Like most everyone, I suppose, I wonder just how worthy I am to feel good about myself. Knowing my own shortcomings, I can't say I always feel totally right. Remorse over lost opportunities and wasted time sometimes gets in the way. But I am learning.
Sometimes, seen in others, high self-esteem appears immodest and offensive; there seems to be a fine line between it and egotism. But there is a way to feel good about yourself without a tinge of egotism. Surprisingly, it is to lose concern over self in honoring God. In so doing, we can actually love ourselves as God loves us.
Jesus Christ brought out the necessity of obeying God's commandments. He instructed, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 19:19). This indicates we should love ourselves - not because we are self-absorbed, but because it is natural and correct to care about one's own welfare.
God is good. And God's goodness is all-inclusive; it can never be exclusive or personally selective. God is universal Love. And our love, reflecting divine Love, must relate to everyone. Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor's founder, wrote, "To grasp the reality and order of being in its Science, you must begin by reckoning God as the divine Principle of all that really is.... No wisdom is wise but His wisdom; no truth is true, no love is lovely, no life is Life but the divine; no good is, but the good God bestows" ("Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 275).
Another statement from the same book explains that "... forsaking matter for Spirit, by no means suggests man's absorption into Deity and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace" (Pg. 265). The concept of "enlarged individuality" presents a better, more worthy goal to me than that of gaining mere self-esteem. The latter connotes an inward view - personal and limited - while the former implies a broader perspective and a keener sense of true being. As John Ruskin once said, "When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package."
Recognizing God as the only source of good, and each of us as expressing Him, we can feel good about ourselves. We can at the same time avoid feelings of jealousy, timidity, and self-depreciation, as well as feelings of superiority and the criticism of others.
Not long ago I was feeling neglected by people I thought owed me love and respect. It just seemed as if the love we should be sharing was lost in their own self-interest and self-absorption and in my resulting feelings of disappointment. I thought of just forgetting it all and not even caring. But with that thought came a feeling of loss for the happiness that might have been.
At that point I stopped my wrestlings and listened for what God had to say to me. Immediately came the message "Love can never be lost!" True, I thought, that Love that is God can never be lost. It expresses the only true love there is. It does not depend on anyone's deserving to be loved. God's love just shines like the sun and offers its benediction to anyone willing to walk in the light, unencumbered by personal feelings. This was such a powerful thought that I felt instantly freed from all my misgivings.
In moments - yes, moments - there was a telephone call. The people I'd felt so abandoned by were inviting me to come and spend a few days with them. Such genuine love and welcoming were being expressed to me that I could only say "Thanks!" The visit could not have been more pleasant and involved no hint of past grievances.
Mere self-esteem could never have achieved such results. Self-esteem cannot make others love us. Self-esteem alone cannot fulfill high ambitions or bridge over past mistakes. Forgetting ourselves, when it's done in the act of giving God our attention, will awaken us to love that is complete. Knowing our identity to be of God will make us feel good about ourselves and others.