I care too much about what people think of me, and it affects how I think of myself. I imagine this is something most (especially women) struggle with. For me, it has two outcomes – pride (either thinking I’m better than others, or feeling bitter and stubborn because others seem more able or godly than me), or self loathing (including negative thoughts, telling myself that I can’t change; it can be quite debilitating and cause lots of anxiety).
I thought I would share a few things that have been helpful (quite recent, but also over the last year – I think I’ve grown a lot):
- A friend gave me a book called “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” by Time Keller. He explains how both of the above outcomes (pride and low self-esteem) are both sinful, and that the second is not actually humility, as we would love to call it. A really helpful quote was “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” The more we think of God and others, the less we will think of ourself, and the more we understand God, the more we realise that his esteem is what matters, not what others think of us or what we think of ourselves. Even as we realise how holy God is and how sinful we are in comparison, we realise how much we need him and turn to him, which is exactly what he wants from us.
- Philippians 2: related to the above book, and it’s really where the idea of humility comes from, but we are to imitate Christ’s humility and think of others as more important than ourselves. Timothy models this well, having genuine care for others and for Christ’s interests. I think as we focus more on other people, it will put our own needs into perspective.
- Another book that I’d read before, “Encouragement – How words change lives” by Gordon Cheung, helps us think more practically about how to encourage others, beginning with the truth of the gospel as the greatest thing to share with people (believers and non-believers), and it’s also the thing that spurs us to think of others. Even if we don’t think we’d be very good at encouraging others, even our weak attempts are encouraging – I shouldn’t hesitate so much that I don’t encourage at all, I should just give it a go, because it’s likely that others will appreciate it.
- Ephesians 1: I read this with a friend the other day, and a verse that stood out was 1:17, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” As we get to know God better, and all the wonderful things he has given us in his grace, we rightly fall at his feet in gratitude and worship – why would you look at yourself when we can look at God? His wonderful promises also help to put into perspective our worldly worries.
- I started reading a book called “You can change” by Tim Chester. I’ve only read 2 chapters so far. By the title you would think it sounds like a self help book focused on you. But the first two chapters have pointed me straight to Christ – the model of godliness and humility that we are to follow, and also the reason we can be like him, because he has made us a new creation to live as we were designed.