Self Esteem Is It A Good Thing – Thermostat or Barometer?

By Rev Paul N Papas II
4 March 2014

There have been many people who have made a lot of money off of selling books, tapes, and seminars about having a good self-esteem. You may be convinced that you have should good self- esteem.

To understand self-esteem, it helps to break the term into two words. Let’s first take a look at the word esteem, which means that someone or something is important, special, or valuable. For example, if you really admire your friend’s dad because he volunteers at the fire department, it means you hold him in high esteem. And the special trophy for the most valuable player on a team is often called an esteemed trophy. This means the trophy stands for an important accomplishment.

And self means, well, yourself! So put the two words together and it’s easier to see what self-esteem is. What you have is Self – Self which lives no room for anyone else.

Do you remember the recent news cycle of the president taking a Selfie picture with a leader of another country? Who is the most important thing in a Selfie….you.

In January of 1982, Air Florida’s flight 90 crashed into the Potomac River. Initially six people survived the crash; they were seen in the water, clinging to the tail section of the airplane. A helicopter was brought in and hovered over the survivors, lowering a lifeline and flotation ring.

The craft could only handle one person at a time. Each time the helicopter returned and lowered the line, one of those in the water — a man described as balding, probably in his 50’s, and with an extravagant mustache — passed the line on to one of the others in the water with him. We later learned that this man’s name was Arland Williams.

When the other five had been rescued and the chopper returned for him, the man had gone under the water, another victim of the crash. One of the rescuers in the helicopter later said, “In a mass casualty, you’ll find people like him. But I’ve never seen one with the commitment.”

The man in the water could not have anticipated this tragedy, nor the role he would play in it, but there must have been some earlier commitments in his life — to such things as caring and selflessness — that equipped him to keep passing the lifeline to others when his own terror had to be crying out for him to cling to the line himself.

Self-esteem is frequently based on our feelings of worth in terms of our skills, achievements, status, financial resources, or physical attributes. Self-esteem often cultivates an independent and arrogant attitude. When we find ourselves not measuring up to society’s criteria for worth, we suffer serious consequences. Our self-esteem depreciates dramatically. The illusion of being successful and admired gives way to disillusionment as our possessions and achievements that once nourished our souls fail to satisfy our appetites. Every individual experiences basic needs — hunger, thirst, fatigue, etc. We are conditioned to satisfy these needs by getting something — food, drink, or rest. Mistakenly we conclude that by getting, we will achieve an acceptable self-esteem.

Nothing depreciates self-esteem faster than regret, anger, or fear. If you achieved your monthly quota and bonuses, your self-esteem soars with your boss’ praise. Like a barometer, your self-esteem plummeted when you received criticism during non-productive cycles.

Arland Williams put the other passengers first before himself. He raised his value each time he saved another person’s life. He could have kept his self-self intact and gone up the rope first. He was more of a thermostat that a barometer.

Here are “Ten Commandments to make yourself miserable.”

1) I must be liked by everybody for everything I do.
2) I cannot be happy unless everything is exactly the way I want it to be.
3) All the unhappiness I suffer is always caused by outside events or other people. I am just a victim.
4) It is wiser for me to avoid life’s difficulties than to face them and deal with them.
5) I must succeed in all situations or I am a failure in life.
6) Because a negative experience happened to me once, I shall forever be defeated by it.
7) I must have certain and complete control over all people and events in my life, or chaos will result.
8) I must put my happiness and comfort at the top of my priority list in order to live a fulfilled life.
9) I must compare and contrast myself with other people in order to know if I’m successful or not.
10) I must have certainty of success before I ever attempt anything.

Knowing who you are deep down inside when you are alone with yourself and what you do when no one is looking will reveal your true self. If you don’t have any values you will fall for anything and probably do anything.

Be more of a thermostat that a barometer.

Having a Self-Self focus could lead you to morale bankruptcy, loneliness, depression, and being medicated to name a few. It is not too late to find fulfillment in life when the Self-Self focus is gone.

Rev Paul N Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries (MA and AZ) and Founder of the Family Renewal Center (AZ) and


3 Responses to Self Esteem Is It A Good Thing – Thermostat or Barometer?

  1. Phil. 2 verse 7. I think provides us with the ultimate example of this. If our Lord had gone through his life among us promoting his self, we would not have a Saviour. I am not exactly a bible scholar, but think that the key word In this verse, sometimes translated differently in various bible versions, does have the meaning in its Greek form if “emptied” himself out…. Thank you for a timely word in the season of Lent.


    • You are very welcome.


      • I thought about your comment some more. You are correct in saying that He emptied Himself out. He came to serve not to be served. When He washed the Disciples feet the Creator of the Universe took of the position of the lowest servant in the household. In order to do that He had to empty Himself of all He had accomplished and of everything He was about to do – pay for our sins. I appreciate your comments.


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