How's Your Self-Concept?
“The most important one [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”1 (Italics added)
If I were to give you nine compliments and one criticism, chances are that that one criticism would affect you much more than the nine compliments I gave you. This is because most of us don't have a perfect self-image. If we did, criticisms would rarely bother or upset us.
Psychologist Dorothy Briggs wisely pointed out that the way we feel about ourselves affects our entire life: our happiness, marriage, work, personal relationships, creativity and stability.
In other words one's self-concept is the mainspring that steers every child and every person to success or failure as a human being. A healthy self-concept and self-image is therefore one of the greatest gifts we can find for ourselves and pass on to our children.
The self-concept is basically comprised of three parts: (1) The self-image; that is, how we picture or see ourselves; (2) Self-esteem which is how we feel about ourselves; and (3) Self-worth, that is, how much we value ourselves. All of these add up to one's level of self-acceptance, which is how well we love and accept ourselves in a healthy way. Unfortunately, as long as we don't love and accept ourselves, it is very difficult to believe and feel that anyone else loves and accepts us.
God's design for each of us was to learn self-love and acceptance when growing up through unconditional love from our parents. However, if we didn't receive this then, it is essential that we receive it now. And how do we do this? First, realize that we can only ever feel fully loved and accepted to the degree that we are known. Second, we thus need a loving, safe, and trusted person, group, or counselor with whom we can be totally open and honest confessing all of our weaknesses, failures and sins—as well as our strengths—and be known, loved and accepted for whom we truly are. Third, through such supportive friends and their unconditional love and acceptance, little by little, we learn to love and accept ourselves in a healthy and non-conceited way.
Finally, we also need to learn to love and accept ourselves in the same way that God loves us. He knows us fully and, no matter what we have ever done or failed to do, He loves us unconditionally as we are. At the same time, however, he loves us too much to leave us as we are, because His plan for each of us is that we grow to become whole and mature in every area of life.
To know and experience God's love, we first need to accept His forgiveness and be sure that we are a true Christian. For help to do this, see the article, "How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian" at: www.actsweb.org/christian.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to know and experience your unconditional love, and through your love and that of supportive and trusted friends, learn to love and accept myself in a healthy way. And please use me to be a safe and trusted supportive friend to others who also need to experience your love and develop a healthy self-concept … all for your glory. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Mark 12:29-31 (NIV).
Note: For further help see the article, "Developing a Healthy Self-Image" at: http://www.actsweb.org/articles/article.php?i=123&d=1&c=5&p=1.