I feel enormous pressure in my chest. With no father and a mother that wanted to leave me with other people, I had a confusing and painful adolescence. A single mother at eighteen having suffered infidelity and lack of stability, I now live with a man who left his wife but doesn’t want to marry me. I have one son who is a drug addict, another one who has other problems, and a daughter whose husband beats her. No one respects me…. My mother feels offended by me…. I want to escape and start a new life. I know that God loves me and that His Son Jesus Christ died for me, but I don’t know how to be happy.

Dear Friend,

We can feel the sadness and desperation in your words, and we are so sorry! Even though your childhood was many years ago, the lack of security and love that you felt during that time is still with you today. Those childhood feelings prevented you from developing a healthy self-esteem, and you likely came to the erroneous conclusion that it was your fault that you weren’t loved. That led to you having a distorted self-image and a lack of self-esteem.

Some people believe that it is sinful to have self-esteem. They mistakenly equate self-esteem with the negative character qualities of arrogance or selfishness. But Jesus Christ Himself said that the second most important commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves.(1) By saying that we love ourselves, He was acknowledging that it is human nature for us to eat when we are hungry, drink when we are thirsty, protect ourselves from harm, and do our best to provide for our own needs. So His point was that we should protect others and provide for them as we do for ourselves, and in that way, love them as we love ourselves.

However, you don’t love yourself, and your choices have been based on faulty information and negative experiences. Deep inside you probably think you are not worthy of respect, so you let people around you disrespect you. It should then come as no surprise that the man you are staying with, who won’t commit to you, most likely doesn’t respect you either.

God, on the other hand, sees you as His beloved child. He made you and knew you even before you were born. To find happiness, you need to see yourself as God sees you and follow His plan for your life. He doesn’t promise that you won’t have problems, but He does promise to walk with you and give you strength for each step.

We recommend that you leave the man with whom you are living. Give yourself completely to God and study His Word to find out how to do things His way. Pray and ask for His wisdom every day. Find a church where the people have been changed by their relationships with God. Such a church may have counselors or a group for people with low self-esteem that would help you.

We wish you well,

1 Mt 22:39; Mk 12:31