It’s Narcissist Friday!

Do you like yourself? Most of us were brought up to think that was a prideful and, therefore, sinful idea. If you grew up in a family or a church where you learned that even God didn’t really like you, then how could you like yourself?

In the culture of my growing years, the focus was on mistakes and sins. How many did you get wrong on the math paper? What happened on the bus today? What did you do while we were gone? Why can’t you do better? Those words came not only from family, but from school, church and community. The only thing most of us knew about ourselves was that we didn’t measure up. We were not good enough.

Add to that the culture where popularity was the goal. Put any twelve to twenty people together and watch how someone becomes the leader, someone becomes the funny person, and someone else seems wise. Look around to see how many people are just quiet. We remember that in school. The popular kids knew who they were. The rich kids overlapped significantly with the popular kids. Sports and physical appearance and money seemed to measure value. The rest of us were just there. We may have had friends, but we usually didn’t think of ourselves as having value.

Eventually, people started talking about the need for self-esteem. Young people dragged through life with no goals, no energy, no hope. Some of them ended their lives through suicide, drugs, or dangerous behavior. All because they didn’t like themselves. After all, no one else liked them.

But I remember being told that self-esteem was just another word for pride. Liking yourself was the beginning of self-worship, turning away from God. Believers, we were taught, should not like themselves. They should accept the fact that God loved them in spite of themselves. Then they should work hard to be worthy of that love.

Some of you might remember the old movie, “Shenandoah,” with Jimmy Stewart. A sad movie in many ways, but I will never forget when a young man comes to ask for the hand of the daughter in marriage. Stewart, her father, had a question for the young man. He asked, “Do you like her?” The young man answered, “I love her!” Stewart asked again, “But do you like her?” And again the young man said, “I love her!” But Stewart pushed the point. Liking and loving were not the same. He wanted to know if this young man would look forward to being with his daughter, put up with her idiosyncrasies, and enjoy her personality through the years.

We grew up with this mixed message that God loves us but doesn’t really like us. Because of that (and because of the same message within our family) we never felt that we could like ourselves. And, because we don’t like ourselves, we open ourselves to narcissistic abuse. We accept criticism, derogatory words, even cruelty, because we agree that we deserve it.

Narcissists know how to choose victims who already dislike themselves. That makes the narcissists’ work easier. But even those who grew up in supportive homes and encouraging cultures often find that their self-esteem is gone at the end of the narcissistic relationship. So many times I have heard: “I hate the person I have become.”

The good news is that God not only loves you, He likes you. Why did Jesus come? To restore a relationship. You were worth that sacrifice. The joy of the relationship brought Him to the cross. He came because He liked you and wanted to be with you.

I realize we don’t usually talk like that in church, but it is still true. Start there. Believe that God is not angry with you, doesn’t hate you, doesn’t want to punish you. Believe that He is reaching out to your heart with acceptance and love because He wants you to walk with Him for the rest of eternity. The message of grace is a message of companionship.

And look around. There are people who like you. Some have stayed with you through some pretty challenging times, even when you have been so confused or hurt or angry that you couldn’t have been good to be around. Those people like you. Accept their “like.”

If you are likable to God and likable to others, maybe you should just accept their acceptance and begin to like yourself. I am not even sure what that would mean in your life. No more self-condemnation. No more words of deprecation. No more: “I’m so stupid; I’m so ugly; I’m so fat; I’m so unlikable.” None of that for someone you like. Instead, words of affirmation. “I am valued and loved and capable. God likes me. My friends like me. I am somebody.” And listen, if there is someone who doesn’t seem to like you, believe that they just don’t really know you. You have it on good testimony that you are likable.


PS: I just want to say thanks to those who support this ministry. Now, more than ever, your gifts are important. I have been greatly blessed over the years to be able to offer counsel and teaching freely, and I want to keep doing that. It is possible because of your gifts. I am truly grateful!


