I’ve been listening to the Dirty Johnpodcast. Guys, it’s mind blowing how this is even a thing. Have you listened to it or watched the Bravo docuseries on it? A woman who seemingly had it all, in fact, was gullible enough to marry a con man.
How does this happen? If you can get past the one daughter’s vocal fry and up-speak and the other daughter’s nasally speech, and listen, you’d be asking the same questions yourself. Why didn’t she believe facts that are corroborated and perfectly put together for us? Why didn’t she choose to see the truth?
I know how it happens. It isn’t as simple as calling this woman gullible or stupid. I don’t believe she is either. This woman, Debra, is smart, educated, came from an affluent family, and professes to follow Christ. This woman owns her own high-end interior design business. Her business wouldn’t sustain itself without business smarts and industry intelligence. So this woman wasn’t stupid. But what makes a woman who is smart choose to dismiss truth?
I know it may sound elementary to discuss what self-esteem is, but for the sake of going deeper we need to be on the same page. According to Wikipidia, “Self-esteem reflects an individual’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of their own worth. It is the decision made by an individual as an attitude towards the self. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself, (for example, “I am competent”, “I am worthy”), as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame.” Self-esteem has to do with what we believe about our self and the emotional response to that. Self-concept on the other hand Smith and Mackie (2007) defined it by saying, “The self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, is the positive or negative evaluations of the self, as in how we feel about it.”
Self-esteem controls our self-concept—how we see our selves. Thus it controls how we treat ourselves, what we allow in our lives, what we allow in our bodies, and more.
Low self-esteem is a root cause in not believing Truth.
There are times when I’ve been the Debra of the Dirty John story. I’ve chosen to believe something about myself that isn’t true, and thus I’ve allowed how I treat myself take over my life. For example, when I was younger, about to hit puberty, I believed a lie that was told to me. It essentially said, “You’re not good enough.” No I wasn’t told explicitly, “Danielle, you’re not good enough.” It came subtly. Sometimes it came in the way of something I did that disappointed my parents. My parents would look at me differently. Talk down to me. Say things like, “You’re better than this.” Nothing that I don’t do with my own children, but my personality took it as, I’m not good enough.
It also came in expectations. I knew from an early age I was “to be better than my parents” whatever that meant. It was engrained in me to always be doing better. So when I failed at being better at something, I felt shame that comes with disappointing people.
There was a time a friend of mine in fifth grade pulled a chair out from under me in class. He was hilarious. We were always in the same class from kindergarten through fifth grade. There was never any malice in what he did and it was legit hilarious. I laughed. The teacher, I’m sure laughed, as my rear end ricocheted on the ground, but made him write an apology note. When my mom found out about it, she didn’t laugh. She was embarrassed and disappointed. I can’t remember the exact thing she said to me but it ended up feeling like my fault that the chair was pulled out from under me. Again—it was hilarious, not a malicious event. Yes inappropriate in the classroom, don’t get me wrong, but not anything to be embarrassed about.
These are not the only examples of where I felt my self-esteem was being shaped by lies. Because I lost myself in academics, always performing, doing what was right—that got me attention and that’s what I thought my identity was. That’s who I thought I was. This person who performed to get attention. I learned to get my self-esteem from doing, performing, excelling, striving… until that blew up in my face.
I struggled internally in high school. A lot. I yearned for what was right, lured by the fun of doing what was wrong. It got so bad that the most of what I remember of my last two years of high school was that I wanted to flee the small town life with very public parents and live my own life.
I felt suffocated. Life was limiting. I didn’t have access to the things I wanted—education, diversity, arts, new people, knowledge, walking out of the door and blending in with people. I didn’t have a place where I felt free to be me.
If I’m being quite honest, I didn’t feel like I could be me and be accepted for who I was. But did I know who I was at the time? No. I really didn’t because I listened to what the world around me told me I was.
I went to college in the big city two and a half hours away from home. Fifteen credit hours was considered full time, or maybe it was twelve. I took eighteen to twenty-one credit hours a semester. Not because I needed them, but because I loved learning. I took all the required courses and then many electives. I loved being around people different than me but yet the same desires. I learned partying wasn’t my thing. I tried. Trust me. The funny thing is when we are close to flourishing, we start to learn who we aren’t and get closer to finding who we really are.
I learned I really enjoy the security of being loved unconditionally. I first got some semblance of it in my now husband. I married him the same week as my college sophomore finals were over.
That was a battle there, too, because many people told me, “You’re going to get pregnant and fail out of college.” “You’re not going to finish and become successful.” “What are you thinking? You’re ruining your life.” More world telling me who I am or who I’m going to be.
My parents didn’t come to my wedding because they so firmly believed I was doing something wrong. I disappointed them. I shamed their name. I left them.
But I didn’t.
I proved them wrong.
I graduated from college married, no children, with honors, and a job to start that summer.
