Just as soil erosion is wearing away of the land,
emotional erosion is the wearing away
of your true self.
Just as a forest fire can lead to erosion of soil, the fire of harsh words, negative comments or repeated rejection can begin to wear away at your self esteem.
It often begins in childhood; even as a child’s image of herself is being formed it is also being torn down. Parents are supposed to protect, provide for, and praise children, guiding and helping them grow into healthy, whole adults. But when a child is put down, belittled, and constantly criticized—wounded with words— she doesn’t feel safe, accepted or wanted. If she is continually ignored or abandoned, even by parents who are physically present but emotionally unavailable, she may feel depleted at an early age.
Void of the nutrients of love, care and consistency children need most, this little girl may have no idea how valuable and precious she really is.
Over the years the landscape of her heart begins to change. The constant dripping of another’s anger, ridicule, or living unnoticed begins to form a rut, then a gully and the wearing away of self esteem continues. As an adult she feels hollow, disconnected and she may have tendencies toward perfectionism, people pleasing or depression.
She never feels like she is “enough,” good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough or whatever enough for anyone to love her consistently and well. Guys come and go, and breakup after breakup over the years reinforces her feelings of being unloved, unworthy or less than. Hope withers and self esteems sags.
Like the pinkish-purple ice plants that close up at night, a wounded woman hides her beauty and her true self.
We need God’s better-than-20/20-vision to gain a clearer vision of who we really are, to come out of hiding, to be courageous, and to see ourselves as He sees us.
Rebuilding self esteem
How do you stop the “wearing away” of emotional erosion? How do you rebuild self esteem and restore confidence?
Plant seeds of truth. The seeds of truth come from reading and hearing God’s word, planting them in your heart and applying them to your life. In time there is growth, heart hedges holding your life in place—rooted and established. A key verse in Ephesians explains:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19, emphasis mine)
Rooted in God’s love and what He says about you, you can stand firm when you feel like your self worth is being washed away by the strong winds of someone else’s unkindness or how your hair turned out that day.
Whether you were raised in a family that helped you to be rooted and established in a loving environment or not, God can heal the hurt from your past. Established in love means your self esteem is grounded God and you begin to grasp God’s incredible love for you.
So often we want to hide the broken and less-than-perfect parts of our selves. Yet as we come to realize that Christ loves us in the middle of our mess, that startling love helps us to accept both our strengths and weaknesses, both the dark and light, and our self image becomes less broken and more whole.
A healthy view of yourself is balanced. A woman with a healthy self-esteem respects herself. She feels secure and worthwhile because of what God says about her. She has confidence in relationships and in life and generally more joy. She knows she has significance; she matters. With her sense of worth and value intact, she sits up straight and walks tall. Her head up, this confident woman is friendly, gentle and kind. She makes eye contact when she speaks, and she doesn’t constantly apologize for everything she says or does.
The light of Christ brings illumination. Once you’ve discovered your true identity, who you are in God’s eyes, and choose to live in that truth you will begin to see yourself in a whole new light.
When your identity is rooted and ground in what God says about you, your self esteem is more solid. You are better able to handle success or failure, deal with change, make decisions, and move forward to give and receive real and lasting love.
(Adapted from "When Love End and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty" by Jackie M. Johnson, Moody Publishers).