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17 responses to “Self-esteem

  1. freedomfighter007

    After reading my weekly email from Grace for my Heart, I just wanted to thank David Orrison for this website weekly words of truth and healing, all based on God’s word. Hands down, this is a laser light into the problems and often overwhelming issues that narcissists bring to the lives of those around them. And keeps my heart soft and always, always, always, points me to trust in Jesus, while using practical wisdom for everyday issues. Thank you.

  2. Pastor Dave, I like this a lot!

  3. loy

    You can delete this if you like but I thought I would share this with you,written to myself one day before my birthday.

    I can’t drive 55,
    Well maybe more like 45.

    As I look forward and backwards and up and down, and, all around, I see what I have become in this life, and it is scary and sad, that this many years has passed, and so little really truly has gotten done.
    I have no one to blame, but myself.
    Being born stupid, fat, ugly and lazy did not help my cause, and, the disappointment it has caused my family and friends is sad to say for all, which have had the misery of knowing me, not to add to the disdain of my employers.
    All that have known me are disappointed in who I am as a person, a man, a relative.
    What can I say, but I am sorry you had to know me and, please forgive me for being alive and breathing air.
    Just take solace in knowing that I do not blame you for your dislike, disappointment and disdain.
    If it was up to me I would have chosen not be here, but here I am sorry to say.
    So, Eat Cake, smile and pretend all is well for the camera, when really all I am doing is dying inside.
    Oh, how I hate myself, way more than you could ever hate me, so I guess I do win,
    I hate me more, than you ever could,
    Finally, I am better at something, better than everyone else.

    • Oh, Loy, I wish I could pour the love of Jesus over you like a soothing ointment to wash away your pain! There is One who loves you, even when you don’t love yourself. I have done so many things to push Him away, failed Him in so many ways, but He has always welcomed me with love and acceptance.

      Many here will recognize your pain. The Scripture says that each heart knows its own grief, but we do share a familiarity with self-condemnation and rejection from others. Like physical pain, your pain may be something you remember, but it will fade in the love of Jesus, if you let Him minister to your heart.

      Please write to me directly through the contact info on the blog. I am praying for you. I care.

    • Loy, I have been through a lot of trauma, some of it very extreme. But in my experience, the worst hurt of all is the pain of hating myself. I used to have a song playing in my head almost every waking moment. An “ear worm,” they call it, when you can’t get a song out of your head. The horrible song was: “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me.” Horrible!

      I looked for love and acceptance in all the wrong places, only to end up being abused and wounded even more. Apparently, only users and abusers are attracted to a person with no self esteem.

      Then one day, I decided to just go ahead and believe what the Bible says about me. To believe that I was created by God, and made in His own image. Wow! To believe that God loved me so much, He sent His only begotten Son to die for my salvation. Wow Wow! To believe that I am the apple of my Father God’s eye, and He has engraved my name on the palm of His hand. Wow Wow Wow! And to believe that, because I am in Christ, after having asked Him to be my Savior and my Lord, I am now a new creation. And to believe that daily, as I seek Him through Bible study and prayer, I am being transformed into His image by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, that same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Wow Wow Wow Wow!

      Anyone who does not like me just doesn’t know me. I am a beloved daughter of the most high God, the King of Kings. And His love has set me free from the haters, especially from the pain of hating me. 💘💘💘

    • Sending a big hug from Canada, because I can’t fix it for you but I can care that you are hurting. I don’t even know you and I can tell a few things about you,
      1. You are a very talented writer
      2. You are strong. Yes you are, don’t argue with me. You have functioned this long with that voice in your head beating you down constantly. That is strength.
      3. You don’t want to make other people uncomfortable with your pain so you wear a mask.
      4. You want change and to make a difference in this world.
      I am going to let you in on a secret I discovered around the age of 50, the lowest point in my life. I had failed my suicide attempt and my ex screamed at me to “try again because no man would ever want me anyway.”
      I decided to live. I knew I had to find a way to put myself back together but I felt so broken I didn’t know where to start.
      I started at the basics, I knew that I have the power to change anything I want about myself. So I went through my traits one by one and chose to change that about myself or accept it as being part of me. If I really didn’t want to change, I was choosing to be that way, so I must like being that way.
      I accepted my perceived flaws and I stopped holding myself back.
      I starting living true to my core self. You know that little voice (I think it is God’s voice) in your head that says, “help that person” but you don’t because you are afraid they might reject you?
      Just do it, who cares if they don’t want your help, they know you cared enough to offer. That alone can make their day and get them through.
      I used to think I was fat, I was anorexic and bulemic for years, it was when I stopped dieting and just ate normally, that my weight levelled off and I realized I am not fat at all, I am just the way I should be. I look in a mirror and see fat, I look at a photograph of me and I don’t look fat. In fact I barely recognize myself because my mind is so good at lying to me about myself.
      I don’t want to high jack this post and I don’t even know if I have made sense. I just knew I had to reach out to you and say something, because I care.

