I have no self-esteem. If you asked me to rank the people for whom I have the highest esteem, I doubt I’d make the top 20 of my own list. Maybe I could crack ten thousand, but I keep meeting or reading about people who are better than me in so many ways, consequently I plummet further down the charts. I’m actually very happy about this, luckily I’m not the best thing that humanity has ever produced, and God help us if all the better people die off and leave me at the top of the heap.
That said, I don’t dislike myself, I don’t have a problem with my self-image, I don’t have low self-esteem. I’m saying I have NO self-esteem, for the same reason that I have no pet unicorns. Self-esteem is a nonsensical fantasy. It’s a false Gospel. It’s a meaningless fabrication that exists only in your imagination. It’s a modern doctrine invented by the prophets of new age psychology. It’s the Good News proclaimed by the apostles of the Religion of Self. Worst of all, the pursuit of this elusive self-esteem elixir leaves everyone empty, confused, and, ironically, unhappy and hating themselves.
I’m no genius (or maybe I am a genius who thinks he’s not a genius because he has low self-esteem), but I sniffed the stench of bull crap on this “self-esteem” cult back in elementary school. I remember the first time we learned about the term. The guidance counselor handed out a work sheet and asked us to “rate” our self-esteem on a scale of 1 to 10. As a side note, it bears contemplating the geopolitical relevance of this scene: while we were sitting in class, talking about our feelings, kids in China were learning silly things like “math” and “science.” Now, years later, we’re bankrupt and they own the country. But at least we all feel pretty good about ourselves.
In any case, there we were, facing the important task of arbitrarily quantifying our egos. Most of my fellow classmates jotted down nines and tens. Incidentally, some of them would grow up to be unemployed alcoholics, but I’m guessing if they could retake that test, they’d score themselves exactly the same. I, on the other hand, felt a bit confused by the assignment. I raised my hand: “My mom and dad told me that we’re supposed to be humble, so can I be humble and also give myself a 10?” I wasn’t trying to be combative; I was honestly perplexed. At home, my parents always told us that God wants us to have humility, and discipline, and respect. I didn’t remember them ever telling me about the part of the Bible that mentions this “self-esteem” thing.
My guidance counselor quickly clarified. He informed me that, yes, you can have maximum self-regard and ALSO be a pillar of unassuming humility. You can think highly of yourself and still be humble — best of both worlds! Wow! I’m awesome because I know I’m awesome, and because I’m humble! Nobody’s more humble than me. I’m the most specialist and humblest kid on Earth!
I bought into that notion for a while, and it sure felt great to be great for no reason. But then, when I was a little older, I decided to pull out a dictionary and fact check my guidance counselor.
Humility: Modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance.
Esteem: To regard highly or favorably; regard with admiration.
Hmmm. Admiration. Self-admiration. I can admire myself, and regard myself highly, while also regarding myself modestly? Admire myself? If someone asked me who I “admire,” I can answer “myself,” and still fit the humility bill? Can I chug a bottle of Hershey’s syrup while also exercising self control? Can I be a pathological liar while also being a person of integrity? Incredible. Now, can I head north to sound the trumpet of my own superiority, while also heading south to do the same?
Answer: Yes on all counts, if I have enough self-esteem. Self-esteem makes anything possible, much like LSD or cocaine. Self-esteem is, after all, just a code word for self-delusion. Apologists will claim that self-esteem is simply a matter of confidence, but if self-esteem is confidence then why don’t we just call it confidence? Because, although they sometimes bear similar-looking fruit, they stem from vastly different roots. Or, I should say, confidence has roots, whereas self-esteem lays on top of the soil, grounded in nothingness. A student should only be confident about a test if she studied for it. An athlete should be confident on the field if he practiced, and if he has talent. A singer should only be confident in her abilities if she, in fact, has abilities, and if she then works diligently to fine tune them. Confidence, in other words, is earned. The word “confident” is usually followed by the words “in,” “about,” or “because.” Rational, reality-based confidence is necessary, and we often need to call upon it to overcome fear and doubt. On the other hand, confidence without reason could be defined as self-esteem, as self-esteem is something conjured out of thin air. Confidence exists for a reason. Self-esteem is because it is, and requires no justification for its own existence. The person with “high self-esteem” (also known as a “narcissist”), feels that he need not answer any questions about it, which is beneficial considering he can’t answer any questions about it.
Why do you have a high opinion of yourself?
Because I have high self-esteem.
Because I love myself.
Because… Because I have high self-esteem.
Because I love myself.
Etc., unto infinity.
If a contractor is “confident” in his estimate, and then the work takes three times as long and costs six times more than the quote, you’d probably call him a lying thief, and rightly so. Yet if a guy says he has high “self-esteem,” and then you find out that he’s actually a lazy, selfish underachiever, you must still respect his “healthy”(read: deranged)self-image. Something’s wrong here.
