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Too Low, Too High, or Just Right?

Self-esteem is shaped by your thoughts, relationships and experiences. Understand the range of self-esteem and the benefits of having a healthy opinion of yourself.” – Mayo Clinic


Self-esteem is your overall opinion of yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “self-image,” “self-perception,” “self-concept”. They all refer to how you feel about yourself, how you see yourself. We were all created with the ability to place a value on ourselves as a person.  

In talking about self-esteem, we need to look at whether our self-value is too low, too high or just right?

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay
Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Too Low 

If you self-esteem is too low, you put little value on your opinions and ideas. You often think about whether you are weak, stupid, or just plain not good enough. You are often dissatisfied or unhappy with the way you handled a situation or about yourself in general. 

We all experience these types of thoughts if we are faced with a stressful situation or challenge, but we don’t stay there.

“Low self-esteem is having a generally negative overall opinion of oneself, judging or evaluating oneself negatively, and placing a general negative value on oneself as a person” – Centre for Clinical Intervention.



Harvey’s self-esteem appeared to be getting lower and lower as he watched other engineers being called into the boss’s office discussing the new position that had been posted.

In fact, he had already taken a few of his things home. He was absolutely convinced that he would be gone by the end of the month. 

“Hopefully, I’ll get a severance pay until I can find another job,” he said to himself.


Too High 

Some, especially those with low self-esteem, may think that a high self-esteem would be benefical, but think again. A person with too high self-esteem tends to be boastful about their accomplishments. They are often smug and appear like they feel superior to others. They tend to abuse relationships, assuming that their needs come first in any and all situations. If they don’t come first they often become angry and bully others. They are usually blind to their own faults – “faults, no I don’t have any.” They also often have impulse control issues.

The high self-esteem person sounds very narcissistic, but measurements for high self-esteem and those for narcissism don’t correlate. Many narcissists actually have low self-esteem, they just don’t allow others to see it. Those with high self-esteem don’t score high on the measures for narcissism.

Narcissists feel superior to others and are constantly comparing themselves to others. If another person shows abilities to the narcissist, the narcissist feels the need to denigrate the other person.

If a narcissist is boastful and acts like they are superior to others it’s usually a sign that they feel insecure and have low self-esteem. In conclusion, a person with a too high self-esteem is not a narcissist. 

We are cautioned in the Bible not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. 

Romans 12:3 “…you are not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…”

Again in Romans 12:16 “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”


Just Right

A healthy, balanced self-estem is where you have an accurate view of yourself and your abilities. You have a good realistic opinion of your abilities but you also recognize your flaws. It’s hard to have too much healthy, balanced self-esteem as long as it is grounded in reality.

Jesus was ask in Matthew 22:36-39, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

If you do not have a healthy, balanced self-esteem you will not be able to fulfill the second part of the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.

Perhaps that is a big problem in the world today. Perhaps that is why we have so much violence. Perhaps that is why we have kids shooting kids. They are loving their neighbor as they love themself – low self-esteem.

When you have healthy, balanced self-esteem you feel secure and worthwhile. You, generally have positive relationships with others and feel confident about your abilities.

With healthy, balanced self-esteem you don’t fear feedback from others. Instead, you actually welcome it because it helps you grow and acquire new skills. You are assertive in expressing your needs and opinions. You are confident in your abilities. You are not afraid to make decisions. You are not afraid of forming new honest relationships and are more likely to end unhealthy ones. Because you are secure in yourself you are less likely to be overcritical of others. You are able to weather stress and setbacks with more resiliency than those with a low or high self-esteem.



If you’ve been following Harvey, you know he had been having problems getting ahead in his personal  and profession life. He was an environemtnal engineer and had been with the company for about 10 years. 

He had been seeing a counselor because he had gotten a bad yearly review. He was having low self-esteem issues and wanted to change it so he had a chance at getting a promotion which had been posted on the job board.

Harvey watched as others in his department were called in to the boss’s office. Every one reported being asked questions about the new position and how they saw the new department being structured.

The company was adding a new department to allow them to deal with nuclear waste. The engineers were questioned about their knowledge of dealing with nuclear waste and how they would setup the department and the safety protocols they would put in place.

Harvey’s already low self-esteem was taking a nose-dive because he wasn’t called into the boss’s office, even though it was clearly marked in his file that he had done a special internship in nuclear waste.

