My book study peeps slowly filled my living room Wednesday night. I love them for so many reasons, but the main thing I love about them is the absolute authenticity and transparency that exudes from all of them.
The first lady to walk through the door is a dear friend. Her family has been on Keto for two years, and my family for two months, so we always compare notes. I was exceptionally frustrated because I’d been eating exceptionally well, tracking all my macros and calories, and running six days a week, yet the number on the scale hadn’t changed for the last three weeks.
We were lamenting hormones, calorie deficits, and the utterly pull-my-hair-out frustration that comes with this quest to be some sort of ideal woman. I said what I know is truth–I should be thrilled my cardio-vascular health is phenomenal (according to my Apple watch), I am fueling my body exceptionally well, I can literally jump on the treadmill and run 10 miles without a hitch, I’m sleeping well, and never have that late afternoon crash anymore.
Those are the things that matter.
Because I’m an imperfect and exceptionally flawed human being, though, for some reason I subconsciously tie my self-worth to a number on a scale or a pants size.
I have this parenting rule that says I don’t ever talk to my teenage daughter about weight. We talk about health, eating well, exercising, buying clothes that flatter our bodies, etc. But, I never talk to her about her weight. I know, as a parent, that the number she sees on the scale isn’t important, but I absolutely fail at applying those things to my own life.
I fail to the point that whenever she hears me complaining about it, she tells me I need to take my own advice and a dose of my medicine because those aren’t the things we focus on.
What I know to be true is that she is exactly right.
Putting that into practice has been more of a challenge though.
I don’t think I’m alone.
I know there are so many people in this world who have this same struggle, this same intrinsic belief that their self-worth is tied to something extrinsic.
- Societal Success
- Validation from Others
The reality, though, is that our self-worth isn’t tied to any of these external things at all. Our self-worth is completely intrinsic, and if we want to be healthy humans with healthy relationships, we have to understand our individual worth.
Self-Worth is Different Than Righteousness
I am all too familiar with the theology that circulates through Christian communities that asserts that none of us are worthy without Jesus.
I’m not arguing with that–from a theological standpoint.
As Paul explains in Romans 3: 21-24 (NIV):
But now, independently of the law, the righteousness of God is tangible and brought to light through Jesus, the Anointed One. This is the righteousness that the Scriptures prophesied would come. It is God’s righteousness made visible through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And now all who believe in him receive that gift. For there is really no difference between us, for we all have sinned and are in need of the glory of God. Yet through his powerful declaration of acquittal, God freely gives away his righteousness. His gift of love and favor now cascades over us, all because Jesus, the Anointed One, has liberated us from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin!
Many times this idea that we are not worth enough on our own because we need Jesus to make us worthy is confused with our intrinsic self-worth.
I think we have to ask if Paul was really writing about self-worth here or was he writing about our flaws, imperfections, and sins that could only be made righteous through the sacrifice of Jesus?
I’d argue until my last breath that it was the second.
Paul isn’t saying we have no worth on our own; he’s saying that Christ’s gift and sacrifice allow us to have access to the righteousness of God that liberates us from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin.
That’s an important distinction.
Self-worth is different.
Self-worth is the belief that you are, in fact, worthy–that God created you with a unique identity, like we talked about last week, with unique needs and qualities that make you who you are, allow you to bring your qualities to the table, and result in a respect for yourself and those qualities and needs.
Self-worth is believing these truths:
Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Luke 12:7 (ESV):
Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Self-worth is believing that God knit us together in our mother’s wombs, that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made, that God knows how many hairs are on each of our heads, that He values us, that He created each of us to be his handiwork, and that he has prepared our good works and numbered each one of our days.
Righteousness=how we are saved through Jesus
Self-Worth=how we were created as masterpieces by God.
Self-Worth is WHO we are Not WHAT we do
God created each of us as a masterpiece.
I’m sure He has each of our pictures in His wallet.
Each of them.
- what you do for a living
- what you look like
- what your income is
- what your house looks like
- how much weight you can lift
- what kind of car you drive
- who you married
Let’s talk for a few minutes about why this distinction is so important.
If we tie our self-worth to an extrinsic thing–like weight, for example–what happens when our weight changes?
Our view of ourselves diminishes.
We don’t see ourselves as worthy any longer, and that is enormously detrimental to our spiritual, mental, and emotional health as well as our relationships.
It doesn’t have to be a physical characteristic either. The same is true when we tie our self-worth to our success at our job, our income, our validation from others–as soon as the status of that changes, our view of ourselves changes.
We forget that God created us as handiwork, that he cares about us, that he literally knows how many hairs are on our heads.
We forget that we are intrinsically worthy and desperately search for something external to give us worth.
Why Self-Worth is Important
At the core of eliminating toxicity from our lives and our relationships is the belief and understanding of our own self-worth.
I have to believe that I am worth more than dysfunction or that dysfunction will continue forever.
I have to believe that I’m worthy of health or my lack of health in my relationships will go on and on.
Last week, we talked about how each of us has our own unique identity that allows us to have our own qualities we bring to the table.
Our loved ones deserve to experience those qualities.
Today, though I want you to take it a step further and recognize that you have worth as well. You don’t just have some good qualities that others deserve to know, you have true worth, God-given and created worth, that makes your needs important.
I truly don’t believe that we can be healthy in our lives and in our relationships if we don’t recognize this because our self-worth is what gives us the belief in ourselves and our own needs as well as the courage to advocate for those things.
We have to believe that we are worth fighting for.
If we don’t, we’ll find ourselves rolling over again and again, being a doormat again and again, and being taken advantage of again and again.
It’s not supposed to be that way.
Relationships are not supposed to make you feel LESS loved, LESS secure, LESS respected, LESS seen, and LESS important.
Any relationship that does that to you is one you need to evaluate, but we’ll talk more about that next week.
Lessons on Self-Worth
Do you remember the book or the movie “The Help?”
Every day, the little girl’s nanny would tell her “you is kind, you is smart, you is important.”
The nanny did this because she wanted that little girl to hear those words, to engrave them on her heart, to believe them.
When I think about that, it makes me wonder what God would tell me every day so that I would hear them, engrave them on my heart, and believe them. I have to think they would be something like this:
- You are loved.
- You are my handiwork.
- You are my masterpiece.
- You are living the days I prepared for you.
- You were fearfully and wonderfully made.
- You are important.
- You are worthy.
I pray you hear God’s voice whispering to you today and feel his nudge in your heart because I am confident He has some pretty special messages for you to engrave on your heart as well.
- What is your biggest struggle when it comes to self-worth?
- How well do you advocate for yourself?
- What is it God is whispering to you today about your worth?
Great article! Understanding who God says we are is the key to discovering the beauty of our worth.
I loved this so much. I have thought the same thing, that it is important to distinguish between righteousness and self-worth. You have explained it so well! Thank you 😊
Kristen, this post . . . you’ve packed it with important truths and thoughts we need to remember and live by. Through most of the first half of my life, I struggled with understanding my self-worth. God has helped me redefine where my worth comes from, and that’s been helpful. Your words speak life-giving truth. Thanks for sharing this!