A quick google search of the term self-esteem yielded no less than 4-5 websites dedicated to recognizing the importance of self-esteem, on the first page. They tell you what self-esteem is, what it means for you, and how to improve it. They have tests and quizzes you can take so that you can identify if you need help. In short, this topic is very important to a lot of people, and they feel it needs to be addressed.
A word about how NOT to address this topic. I am going to say little in this post that is original (that could really be said for all of my posts). I'm sure you have heard people discuss the topic of self-esteem before. Likely you have even heard those that explained the fact that they were against self-esteem as well. Perhaps you even know people that rant and rave against this idea. I would like to suggest that those who do so are going about addressing this topic the wrong way. All ranting and raving gets you is a bunch of people in your corner who already believed the same way you do, and everyone who doesn't agree with you writes you off and they won't hear another word you say. I am likely going to arrive at the same conclusion as these people, but I hope to use means that will resonate with people, even those that may disagree.
Self-esteem is essentially tied to how we perceive ourselves. As such, it is linked fundamentally with the idea of identity. Who are you?
The goal of self-esteem is admirable, let me describe what I believe is happening from a spiritual perspective. Self-esteem comes primarily from the movement and perspective of secular humanists. Their answer to the fundamental question of identity is grim indeed. Secular science asserts that there is no creator and we arrived here through entirely natural causes over long periods of time. Consequently, everything you are can be reduced to physical processes acting on physical matter. Immaterial things such as souls, beauty, and love do not exist, or can be explained by entirely naturalistic phenomena. Now all of these concepts and ideas may not be fully formulated or discussed by the secularist. They may not even affirm all of these either. However, this is the consistent worldview web that is produced from their affirmed ultimate authority, and anywhere they do not affirm these things they are (praise God) being inconsistent.
So what is your identity if these beliefs are affirmed? Your identity is essentially worthless. Not only are you a mere animal, the fact that you are derived from non-living matter at your core makes you less than an animal. Human beings have no value or transcendent meaning, and survival of the fittest reigns supreme. What is the difference between a ball bouncing off of a wall and a bullet colliding with somebody's brain? Nothing. They are simply atoms banging into each other. The bullet does not take a life, because life itself is simply natural processes in the body and brain, the fact that they are ended is irrelevant.
The movement of self-esteem is a radical reaction against the conclusions outlined in the paragraph above. Because we are made in the image of God, all human beings react violently against the idea that we are simply natural processes. We KNOW we are more than that and as such refuse to accept the conclusions of the naturalistic worldview. However, secular humanism refuses to abandon the presuppositions that lead to the conclusions they hate. Instead, they seek to (inconsistently) establish a different foundation for humanity's worth. Unfortunately since they have already abandoned God, everything they propose is ultimately insufficient.
Self-esteem manifests itself in and abundance of ways. Positive thinking and appealing to the universe abound. Motivational speakers and media seek to appeal to your inner nature, but lack the truth content for a sustainable perspective. The emotion and feelings wane and there is no truth to keep you driven. Ultimately self-esteem is vapid and empty. This is because it advocates a pull yourself up by your own bootstraps type of mentality. If YOU think positively, if YOU say to yourself, if YOU take charge. This boils down to the basic works-righteousness mentality that nearly all false religions fall into, and it is profoundly unbiblical.
What is the alternative? The alternative drives at the root of what self-esteem is and is trying to cure. As I asked earlier, who are you?
You are a human being created in the image of God. The image of God in every single human being is what gives us our value and worth. Ironically, promoting your true identity is then done in the very opposite manner than the world pursues it.
Rather than trying to build and lift you up with positive words and affirmations, the Bible does everything in its power to tear you down. This is because your value and worth has nothing to do with you and everything to do with who made you.
Read the first 3 chapters of Romans sometime and tell me that your worth is found in yourself. It's not there, it's not anywhere in the Bible. Using various means and methods in our life, God often brings us to rock bottom. Why would a loving God do that?
The more you are trusting in yourself and your own strength and your own worth to give yourself meaning, the further you are from your true identity. God brings us down so that he can build us up on a proper foundation. From the depths of the pit look at yourself and your life and see how much you are worth. All you bring is your sin. Nothing but iniquity and transgression. Any yet. AND YET. Look now to that cross.
God sends his only Son, the one in eternal fellowship and communion with himself, the one who created all things, the one who is eternal God and sustains all things by the power of his word, to die for . . . you. Why? You certainly weren't worth it. It isn't because of you, it's because of HIM. God values you because God values you; and if God values you, then nothing else really matters. It's the very fact that I am so LOW that I am so HIGH. The fact that I am a wretch and "worm and not a man" when I stand before my God is the very reason that I am an heir to the throne and a brother of the King. The way up is down.
He must increase, but I must decrease. - John 3:30