      • Jeff

        Happy to have again found this community at a time when some actual healing already has taken place, because for many years all I knew was venom. (poison) The love and care for others is evident here. We cannot take away from the pain of others but in a way, can help shoulder the burden, which is exactly what Jesus calls us to do. Most in the world don’t understand. Here we have a few who do and I want to thank you all for being there in our brokenness. But as it’s said, the broken places heal stronger then before. Let us have hope in that.

    • Z

      Just wanted you to know I care. I cried when I read your words. They are not true. But I do know how people can make you FEEL as if they are true.
      I had the opposite experience but same outcome.
      I had confidence, strength, a very young age. In a VERY abusive violent family. Both parents were my abusers and I also witnessed daily DV between them. Hatred was all over the place. When they realized I was different from my siblings, I resisted and distanced myself from them, detached and didn’t bond with them, they all started targeting me for complete destruction. My siblings were extremely codependent. That was what abusive parents wanted. Compliant. Hated themselves and lived to strive for parents’ “love” and “acceptance”.
      I’m now an adult and STILL they are targeting me for destruction. There was recent violence they perpetrated on me. I called the police. All my siblings and extended family turned against me. All these people KNEW of the child abuse. Still they sided with the abusers instead of the truth teller.
      So, although our experiences are different, they’ve done a number on my mental health all these decades. But targeting me with hatred says nothing about my “loveability “ and everything about their lack of character, conscience and heart. Blackness where hearts should be.
      I have God Who loves me and He loves you too. I have a Godly spouse despite my former family’s attempts to break us up and put an end to my happiness. Can’t have that. But because of their smear campaigns and character assassination and the ugliness of domestic violence and child abuse and now adult abuse, the thought of being a potential target too, makes people afraid to support us victims. Abusers ruin everything they put their dirty hands to. They ruined all my relationships but my marriage. So other than him and my God, I have NO ONE I can say “likes me”. No one stood up for me ever. Even knowing the truth. So I know some of how you feel. But don’t let people who are so ugly on the inside have ANY say in who or what you are. Get their opinions right out of your head. Read Scripture and know and claim as the ONLY REALITY what GOD THINKS ABOUT YOU.
      Feel free to reply to me. I care and I hurt too but I still have a heart for other hurting people. I can’t stand that you are walking around so deceived about your true self. This world IS harsh and sometimes so wicked. I’ve lived it. But we can heal. I don’t have all the answers. I know the love of God and the cross of Jesus are the only answers I have found so far. People have done nothing but let me down. So I know they aren’t the answer.
      Pastor Dave, maybe you can address those of us who DON’T have friends who “like them” as an affirmation. How do we walk this hard life, especially one of recovery from a lifetime of horrific abuses and violence and severe PTSD, panic attacks…alone? With only Jesus as our friend.
      I know how hard it is Loy. I’ll be your friend. Just because I can tell you have a good and sensitive heart. Those are the kind of friends I want.

