Can a positive self-image harm your kids?

We all want our kids to have a healthy self-image, but what is the key? Unlike a current presidential candidate whose enormous self-image is hard to miss, I struggled to have a positive self-image. Why is it that some people have too much of a good thing and others can’t get a crumb? Even with parents who tirelessly taught me lessons about having a “positive mental attitude” and “positive self-image” it didn’t stick…not deep in my soul. Outwardly I found some success, but inwardly I was insecure and didn’t believe I was very likeable. Mom and Dad passed on good information, but it missed the key ingredient. My parents didn’t know the key at the time, and you can’t give away what you don’t own.

So, what did they miss? They missed the root cause of a healthy self-image: seeing ourselves through the eyes of the Creator. If the root cause of our positive self-image is not the Creator we are destined to live with at least one of the harms it inevitably produces.

A positive self-image that is not based in reality: In 2013 an analysis of the American Freshman Survey uncovered a startling reality. We have raised a generation of kids who have a totally unrealistic view of themselves. While test scores dropped and time spent studying dwindled, the students claimed they were “gifted and driven to succeed”. They didn’t have an accurate assessment of what they can do or who they are. (

Where does the disconnect come from? Possibly from a generation of parents who were so afraid of destroying their children’s self-image that they didn’t help them see the power of their strengths AND their weaknesses; a generation of parents who focused more on creating positive outcomes than developing character.

It takes time to help our children discover their gifts and accept their shortcomings. Become a student of your children. Let them try new things. Let them fail. Let them try again if they want to. Be there with them. Watch them. Learn about them. Affirm your love for them when they do well AND when they crash and burn. Most important, teach them that “apart from God they can do nothing” John 15:5 (He is the giver of their gifts – not them) AND with God “nothing is impossible”. Humility and faith – a powerful pair.

Helping our children develop a healthy self-image requires time and emotional energy; two things parents can’t seem to find in this warp drive culture. I know it’s easier to heap on the accolades, give an unearned trophy and blame failure on the system, the teacher or the coach, but when they’re adults the illusion you’ve helped your children build will do more harm than good.

A self-image based on the greatness of the individual leads to narcissism or depression or both. A self-image that’s birthed in the character of the Creator grows in humility, confidence, compassion, generosity, excellence, love and mercy. It’s not dependent on the successes of the day because its foundation is the unwavering power and faithfulness of the One who knit us together in our mother’s womb.

When I was young I learned how to think positive thoughts, cultivate my strengths and work hard to pursue my dreams, but it wasn’t until I saw myself as the Creator sees me that I died to my self-image and became alive to the person He made me to be. In many ways she is different from the person I imagined I was, but I like her… a lot. I’m comfortable in her skin… she feels like the true me. I become more like her the more I get to know the Creator. Becoming her is natural but not easy. The imitation me likes to rear her head. She ropes me in with old fears, insecurities and empty promises. Every day I choose to die to her and watch in awe as the Creator brings out a bit more of the woman He created me to be for eternity… it is unexplainable joy and security, and it has stuck…deep in my soul, forever.

Parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, friends…Pursue your relationship with the Creator every day. Ask Him to open your eyes to the person He created you to be and then help the children you love do the same.


For we are His masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. –Ephesians 2:10