In the whole range of evil thoughts, none is richer in resources than self-esteem; for it is to be found almost everywhere, and like some cunning traitor in a city it opens the gates to all the demons. So it greatly debases the intellect of the solitary, filling it with many words and notions, and polluting the prayers through which he is trying to heal all the wounds of his soul. All the other demons, when defeated, combine to increase the strength of this evil thought; and through the gateway of self-esteem they all gain entry into the soul, thus making a man’s last state worse than his first (cf. Matthew 12:45). Self-esteem gives rise in turn to pride, which cast down from heaven to earth the highest of the angels, the seal of God’s likeness and the crown of all beauty. So turn quickly away from pride and do not dally with it, in case you surrender your life to others and your substance to the merciless (cf. Proverbs 5:9). This demon is driven away by intense prayer and by not doing or saying anything that contributes to the sense of your own importance.
~Evagrios Pontikos (Philokalia, vol. 1, pp. 46-47)
Self-esteem, or vain-glory, is subtle and devious in the way that it turns the mind of its victim away from God, and towards him or herself. It can use nearly every aspect of one’s life as its raw materials for elevating the self, making it glory in itself apart from God, and even in place of God. Like the Pharisee it makes one proud of their accomplishments, or the gifts given them by God, and unlike the Publican it prevents one from humbling themselves and repenting before God, which is a necessary prerequisite for coming into genuine relationship with Christ, and for being healed of our spiritual diseases and attaining salvation.
Have you conquered gluttony, are you no longer attached to possessions, have you attained peace and freedom from disputes and confrontations with others, do you follow Christ’s commands—if you have achieved any of these and yet believe that you have done something yourself, you are in danger of self-esteem and losing the victory in Christ. Vain-glory works along with pride to delude the mind of those who trust in its lies, tricking the mind into believing in its own powers, and divorcing the soul from its marriage with God. Constant prayer, determined prayer, prayer with attention and effort reunite the soul with God, restore the proper humility within the soul, turning it away from itself, and reorienting it towards the Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.