There are points in life when you just feel crummy. Not so much physically downcast, but ineffectual, worthless, even blue. It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience bouts of low self-esteem. But, we don’t have to take it on the chin.
Conventional wisdom accepts self-image as forged by three intertwining factors: how we see ourselves, how others see us, and how we think others see us. It would seem a delicate balance susceptible to a variety of life factors.
“Older adults may be experiencing a change in roles such as an empty nest, retirement and obsolete work skills in addition to declining health,” notes Richard Robins, PhD, who has been studying the sharp decline of self-esteem among seniors.
Self-image and health go hand-in-hand. “Self-esteem is related to better health, less criminal behavior, lower levels of depression and, overall, greater success in life,” according to one study’s lead author, Ulrich Orth, PhD, as reported by the American Psychological Association. And that’s the catch-22: declining health contributes to low self-esteem and low self-esteem drives diminishing health.
Breaking the cycle requires some mental sparring to stir things up and allow for a transformative change of perspective. You see, there is a viewpoint outside the scope of our own or others’ opinions. It goes by many names: call it inspiration, the divine, spiritual, or Godly.
If you’re an Old Testament reader you may recall Jacob struggling alone with the demons of doubt and guilt when an angel message from God comes to him. After some mighty wrestling Jacob’s spiritual strength is aroused within to knock out the self-induced anxieties that were haunting him and the subsequent loathing of his own character. His entire nature goes through a metamorphosis as a result. He’s a new man.
It’s a good lesson for those scuffling with their own or others’ verdicts of low esteem: embracing a higher standpoint, one God can furnish, helps shake loose those torturous feelings and obstinate labels that would take us down and mar self-image.
Improving self-esteem starts with accepting God’s help. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” Don’t degrade yourself by internalizing the judgments of others and adopting the poor mental pictures that ensue. It’s sometimes easy to forget each of us is in control of our own thinking and appraisals.
Living a successful, healthy life requires an accurate assessment of what we’re all about. The dynamics of being are not circumscribed within the narrow limits of our own or someone else’s purely human view. The whole man really is greater than the sum of his parts.
No matter the circumstances we’re dealing with, no matter the stage of life, each of us is OK, our image outstanding. Musician/song writer, Mindy Jostyn pushes home the point, “There’s never a story that ever could change the glory of you in His eyes.”
Editor's Notes: Steven Salt is a writer and blogger about health, spirituality and thought. He is a Christian Science practitioner, curious about everything. You can follow him on Twitter @SaltSeasoned.