Some time ago, a group from the University of Southern California became curious about why some people succeed while others with equal talents and opportunities fail. They studied nearly two-thousand students for six years. Their findings were remarkable.

They showed that the most important factor contributing to success or failure is self-image. A person with positive self-image is apt to succeed; a person with negative self-image is apt to fail.

In other words, if we perceive ourselves to be valuable or lovable, we will probably succeed in what we do. But if we do not perceive ourselves to be valuable or lovable, we will probably fail. But the effect of our self-image extends beyond even this. Our self-image holds the key to our success as Christians, and our success as Christians is measured by our ability to love God and our neighbor.

Studies show that people with a positive self-image are far more capable of loving than people with a negative self-image. So, why is this true? It is because love is a self-gift. Love is a gift of one’s self to another person. So, if we do not think we are valuable or lovable, we will not be able to give ourselves as a gift to another person. No one gives junk to another person they respect and admire.

That leads us to a question: How do we develop our self-image? Where do we pick up the idea that we are valuable or lovable? The answer is frightening. We pick up this idea from other people, especially those closest to us. If they treat us as not being worthwhile as we grow, that is how we will see ourselves in adult life. On the other hand, if they treat us as valuable and lovable, that is how we begin to see ourselves.

It would seem those closest to us hold the key to our self-image. But, as Christians, we must believe that God made us in His own image. Therefore, all of us should have a positive self-image.

Today’s Gospel emphasizes this. Jesus says that our Heavenly Father knows even the number of the hairs on our head. In God’s eyes, we have ultimate worth and value. He loves you and values you so much that He sent His only Son to save us from our sin.

So, it is important that we convey to others the same message He conveyed to us. That we are lovable beyond counting.

He tells in the Gospel that not a single sparrow dies without God’s consent, and we are worth more than am entire flock of sparrows. And He tell us “Don’t be afraid of anything.”

None of us should have a negative self-image. Pope Leo the Great’s final words were, “You are all Christ bearers, act like Christ bearers. You are called to greatness, then be great.”

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