We all have different ways of establishing our sense of self-worth. For instance, growing up, I felt pretty good about my skills as a baseball player because my dad taught me to throw from the shoulder and not from the elbow, which was unusual for a girl at that time. And I felt good about myself as a student because I worked hard and got pretty good grades. Yet the thing that I tried hardest at was being a “good girl.” When I was in eighth grade, I even got a citizenship award, and that reinforced my efforts to be good.
Now, you might think that all of this would add up to a secure sense of self-worth, but that wasn’t necessarily true. Because my sense of my value was largely based on the premise that my goodness was personally sourced, it was limited – it got rocked and shaken when I made mistakes. But these very moments of insecurity actually ended up proving helpful, because they caused me to consider my self-worth from a deeper perspective.
For example, on one occasion I made a mistake that made someone very angry with me. All of my attempts to apologize and correct the situation were in vain. I felt deep remorse and agony, and it felt as though my whole identity as a good person was threatened.
But I also began to see that this sense of identity was the crux of the problem. “What is my true identity?” I wondered. I frequently turned to the Bible when I needed help, so in this case I looked there for inspiration. This led me to consider the life of Christ Jesus, who no doubt had the most secure sense of himself of anyone who has ever walked the earth. His powerful life example of doing good, of healing and saving humanity from the oppression of sin, disease, and death, is unparalleled.
Yet he based his sense of self-worth entirely on the goodness of God, not himself personally. When someone addressed him as “Good Master,” he responded, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:16, 17). He also said, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). He lived with complete confidence in his ability to do good because he knew the source of that ability was God.
And he also explained that we all are naturally good because God is our source, too. God is the divine Principle, or governing cause, of our being, whose glorious attributes we can’t help but reflect. And acknowledging this to be true about ourselves enables us to express that goodness more fully in our lives.
As I reasoned with these ideas, I felt a deep sense of humility settling into my heart. All the good that I had ever expressed was still valid; it just wasn’t sourced in a mortal personality with a track record of successes and failures. My value was, and is always, secure in God. I began to more clearly feel God, divine Love, guiding me, which also helped me see how to move forward productively and calmly.
This experience continues to help me. For instance, some years later I felt inspired to take an unconventional turn in my career and was faced with the fact that others disapproved of my decision. For a while I struggled with that, but once again it turned me more deeply to God for reassurance, and I gained a clear sense of confidence that I was doing the right thing. The decision I had taken proved to be a rich blessing for me and for many others that I was able to help in my new role.
In a talk at the beginning of the 20th century, the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote: “Happiness consists in being and in doing good; only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness: conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart, and nothing else can” (“Message to The Mother Church for 1902,” p. 17). Establishing a deep and lasting sense of self-worth is not about propping up a fragile ego. It is finding an enduring sense of our value to God as His creation and recognizing, in the heart of humble prayer, that God is the source of our identity, ability, fulfillment, and success. We can let this benediction that God gave to Christ Jesus nourish the deepest places of our being and inspire our efforts to do right: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).