Episode 1. The Inner Voice
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Low self-esteem is a social disease running at plague proportions. And like cancer and AIDS – it has dire consequences. Hmmm. What if I have the disease? Is there a cure? Join Berni Dymet as he …
Low self-esteem is a social disease running at plague proportions. And like cancer and COVID – it can have dire consequences. Hmmm. What if I have the disease? Is there a cure?
Low self-esteem is a disease in our society that’s running in plague proportions. So what do you think of yourself? Day-to-day, as you interact with the people around you, what does your inner voice tell you about you? We all have one, an inner voice, a secret self-image of who we are, how we compare and ultimately what we’re worth.
And depending on what that inner voice tells us about ourselves, well, we either enjoy our lives, or we live with a crippling sense of inadequacy that somehow we can’t share with anyone else. So let me ask you the question as you weigh up how you see yourself; how comfortable are you with who you are. What score would you give yourself, say, on a scale of zero to ten?
I guess most of us have heard the Hans Christian Anderson story of the ugly duckling. You know, that little duck that was with all the other ducks. And he looked different and he looked ugly. And later on when they grow up, it turns out there was a really good reason why he looked different. Because he was a swan. My hunch is that, there are actually lots of swans out there who still see themselves as an ugly duckling.
For most people, our feelings about ourselves fluctuate up and down day-to-day. I mean feelings are fickle, they do change. There is an impact on us when there are good things happening and when there are bad things happening. And so as we go through the ups and downs of life, we need something deeper. Something that anchors our sense of self.
That thing is called our self-esteem and people with good self-esteem, seem to be able to weather the ups and downs of life pretty well. But people with low self-esteem, to them the ups and downs make all the difference in the world. Someone with low self-esteem constantly needs positive external experiences to prop up their self-image. So a person with low self-esteem, relies on the things happening around them as to whether they feel good about themselves or not.
Someone with high self-esteem has an inner voice that’s positive, that’s reassuring, that says nice things to us about who we are. Someone with low self-esteem has an inner voice that’s like a harsh inner critic, that’s constantly punishing them, that’s belittling their accomplishments.
Low self-esteem manifests itself in one of three different ways.
Firstly, there’s the imposter model. Some people with low self-esteem feel like they’re imposters. They act happy and successful on the outside, but really they’re terrified of failure. They’ve got a constant mark of success and achievement on their face and the inner fear of being found out because there is such a gap between what they feel inside and what they put on the mask on their face. They feel like an imposter.
That’s one manifestation of low self-esteem.
The second one is, that of being a rebel. The rebel pretends that the opinions of others – particularly those who really should matter like people who are quite senior, their boss or someone that they love – they pretend that the opinions of those other people don’t actually matter. They have a bold, brash exterior that really belies the underlying sense of inadequacy. And they need to prove that criticism doesn’t hurt them.
So this person is often very belligerent and the last thing, when we look at them, that we would expect is going on inside them, is a real sense of inadequacy and low self-esteem. And often, the rebels won’t even admit it to themselves.
The third model for someone with low self-esteem is the loser. The loser acts helpless and unable to cope. They need someone to come and rescue them, not just once or twice, but every day. The loser is a highly dependent person and very rarely takes responsibility for their own situation and condition in life. They have a sense of self-pity, a sense of indifference that shields them against taking any sense of responsibility.
So these are the three basic models for low self-esteem; the imposter, the rebel and the loser. Why is self-esteem such an important thing? Why are we spending a week on it here on this program? Well, it turns out that low self-esteem is a real cancer; a real malady in our society.
Maybe you recognise the imposter or the rebel or the loser either in yourself or in those around you. If you recognise them in yourself, I guess there’s a bit of an uncomfortable feeling that we’re actually sitting here and talking about it. But truly, if you recognise any of those models in you, even in part, I wonder whether today is the day to say, “Maybe that joker on the radio has a point. Maybe, I’m struggling with issues around my self-esteem”.
Be honest, really, is this you?
Maybe you recognise some of those things in other people around you; people whom you watch and observe and listen to. And when you have relationships with people like that, it’s like walking on eggshells because it’s so easy to offend these people. They’re so touchy but this feeling of inadequacy, of low self-esteem, is so deep, it’s so real, it’s so much a part of their lives that what they need from us is not our criticism, but our love.
There are some deep consequences to low self-esteem – anxiety, stress, loneliness – it’s a private hell. The person with low self-esteem puts on a mask and they separate the person who they really are from everybody else. They feel that they can never be open or transparent; just be who they are.
It often results in problems with friendships and relationships. Someone with low self-esteem will typically change jobs quite frequently because they cut off the people that they work with, they cut off people that they would have relationships with because they don’t feel secure in relationships.
It can seriously impact academic or job performance. Often low self-esteem results in under-achievement, vulnerability to addictions and a whole range of different problems. And the really tough thing about it is, that the more these problems occur, it’s like a downward spiral, they’re kind of self-reinforcing, the more they occur the worse it gets.
Why does this happen? Well, we understand a lot of what we understand about ourselves from what other people say and how other people react to us. And those other people’s reactions and what they say, is kind of like a social mirror. We look at what they say and we see ourselves reflected in what they say and think about us.
Maybe you’ve grown up with a lack of encouragement. Maybe there’s been strong competition between yourself and others. Maybe you only get valued if you win or if you’re beautiful. So we can end up with a distorted image that gets written onto our hearts.
Let me encourage you, if you have something like that going on in your life, admit it today and be determined to do something about it. But what? Most psychologists use a sort of a changing our own self-image, positive thinking, self-talk thing. But I truly believe that as we look in the world’s mirror and we see our self-image (which is distorted because other people respond badly to us some days). I believe that the way to transform our self-image is to have a faith-image and to look in God’s mirror.
If God is good, if God is a God of love and a God of grace and a God who sent His Son, Jesus, can’t you and I rely on the image that we get from Him? The Apostle Paul wrote this:
As we look at God with our face uncovered and we see God’s glory as though it’s being reflected in a mirror, we’re being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to the next. This comes from God. It’s like a gift from His Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
This speaks of healing. God wants us to come to Him just as we are and to spend some time looking at Him. All of sudden, we discover that God is saying, “Look at Me, really truly, maybe for the very first time gaze on Me, feast on Me, listen to what I think about you”.
God is a good and perfect God and God is saying “Let Me transform you from glory to glory”.