As he walked toward Joan’s office he began to drag his feet. He didn’t want to talk about it any more. He knew he would not get the promotion. Why was he even going through all this? Talk, talk, talk it didn’t appear to be helping. He was going to be out the door soon. He just knew it.

He walked into Joan’s office. She was standing behind the counter and looked at her watch as he walked in, “You’re late.”

“Sorry. I don’t see any point in this. It isn’t helping. I’m the last one to be interviewed and now the boss is going to be gone for two days. I might as well pack up my desk,” he said.

“Harvey, what is going on with you? We were making such good progress,” Joan said as they walked into her office.

She handed him a piece of paper and a pen. “Please answer the questions on this paper honestly and to the best of your ability,” she said. “It’s important.”

Write a thorough describion of how your see yourself?  

He wrote a few sentences and handed it back. Joan looked at the paper and made a few side notes, speaking them as she wrote. “Good. It shows that you do have a healthy, but some what low self-esteem.”

She handed him the next paper. “Please answer these questions. You can take as long as you need.”

“What is this?” Harvey asked.

“Please just answer the questions to the best of your ability.”

“I’ll need more paper.”

Joan handed him a small laptop. “Please type you answers into the laptop. Take all the time you need. Why don’t you sit over at the table so you can make yourself comfortable.”

Harvey began answering the questions.

  • Briefly describe the life-cycle environmental impacts and implementation scenarios for potential nuclear fuel cycles.
  • Briefly, describe how you would set up a safety and environmental risk assessment for a nuclear waste system.
  • Briefly describe how you would structure a storage facility for nuclear waste.
  • Briefly describe how you see a nuclear waste disposal system for this company.

He wrote for hours. Finally, a little before quitting time he stopped.

“I think I’m finished,” he said as he took the laptop to her desk.

“Let me see.” 

She started going through the document he had typed, “Fifty pages? Did you see the instructions, briefly?”

“That’s as brief as I could make it and still be thorough.”

“It doesn’t make much sense to me, but I’m sure it will to the boss. It’s quitting time. You can go.”

Harvey hesitated, took a few steps toward the door then turned and walked back to Joan’s desk and took a seat in front. 

“What’s this all about?” he asked with a very quizzical look on his face.

Joan paused like she was trying to make a decision.

“Well, I do have the authorization to tell you that the job is yours.”


“You were hired because of your expertise with nuclear waste. You were passed over for other promotions because you were hired to manage this department. It just took longer to establish the it than intended.”


“Let me put it this way. When you seemed to get depressed, we had to make sure you were the right person for the job. We can’t have a supervisor who would put everyone at risk. The others have been called into the boss’s office to determine the possible candidates to work with you.”

“I almost blew it, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did. I gave you the writing assignment to see if your attitude would change when you started writing about nuclear waste and it did. I am pleased to be able to give you the supervisor’s position. But, I expect you to be in my office every week for awhile. There are still issues we need to work on.”

“Thank you. I do understand and agree.”

“We need a person to run this department who has a balanced, healthy self-esteem because of the nature of the job. We can’t have someone who feels they “know it all – a high and mighty” person. But, we also can’t have someone with really low self-esteem. You are on the lower end, but I think you will be just fine. Now, enjoy your weekend.”



Harvey walked back to his desk in deep thought. The last few weeks had been difficult, but good. He had reconnected with his dad, which he didn’t think would ever happen. His dad had apologized to him about the words he used to describe Harvey that fateful night. He told Harvey it was not how he felt. He was very angry with Harvey’s mother for tricking him into marriage.

Harvey learned that his low self-esteem was the result of his parent’s deeds but that he was his own person, not responsible for his parent’s actions. He played over in his mind how his dad was very harsh, but his mother seemed to smooth things out with a more loving attitude. In talking to his dad, he sensed that the critical, harsh edge was gone. Maybe his dad was in a better place also. 

He thought back to some of the sermon’s he’d heard and scriptures he’d read, Proverbs 23:7 “…For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” and Jesus himself taught that the state of one’s mind is the fountain of his activity. “For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed” (Mark 7:21). Harvey tried to keep his heart right before God. Even though it had been challenging and his self-esteem was on the lower end of the spectrum he leaned on God to help him not become depressed or develop a critical spirit. Even though it would have been very easy, especially over the last few weeks.

One thing that Harvey always held onto in his mind was that he was made in the image of God and God didn’t make junk. He knew that even if his earthly father didn’t love him, his heavenly father did. 

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).

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