I've been thinking recently about why it is that I am a happy and confident person. I look around me, and see so many others who do not like themselves. As a teenager, this always confused and saddened me. What makes me different; what makes me special? I feel like I've always been this way....Is it personality? Is it a spiritual gift?
I was raised in a home where I was loved, appreciated, and encouraged toward individuality; I was happy because I didn't have reason to be unhappy. I never felt pressure to conform to the views and expectations of others, but this is not enough. What is the essence of that which has carried me beyond adolescence and into an adulthood fraught with pain, stress, and (occasionally) even sorrow?
My earliest awareness of this "thing" inside of me, this confidence, occurred when I was ten or eleven. I was in Primary and a scripture was read. I liked it. It stayed with me so I looked it up when I got home that day (an unusual occurrence) and read the following:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."
In that moment, I knew some things. I knew that God not only existed, but also loved me. I knew that He knew me, as an individual, and that He had a plan for me.
That moment marked a gathering of all that my parents had engineered for me. The peace, happiness, and spontaneity of my childhood stood as a support for the truths that I had learned.
I was important, special even. I was unique. I was me. God made me that way, and He needed me that way.
This moment, along with joys, successes, trials overcome, and the companionship of the spirit in my life have formed this “thing” inside of me. I realize now that it is a testimony.
I have a testimony of myself. I know that I am true. I know that I am good….and right. I know that I am the way that I am, in the place and with the people that I am, for a purpose….for a reason. My Heavenly Father wants, and needs me to be myself.
By embracing this knowledge, I have embraced myself, not physically, but my body and spirit, my whole soul. I love myself.
Now, while there is no doubt that I believe myself to be special, important even, I know that the same can, and should, be said about you, each of you. It frightens me to think that someone may read this, and not understand that this also applies to them. I have a testimony of myself, and it has helped me to have a testimony of you.
Usually “Self-Esteem Lessons” are reserved for teenagers, but you do not gain this testimony automatically. You don’t get it by growing up, graduating, getting married, or moving out. In fact, how much more difficult will it be when you have a spouse or children to take care of?
Please, please, PLEASE. If you feel shaky in your testimony of yourself, do not let another day go by without pleading with Heavenly Father to help you gain one. I don’t know how long it will take, a day, a week, or a year, but make a goal to do it, to know yourself, and to love yourself.
We all have reasons that hold us back. This is a scary thing. Once you know who you are, you will see all that you can accomplish, and then you will be responsible to live up to that version of yourself. I’ve been there, reluctant to begin that journey. But, as I heard Elder Groberg say on Sunday, “Hypocrisy is pretending to be something you’re not, but it is also pretending you cannot become what you really can.” Don’t be a hypocrite! Jump into that never-ending pattern of self-rediscovery that will force you to grow and grow. Don’t listen to fear, it comes from Satan. He wants you to focus on how hard and scary it is, but he never mentions the rewards. Don’t forget that it is worth it! When you are doing what’s right, growing and learning, you feel amazing! You feel happy, and best of all you have the spirit with you. That simple peace is the best feeling in the world.
Beyond this, like Enos, once you have gained a testimony of yourself, you will grow to consider your family, friends, and people. Then, your concern will move to your enemies. Can you imagine having a testimony of an enemy? That they are the way they are, and that that’s a GOOD thing? I don’t believe we can have that kind of empathy without having a very strong testimony of ourselves (along with a huge dose of Humility and Charity, the pure love Christ).
This brings me to the idea that brought me to write this tirade. It is popular to blame others (the media, the public school system, and of course MEN) for our own lack of confidence. While we ARE affected by our environments, in the end WE must take responsibility for ourselves and not rely on what others do, or do not, say.
While I believe that it is wrong to objectify women (or anyone), I think it is also wrong to blame men and society for the way we feel about ourselves. It is up to us to "stick it to the man." We (men and women) must work for a change, but we (women) must FIRST take responsibility for our own feelings. Eleanor Roosevelt (one of my favorite historical figures) said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I truly believe this.
It is difficult to let the world wash off your back, sometimes we feel less like rubber and more like glue, but a testimony of ourselves is the most effective tool against such days.
This last year has been the most difficult of my life. I’ve had health problems, occasional hormonal depression, and my first broken heart. Looking forward, I see few dating or job prospects, no real security. There are times when I am overwhelmed, times when I’m unhappy. I sink, but I NEVER drown. There is still that “thing,” that testimony that won’t let me give up, that keeps me fighting for myself. I get discouraged, but I know I am worth it.
*For God….John 3:16: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/john/3