  4. Jeff

    Just started college at 58 to study Psychology. Finally after over 50 years of grooming by my “family” which included sexual and emotional abuse at the age of 5, I see the light. What they showed and the surviving members continue to show is only a mirage that is the bane to the youngest, me. Was victimized and turned into the scapegoat when I started acting out with all the avenues at my disposal growing up in a drug and gang infested area while my “parents” had already purchased a beach front property for their retirement. Always had their plans while I got sacrificed. Malignant narcissism shared by my “mother” and “brother” nearly cost me mu life. Almost everybody I grew up with are dead and gone, either thru drugs or violence. Felt abandoned by God for many years but now realize He has always been there and what happened to me is not His fault, although did blame Him for a time. The only way for me to make sense of it is to hopefully help others one day and am hoping God will bless my efforts to grow and heal so one day I will be able to be there for others who suffered at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them.

    • Thank you! People need to hear that there is hope.

      • Jeff

        Hope is a subjective term when one suffers from Complex Trauma, not yet a recognized diagnosis but in addition to severe PTSD. Some days are better then others. I am keeping my “mother’s” estate going so she can “live the life she so richly deserves.” I am still very much involved in the dysfunction having had a “carrot on a stick” held out before me for many years while the grooming continued. Her house burned down in the Woolsey Fire, which I thought might be a sign from God. Unfortunately it didn’t change her and now at 90 years old she has decided she is going to rebuild, something I told her I would have no part of since I was sacrificed building the first one over 45 years ago. She has had plenty of flying monkeys step up to help her. It all just confirms the intentional brainwashing I went thru but doesn’t make it any easier. One of my regular conversations with God, aside from please give me strength and clarity is… when is this toxic nightmare going to end? There is so much more to the story that cannot be shared on a forum as this but can say that I have been told by multiple therapists that my experience is the most extreme they have ever witnessed. Been told there has to be a purpose for it. Doesn’t make it any easier…

  5. Mary27

    I think we would be surprised to know how many people, deep down inside, feel the same way Loy feels… which he has expressed so eloquently. There is the loop tape in our heads that says “Sorry for taking up space”… “I’ll crawl back in my hole so you don’t have to deal with me”… etc. But those are really lies from the devil. God made each of us unique and for a purpose. Maybe that purpose is just to brighten someone’s day by smiling at them. Maybe we can say a kind word. Maybe the person we smile at or say a kind word to is another person like us, who has the same loop tape in their heads, and needs to have their spirits lifted. We all have something to offer, even if it seems very small. The world already has way too many pushy narcissistic aggressive celebrity wannabe’s. Those of us who are quiet and feel inferior actually have something to contribute that the loud ones will never be able to give. We can quietly come alongside another sufferer, feel their pain, and show them we understand and care. And that makes life worth living.

  6. I’ve adopted a different terminology… I usually refer to “sense of dignity”. I think self-respect and self-esteem /can/ turn into pride, but certainly don’t have to. Referring to dignity, however, helps me keep myself grounded in the value that God gave me. I frequently feel useless, and much worse. I would say that my self-respect and self-esteem are gone. When I focus on dignity, though, I remember that God esteems me as loveable, useful, valueable, and I cling to how He has held me up in love. Then I focus on remembering and regaining a foothold in that truth. It seemed like a subtle change when I started thinking that way, but it has me helped a lot.

    • I like this. The term “self-esteem” was so overused and, I think, did lead to a culture of entitlement. And it is hard to get past the idea of pride when we think of liking ourselves. I would suggest that’s because we have never been taught how to like ourselves. It doesn’t mean thinking of ourselves as better than others or of expecting special privileges or even of endorsing all kinds of behavior and choices. It means accepting the value God has placed on us. That has special meaning for those who are in Christ, but all people are made in the image of God and are valued by Him. It would be well for all of us to remember that.

  7. This is a beautiful post. Thank you for this message.

  8. Loy

    Wow, I would really like to thank ALL of you for your kind words, PRAYERS and SUPPORT.
    This is truly a great forum, and Thank you for being so understanding,

    • Z

      Dear Loy,
      I’m glad you feel the genuine welcome and embrace of those on this forum who have walked through some horrible stuff too. We know how you feel.
      Prayers and support are what you can depend on here! Keep reaching out!
      I do hope you take Pastor Dave up on his offer for you to message him directly and privately. He’s much more knowledgeable in these areas than we may be.
      But I can tell you we’ve all suffered to different degrees. We have that in common. Stay in touch please.

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