The Path to True Self-Esteem

Is it not remarkable how our feelings about ourselves can rise and fall with such rapidity? When we do something really useful or say something really intelligent, we can feel great about ourselves. Yet a moment later we can feel like an idiot, as we do or say something else. Clearly, we see ourselves—as “useful,” “intelligent,” or “idiotic”—based on how we operate within situations. If we perform brilliantly in a certain situation, we ascribe to ourselves the attribute of brilliance. If we act inconsiderately, we think of ourselves as inconsiderate. What could be more obvious?

This fact seems to dictate the road by which we can find greater self-esteem. Improving self-esteem, we conclude, must be a matter of improving how we perform in situations, or perhaps realizing that we already do perform better than we think, or realizing that we can perform better.

How much self-esteem, however, can this really yield? If our self-esteem is conditional upon how we perform in situations, isn’t that a rather precarious foundation? Even when we rise to new heights in one situation, we can always fall down in the next. Self-esteem means being secure in oneself. How secure can we feel while standing atop such an unstable platform?

Perhaps we have been willing to settle for too little. In regard to the self-esteem we have been pursuing, A Course in Miracles would ask us, “Can it be anything that offers you a perfect calmness, and a sense of love so deep and quiet that no touch of doubt can ever mar your certainty? And that will last forever?” (T-23.IV.8). Imagine a self-esteem which offered these things. That would be true security. Yet how could one find such profound self-esteem? If it existed, it would have to rest on a foundation that provided immense worth and was utterly immovable.

A Course in Miracles claims that this foundation does exist. In truth, says the Course, we are not these tiny figures moving about in this world. Rather, beneath appearances, we are a grand Self, a spiritual Self of infinite worth, without limit or boundary. Our true worth does not rest on our shifting performance in this precarious world. It rests forever on one changeless fact: that we are a limitless spirit in the Mind of God.

This idea may sound hard to swallow. Yet I believe that something deep in our minds knows this truth, knows that we are more. And there are ways to reawaken this knowledge. One of the Course’s favorite ways is simply repeating the line “I am as God created me.” If God creates only the perfect and the pure, and if I am as God created me, then none of my bad performances have damaged my original worth. Despite it all, beneath all my failing appearances, I remain as perfect and pure as the moment He created me.

Try this, if you will. Think of a recent situation in which your embarrassing performance seemed to damage your worth, and then repeat, “I am as God created me.” You may want to take a moment and repeat it slowly several times. If you feel a sense of relief, perhaps an intimation of a greater worth beyond the shifting situations of this world, you have started down the path to true self-esteem.


[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]