to think quite a bit "less" of ourselves as the result of this "shunning".
If we are physically pretty or handsome, what will happen to our self-image as we grow older and our looks change, or if we are in some kind of accident that alters our appearance in some fashion? Generally, we'll tend to think "less" of ourselves because the world around us will make clear that we are not who we once were, physically. The world will treat us with less popularity... less respect (which it never really had for us)... in general, the world will not "accept" us as it once did. Our "self-image" will suffer greatly as we will feel of less worth, we'll feel "diminished" in some capacity, and some will even feel "worthless". As you can see, a "culture" can greatly affect the way we see ourselves.
Usually, Mom and Dad start by saying such things as, " You are such a beautiful little girl," or "You are such a fine-looking young man." Friends, and even complete strangers can "echo" these same sentiments... In today's time, it's not uncommon for a young man to walk up to a lady and say, "Babe... You are so hot!", indicating that upon physical appearance alone, he has found someone "desirable"... And more times than not, the young lady will feel "special" in that she was able to gain his immediate acceptance... What a total, simple-minded fallacy of the enemy!
From the illustrations above, it may be easy to develop a "good" self-image, but we must realize that the opinions of Mom, Dad, friends and even strangers can change in time. Even after we have personally decided we are handsome or pretty, our very own opinion could, and will, one day change. It is inevitable.
So, could we ever develop a "secure" self-image or identity based on our "appearance"? I submit to you, absolutely not.
Psalms 139:13-14,"13 For you created my in most being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
According to these verses, God made you and I the way we are. Since God made us who we are, it does not make sense to build a self-image based on what others say/think about us that are of the world. It really does not even matter what we say about ourselves if we do not know the "Real Truth" about who God says we are.
In other words, our "abilities": I'm a businessman, a housewife, or an athlete, for example. Self-image based on what we do, however, is dependent on how well we perform:
If I was a businessman, and my business did very well, I could smile and feel confident in that I am an "accomplishment" when in the midst of friends, or even alone with myself. But, if my business was a failure, my "identity" would be somewhat different. I may lack self worth, feel inadequate, embarrassed... I would feel like a failure in many ways... And my "circle of friends" would probably reflect that in the area of "acceptance"... To people tend to remain your friend even when you have been "less than satisfactory" in areas of your life? The answer to this can be very revealing when determining friends.
What if I were a Dad and my kids turned out to be pillars of the community... Leaders in every respect... What would people think of me? What if I were a Dad and my kids turned out to be "drug-addicts"? What would people think of me then? See what I mean? The very thing that determines whether we are successes or failures are the people around us!
Our abilities to perform any certain function/task always changes over a period of time. For example, is a 45 year old athlete able to perform the way they did at age 25? Of course not. So, concerning the people around us, we can pretty much figure that their "opinions" of us will constantly "change" with relation to how we "perform, or "measure up" in their eyes.
When we look at ourselves, do we ever "compare" ourselves to others? Most people do. When we do that, we usually don't have to look very hard to find someone that is "better" at doing a specific task than we are. When we compare ourselves to them, our self-image always suffers. Most times we don't "measure up" to another's standards. But, on the other hand, sometimes we feel we are "THE BEST" at what we do, and being "THE BEST" has certain extra rights and privileges... Right?
2 Corinthians 10:12, "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise"
According to this verse, it is not wise at all to compare our own self to others. If we do compare ourselves to others, there are only two conclusions we can come to understand: We are either "BETTER" than those with which we compare, or we are "WORSE" than those with which we compare ourselves. So, knowing this, it definitely does not make sense to build your self-image on your abilities as a person.
There are many other ways we try to determine our self-image based on the philosophies of the
- What others think about you;
- What you think others think about you;
- What you think about yourself.
And this brings us to the problem of listening to the world's opinions in regard to who we are. The world's opinions are constantly changing from moment to moment. It is impossible to find any stability or security in what the world says concerning our identity.
If we have a poor self-image based on the opinions of the world, we will experience defeatism and be null and void of the knowledge of The Truth about who we are, and we will be rendered "ineffective", pertaining to the plan God already has for our lives.
1 John 2:16-17 says, "16For everything in the world‚ the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does‚ comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."
Mentioned above in scripture, some of the things of this world are:
- Man having cravings for sin;
- His eyes are lustful;
As mentioned in the scripture above, this world and it's desires will pass away... cease to exist. So, can a person ever have a secure identity if he/she is dependent on the things of this world to determine who he/she is? No...no... No. We can only determine from the scripture above that it is more important to see ourselves from God's Perspective, rather than the world's false assumption of who we are.
We do not need a self-image based on the ever-changing opinions of the world. We need a proper self-image, an identity based on Truth from God's Perspective. Since God created us and knows us better than we know ourselves, it makes perfect sense to begin listening to what God says about us.
You are not who you are because of your own or others' opinions. You are who you are because of what God says about you! When we begin listening to God, we can rest assured that what He says will not be like the ever-changing opinions of the world:
"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of The Lord stands forever"~(1 Peter 1:24-25).