A recent college graduate desires to start a family, but experiences rejection after rejection in relationships. She sees her friends getting married and having children, while she seems so far behind. Is something wrong with her? A young man struggles to pay his bills and feels stuck in his job. Others seem to be getting promotions and doing well. Is he not good enough? A parent watches his child struggle and cannot help but blame himself and his own short-comings. Many people set new goals for themselves, but quickly can get discouraged. They fall back into old patterns and may start comparing their progress to others. Confidence falters, and they fall into the classical issue of self-esteem.
How we feel about ourselves greatly influences how we live our life and how we respond in various relationships. It can also affect our overall mental and emotional wellbeing. Many people who have self-esteem issues struggle with anxiety and depression and can have difficulty with anger that is rooted from fear because of their insecurities. They might not be able to face repeated patterns causing their problem that need to be corrected. Many times, they will blame other people for their difficulties to avoid self-responsibility. Their insecurities can also prevent them from pursuing actions to overcome a problem.
How should a Catholic approach self-esteem? What is the healthy way to esteem ourselves? We do not want to be like the Pharisees, (“God, I thank thee that I am not like other men” – Luke 18:9-14), feeling better about ourselves by putting down others. Still, we sometimes do find ourselves looking down on others to reassure our own self-worth.
Sometimes we fall into a false humility, thinking we are virtuous in putting ourselves down. We mistakenly believe that we should reject self-esteem and belittle ourselves.
A truly healthy self-esteem, though, comes from esteeming ourselves in truth. We work to see ourselves as God sees us, with awesome dignity and with love even in our imperfections. I propose that a healthy self-esteem comes out of true humility. And since most of us have to work on humility, most of us have to work on self-esteem as well.
I know that when I first tried praying Cardinal Merry de Val’s “Litany of Humility”, I found the prayer quite challenging. The prayer asks to be delivered from such things as “the desire of being loved” and “the fear of being forgotten” and asks for the grace to desire “that others may be preferred by me in everything.” These requests can be intimidating at first glance, but ultimately reveal places of great suffering. How many are weighed down by feeling unloved, or wrestle with fears of being forgotten, or perhaps feel despondent with concerns that they were left behind? When we are freed of the burden of seeking our self-worth in these things, we are freed to follow our values and be the people we want to be. Deliverance from these desires can be part of deliverance from anxiety and depression and can bring about a change in attitude that can lead to a deeper peace.
A Catholic therapist can offer a safe and supportive place to collaborate with you in developing your self-worth and dignity as a human being. They will use proven therapeutic techniques and apply Catholic faith principles for your personal growth toward a healthier self-esteem.
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