Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Build My Self-Respect?
“WE LIKE ourselves!” So declared more than two thirds of a group of recently polled youths. Typical was 16-year-old Edward who said: “I feel sure of myself and I like that feeling.”
But what about the other third?
They battle feelings of inferiority. And you, too, may occasionally feel bad about yourself. How, then, can youths build self-respect?
First, it might be helpful to know your assets and liabilities. One psychologist makes a helpful suggestion: Write down all the things you like and dislike about yourself.
If you’re one who feels “not OK” most of the time, your list of faults may be pages long. You might berate your looks, your intelligence, your temperament. But you’ll also see that many so-called faults are either quite petty or out of your control—your looks, for example. Why fret over the unchangeable? On the other hand, your personal inventory may reveal serious flaws, such as a quick temper or selfishness. These you can do something about! Conscientiously work on these problems and your self-respect is sure to grow.
Don’t blind yourself to your assets. You may not think that being able to cook or fix a flat tire is that important. But to a hungry person or a stranded motorist, such skills make you a hero! And what about your virtues? Are you studious? Patient? Compassionate? Generous? Kind? Are you also humble, modest, meek and teachable? These virtuous qualities far outweigh physical liabilities. And, remember, we all have qualities that can make us valuable!
What are some specific ways to build self-respect, though? This brief checklist gives but a few:
SET REALISTIC GOALS: If you always shoot for the stars and fall short, you can suffer bitter disappointment. So set goals that are attainable.
What might some be? How about learning a skill, such as typing? Improve or branch out in your reading. Have you ever read the Bible from cover to cover? You owe it to yourself to read God’s book of wisdom. Time spent watching TV can easily be diverted to this worthwhile project. Then there is the challenge of learning to play a musical instrument or speak another language. Self-respect is often a useful by-product of accomplishment!
DO GOOD WORK: Do you have a part-time job or do you work around the house? If you do shoddy work you’re not going to feel too good about yourself. God, however, took pleasure in his creative works and declared the creative epochs to be “good” at their completion. (Genesis 1:3-31) You, too, can take pleasure in whatever work you do and do it skillfully.—See Proverbs 22:29.
DO THINGS FOR OTHERS: Self-respect is not gained by sitting back and letting others wait on you hand and foot. Rather, Jesus said that “whoever wants to become great . . . must be [a] minister,” or “slave,” for others.—Mark 10:43-45.
Sharing Bible truths with others is an especially fine way to help others and it gives great personal satisfaction. For example, 17-year-old Kim budgeted 60 hours each month of summer vacation to preach to others. She says: “It has brought me closer to Jehovah. It has also helped me to develop a real love for people.” It is not likely that this happy young woman will be lacking in self-respect!
PICK YOUR FRIENDS CAREFULLY: “My relationship with myself is a very unhappy one,” said 17-year-old Barbara. “When I am with people who have confidence in me, I do good work. With those who treat me as an accessory to a machine, I become stupid.”
People who are high-minded or insulting can indeed make you feel bad about yourself. So pick friends that are truly interested in your welfare, friends that build you up. (Proverbs 13:20) And don’t confine yourself to your own age-group. Though separated by many years, David and Jonathan enjoyed a very upbuilding friendship. (See 1 Samuel 18:1.) True, it may not be easy for you to make friends. But the Bible shows that if you give of yourself unselfishly, you’ll attract friends.—See Proverbs 11:25.
MAKE GOD YOUR CLOSEST FRIEND: “Jehovah is my crag and my stronghold,” declared the psalmist David. (Psalm 18:2) His confidence was not merely in his own abilities but in his close friendship with Jehovah. Thus, when adversity later struck him, he could withstand severe criticism without losing his composure.—2 Samuel 16:7, 10.
A Word of Caution
Apparently because most of us, in our efforts to gain self-confidence, overshoot the mark. Many become egotistical. Others grossly exaggerate their skills and abilities or are prone to put others down. These are the boasters and braggarts. However, their self-esteem outstrips their true worth.
Even Christians can fall into this trap. Rivalry between Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) afflicted the congregation in first-century Rome. The apostle Paul thus gave straightforward counsel. He reminded the Gentiles of their sordid past. Only by means of God’s “kindness” had they been “grafted” into a position of God’s favor. (Romans 11:17-36; 1:26-32) Self-righteous Jews, too, had to confront their imperfections. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23.
Did Paul, however, strip them of self-esteem; reduce them to cowering beggars? Not at all. “For through the undeserved kindness given to me,” Paul continued, “I tell everyone . . . not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think.” (Romans 12:3) It was “necessary” to have a measure of self-respect. But they had to avoid going overboard.—See Romans 11:20.
A Christian therefore avoids extremes. As Dr. Allan Fromme observes: “A person who has an adequate conception of himself is not sad, but he does not have to be deliriously happy. . . . He is not pessimistic, but his optimism is not unbridled. He is neither foolhardy nor free of specific fears . . . He realizes that he is not the outstanding success of all time, nor is he a perennial failure.”
So be modest. “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (James 4:6) Acknowledge your assets, but don’t ignore your faults. Rather, work on them.
You’ll still doubt yourself from time to time. But you need not ever doubt your self-worth or that God cares for you. For “if anyone loves God, this one is known by him.”—1 Corinthians 8:3.
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Do you feel dejected, inferior? There is a solution
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The “self-confidence” of boasters and braggarts outstrips their true worth