I scrolled through my newsfeed to see what sort of wit, wisdom, and insight social media wanted to provide today. I happened across a Facebook friend who posted this little morsel: “Always remember that you gotta love yourself before you can love anyone else!” This is a common cliché we’ve all heard a million times over. You constantly see it written on Twitter and Facebook, oh, and in the Satanic Bible. Love of the self is, I must point out, the central tenet of Satanism. I’m not calling my Facebook friend a Satanist (although he might be, for all I know), and I’m not calling you a Satanist if you’ve regurgitated this slogan at some point; I’m just making an observation. Satanism is founded on the Gospel of Self Love, as opposed to the Gospel of Christ, which is founded on DENIAL of self and love of God. The two are not only incompatible, but literally the two most incompatible things in the entire universe.
Love yourself. Self-esteem. Self-admiration. I’d expect this sort of psych-babble from the disciples of Freud, but from the disciples of Jesus? This is terrifying development. Profoundly terrifying. Think about this for a minute. You can only love others if you first love yourself. A person with “low self-esteem” can not love other people. If this is true, then these two things must also be true:
1) Your spouse, your children, your parents, and your friends must be held hostage by your fickle emotional state. You give them, emotionally, only what you give yourself.
2) You must believe that love of self is the source from which all other love emanates.
Let’s first dissect number one: “Sorry honey, I don’t love myself today, so I’m not going to be able to love you, either. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow. Anyway I’m headin’ out to have an affair. Don’t be mad! I just don’t love myself today!” Love is a choice. If you don’t love others, it’s because you CHOOSE not to love them. Personally, I don’t always love myself. Sometimes I don’t even like myself. I am flawed and weak. I’ve done things I shouldn’t do, I’ve stumbled and sinned. But I always love my children and my wife because I choose to, and because THEY deserve my love. My love for them isn’t about me; it’s about them. Now, the modern slogan-spewer may respond that we “learn how to love” by first loving ourselves. This is foolishness. You love others by sacrificing and giving of yourself. How do you sacrifice yourself for yourself and give of yourself to yourself? What part of self-love translates effectively into sacrificial love?
Can I learn solid investment strategies by stuffing my cash into a mattress?
As for number two: Here we’ve arrived at the Satanic portion of the program. If love of self comes first — FIRST, before all other love — then it is the Source. It is the starting point. You are god, or a god on a planet with seven billion other deities. Such a philosophy is fine among materialists and devil worshipers, but not among Christians. A Christian knows that we must love God before we can love anyone or anything else. God is the source of all love. God is love. The believers in the Doctrine of Self-Love can only point to one passage in Scripture to make their case. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But the modern version of this commandment would be: “Love yourself SO THAT you can love your neighbor.” This is not how He instructed us, and He spends the rest of His time telling us to humble ourselves, urging us to deny ourselves, and warning against us exalting ourselves.
I’m not saying we ought to hate ourselves, although, honestly, I think we’re better erring on that side than the other. And I’m not saying we should have “low self-esteem.” I’m saying we should forget about our self-esteem altogether. Whether your self-esteem is “low” or “high,” whether you love yourself or are merely “working on loving yourself,” it’s all poison because it’s all an excuse to be self-obsessed. We’ve caved in on ourselves, like dying stars, and we’re sucking our spouses and our children into the black hole of our megalomania. We can’t see the world outside the window, because we’re too busy whispering sweet nothings to our reflections in the glass. We’ve become convinced that it doesn’t matter what we do, or what we say, or the sort of person that we are, as long as we have warm feelings inside. In a saner, less confused time, people saw it the opposite way. It didn’t matter how you felt; it mattered what you did, what you said, the sort of person that you were.
These days, people sit around unhappy, alone with their “healthy” self-esteems, telling themselves how great they are and how the world ought to “accept” them no matter what. When I was single I did the online dating thing for a little while (I met my wife on EHarmony). The vast majority of the profiles I came across featured some version of this phrase: “I want to find someone who will accept me and never try to change me.” Look, I understand you don’t want to end up in a relationship with a person who will pick you apart and criticize your every move, but you likewise don’t want to be with some passive schlub who will merely “accept” you. What kind of a pathetic and dreary goal is that anyway — just wanting to be “accepted”, tolerated, put up with? That’s not real. Life is not static and stagnant, do you really want your relationships to be? At some point you have to confront the fact that you’re not perfect, there are parts of you that are unacceptable, parts of you that a loving spouse wouldn’t “accept.” Marriage isn’t for people who are too good to change, that’s what divorces are for. In fact, life isn’t for people who are too good to change. Life IS change, reject one and you reject the other.
The “self-esteem,” “I’m special,” “love yourself,” dogma ruins everything it touches. It won’t help you at school, it will stifle your career ambitions, and it will surely wreak havoc on your relationships. Insecurities and doubt can have the same destructive impact — most narcissists are extremely insecure — but at least they might drive you to be better. Self-esteem can’t motivate improvement, because you can only confront the need for improvement if you first acknowledge your many flaws and imperfections. That process might take a toll on your self-esteem, so it must be avoided.
Men are easier to admire when turn we them into myths and monuments. This is especially true of the most mythologized creature in your world: you.