A friend comes to you in tears. She has had a rough week, and everything seems to have climaxed as she pours out her emotions on your shoulder and seeks your support and encouragement.

“Nobody likes me,” she sobs. “I’m too shy. Whenever I’m around other people, nobody even notices me. I’m too much of an introvert and will never be popular. My self-esteem is non-existent.”

How do we, as Christian women, help a friend at a time like this? What is at the root of her problem?

Would it be in her best interest for us to try to boost her view of herself? Would we be doing our friend a service to make her feel better about herself for the time being, or would that only be a temporary plaster that would inevitably come off in a day or two?

Let’s be honest, most of us have experienced a similar situation, haven’t we? If not with a friend, perhaps we’ve even had similar thoughts and feelings ourselves.

I know I’ve had days when I haven’t received a single e-mail or text message on my phone, and the temptation is there to mope about it and think to myself, “Nobody is thinking about me today.” But is it really about me?

Sugar-sprinkled egos

Sadly, even in Christian circles recently, the pattern has been to focus on self rather than God, even if it is in subtle, sometimes unnoticeable ways.

But where does this notion come from? Is it a biblical mandate, that we should sprinkle sugar on top of each other’s egos?

In actual fact, the term ‘self-esteem’ only became popular as a result of the rise of psychology in the 1960’s. Now it’s a household term. Schools have entire curriculums based around the so-called importance of thinking highly of oneself.

But even in the church, we have fallen for the scam. After all, don’t we all long to be built up, to be admired, to be made to feel worthy?

What’s your status?

Take Facebook, for example. Facebook is fantastic, I love it - but it has its pros and cons. It’s an amazing way to stay in touch, to see photos, to encourage one another.

But isn’t there always the temptation to update our status in a way that will draw attention to ourselves? We want to be loved, to be noticed, to be liked.

We post about how miserable we’re feeling, either physically or emotionally, so that people will feel sorry for us and make us feel better about ourselves through public gushing. We post about how terrible our day has been so that our ‘friends’ will build us up and tell us that tomorrow will be better.

I know I’ve done it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited for my husband to come home from work so I could nudge him to notice my hard work and accomplishments of the day.

As a family of five, our dirty laundry basket is almost never empty. So on the rare occasion that I actually do conquer the mountain of smelly socks and grass-stained pants, I want to be sure that he notices, so he can say, “Wow, well done!” (Okay, I’ll admit that there may have been one occasion where I even posted my accomplishment on Facebook.) But why? So people will commend me? So I can get an emotional pat on the back? In truth, yes. I want to feel like I’m doing my job as a stay-at-home mom well, that my efforts actually pay off and don’t go unnoticed.

But is that really what I need? Do I need to feel better about myself? How much do I rely on the comments and approval of others to boost my self-esteem?

Is our view of ourselves determined by the way the world sees us, or do we look at ourselves through the lenses of God Himself, according to the truths of His Word?

A biblical image of self

Every time we say or think to ourselves, “I’m not pretty enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not skinny enough. I’m not funny enough. I’m not successful enough,” we are denying that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We are disapproving of the Creator Himself. Who are we, as mere clay, to argue with the potter?