At that time, though, I did not yet understand my worth is not in who they believe I am. For so long I believed the lies that I was never good enough. Even to this day I fight the battle of not being good enough. I don’t let my feelings rule me, but I do recognize when my worth is being challenged.
When our self-esteem is in a battle, we allow things into our lives that we normally wouldn’t. It could be we begin compulsive behaviors. Maybe we full on get involved in addictive choices. Maybe we learn to walk on eggshells so as not to rock the boat of others in our lives.
What does all this look like you might ask?
We allow people, even loved ones, to make fun of us for who we are.
We allow people, even loved ones, to call our ministry work a cult.
We allow ourselves to marry into a family of addicts, liars, and depression.
We allow ourselves to continue to visit people even though it is an unhealthy environment.
We allow ourselves to rage in anger because of how we allow other people control us.
We allow ourselves to hide, sneak, and live another life behind the front facing persona.
We allow ourselves to gorge on food every single day to feel something.
We allow ourselves to go to a new low, to a place we never thought we’d go.
It’s so important for us to really know who we are for there is always an enemy out there ready to hook us… just like a fish on the end of a fishing lure. The lure looks so dang good. We realize how terrible we have it in the moment and man that lure is so freeing. It will provide a relief. For an instant feel of gratification. Then we bite. Oh that gratification is so good. So fulfilling. Before we know it we’re caught in a trap of death. The fight seems too much.
That’s when we realize, usually over and over again, we are fighting the battle of our self-esteem our feelings about our self-worth. We cycle. We feel we are past it only realizing we somehow masked our self-worth issues and bite the lure again to encounter instant gratification, feeling of darkness, and the fight seeming too much again.
And that’s why we need Jesus—because the fight really is too much for us to handle alone. Jesus came, to show us how to live in the midst of adversity. He had so much opposition and questions of who he really was. Did he waiver? No. He said who he was in multiple ways—
I am the Way the Truth and the Life. John 14:6
I am the bread of life John 6:48
I am the light of the world. John 9:5
Be holy, because I am holy. 1 Peter 1:16
I am the Living One. Revelation 1:18
I am from above. John 8:23
I am in my Father and you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:20
I am the gate for the sheep. John 10:7
I am the one who testifies for myself. John 8:18
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. John 15:1
Jesus, secure in his flesh, knew who he was. He knew he belonged to the Father. And if we have accepted the Spirit, we are in Jesus, which means we also belong to the Father.
So many times these responses from Jesus were mentioned because he was challenged on his identity. And that’s what it boils down to, where do we find our identity. When we allow the world to tell us who we are, our feelings about ourselves plummet. Then we give ourselves such low value. We allow the crap to happen to us or we actively participate in crappy decisions.
The truth of the matter is, we are valuable. Why on earth would God have sent Jesus to die for us, while we were still sinners, not even knowing him. Are we of no value to him? Absolutely we are of value. We are all given a mission and a purpose. If we’re hiding behind low self-esteem we cannot, let me repeat we cannot fulfill our purposes. I want to be explicit here for a minute because I know people will question: I said we have value or worth. We are not worthy of salvation. Worthiness is has to do with deserving. There is not a thing we have in us that is deserving of salvation. Even when we don’t want to sin or do something wrong we do it. But we are worth something to God. We were created in his image. We have a value to him. We are his and he wants us to live in eternity with him.
When we believe we have value or worth, we are reminded there’s a bigger picture. It isn’t all about me. It isn’t all about the instant gratification. We realize our part is a calling higher than the world offers. We begin choosing the believe the Truth even when it is hard to see. We choose to grasp hold to Truth instead of succumbing to the world’s definitions of us. We begin to align our lives with our beliefs. Our relationships change. Some relationships end and some new, deeper ones begin.
When we realize our identity is in Jesus, our self-esteem and our self-concept exudes confidence.
I actually found my home church that same month I got married. My uncle drove an hour and met me there one Sunday morning. It’s the same church that would change my life forever. The church and its people who probably don’t even remember a starving child of God looking for meat and potatoes. I found people who would challenge me. Challenge my beliefs and ideals. I found people who made me stand my ground for what is right and made me learn to humble myself—all the while never telling me my worth is anything other than a child of God.
Today, I sit confident in knowing I am a chosen child of God.
Today, I sit confident in knowing other people’s beliefs of me do not define me, even if they are family.
Today, I sit confident in knowing I don’t have to have it all together to trust God.
Today, I sit confident in knowing I have worth or value in my existence.
Confidence doesn’t take away the sadness. It doesn’t take away the wishes of having it another way. It does take those wishes and reminds us we are going to have something even better than we could ever imagine come out of all the junk.
If it weren’t for me consistently seeking Truth, I don’t think I’d ever get past the lies in my life.
Do you struggle with self-esteem and how you view yourself? What have you allowed yourself to believe even though the truth is right in front of you?