The “Self Help” Myth

Go to any bookstore – online or in person – and you will find rows and rows…and rows and rows… of shelves housing books devoted to “self-esteem.” Most seem to focus on loving yourself, forgiving yourself, being good to yourself. Because we just don’t think enough of ourselves.


Here’s what I think: our problems with self-esteem aren’t that we don’t think enough of ourselves. Our problem is that we think of ourselves WAY too much.

At least I do, anyway. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t think about myself, my needs, my wants. When I don’t feel frustrated that I am not being treated well enough. I look at people and wonder what they are thinking about me – do they like me? Are they talking about me to their friends? Are those conversations positive or negative? They better not be saying bad things because, believe me, I know some stuff about them…Yeah, um, you get the idea.

On Being Selfish: Is It All About Me?But plenty of days go by when I don’t think about others: the needs of others, the wants of others, whether or not I am treating others well enough. I am an expert on being self-centered. In fact, I could write a book about that! But being others-centered? I need some help there.

Good News!

I have help there: it’s called the Bible, and it is SO much better than any self-help book on any real or virtual bookstore on the planet. The Bible has a whole lot to say about how we should think about ourselves. The verse I need to be reminded of most often is this one:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~Phil. 2:3-4

The English teacher in me has to point out that those verses are imperatives – the “bossy” sentence. That’s Paul (lovingly) sticking his finger in our faces and saying, YOU – that’s right YOU – stop being so selfish! Worry more about others than you worry about yourself. The rest of the chapter (which I highly recommend reading) goes on to demonstrate how Jesus lived out this principle. He set the example for a selfless life, and we will experience great joy if we follow that example.

So if I really want to make ME happy, I should think about ME less.

Because my self has enough help.

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