Discernment and Self-Esteem: Considering marriage? Religious life? Priesthood? Our decision to follow any one of those calls, I believe, can very well be thwarted by a poor self-image. If one’s self-esteem is strong, a person, most likely, will not doubt succeeding in the vocation to which God calls. However, if one’s self-esteem is low and the person does not believe he or she has anything to give to a marriage, to religious life or to the priesthood, or that failure is inevitable in whatever vocation is chosen, that is, the person is saying something like: “I won’t make it through training” or “I won’t meet the educational and spiritual demands that vocation will ask of me,” most likely that individual will hold back. A vocation to which one feels strongly attracted may be dismissed because, in the case of marriage, the individual may consider her/himself unworthy of connecting with the person that would make for a strong marriage. Or the individual may consider him/herself unworthy of being a priest or a religious sister. Obviously, then, a person’s discernment of his/her vocation would be seriously impaired.
How to proceed, then, to strengthen one’s sense of self, to build one’s self-esteem, to change one’s negative image into an image of self that is open to the graces of the vocation that is right for the discerner? Some of the following behaviors might be helpful:
· Identifying the negative self-messages invading one’s being and replacing them with positive sayings and doing so consistently
· Looking for positives in one’s life and acknowledging those experiences
· Identifying one’s strengths and choosing to develop those
· Engaging in activities that build a healthy sense of pride in who one is and who one is capable of becoming
· Setting a goal/goals and working toward achieving that goal/those goals
· Finding a spiritual director who can help you achieve all of the above