Leading up to Valentine’s Day tomorrow, let’s talk about learning to love ourselves.
We live in a world where so many teens and young adults are trying to find their own sense of self. Are you with me on this? I don’t know what it is, I mean, you can blame it on social media and Covid and all that jazz, but there are so many other things going on as well. Whatever it is, I think women in particular (not just teenage women) are struggling.
I have been thinking about this the last little while particularly because I was asked to speak at a sister missionary conference a couple weeks ago.
The topic was how to build a foundational sense of self. I was so grateful for the opportunity not only to ponder on these things, but also to be encircled in this group of incredible women:
We did a temple session first, all together.
The whole room was filled up to the brim with sister missionaries and it was pretty incredible. (The temple session has changed even since then, so cool how continual revelation keeps on coming.)
Loved getting to know them a little as we chatted a little before lunch.
(A couple friends asked to come along, and there we are up there on the left along with the Mission Leader Susan who is so incredible nurturing all those sisters, and happens to be married to my Dad’s cousin.)
I prayed for these sisters before I arrived. I prayed that their hearts would be open to feel the love of God as I spoke to them, and that that love (the Spirit) would teach them what they each, specifically might be searching to understand.
I told Susan what I was praying for and she assured me that those hearts were already open: these sisters were incredible.
And she was 100% correct about that.
I know I’m a little biased, but there is nothing like sister missionaries:)
We had lunch together, and these cute sisters on the right sang for us:
And then I had them all rearrange the chairs so we could be encircled together, and got to talking. Here are some of the things we discussed for nearly an hour…(they had the best input):
Four Ways to Develop a Sense of Self
We are all dealing with struggles in life. Even those of us who appear on the outside to have it all together.
I love this quote from Rick Warren:
“Life is a series of problems: either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort.“
My theory is that if you have a sense of self, confidence from the inside as well as confidence in God, you can overcome anything.
We just need to know WHO WE ARE so we can get through those problems.
So of course I had to introduce who I am and also shared some pictures from when I was in their boat:
That one up there looks like it might have been a hundred years ago, but it kind of shows the environment of Romania at the time.
Gosh how grateful I am for that year and a half of my life!!!
A year and a half to really build a foundation for myself that has helped me in everything since.
Four important ways to build that foundation:
1) CONNECTION & REACHING OUT
One of the most basic human needs is to know that We Matter.
We find that through connection.
We love it when others reach out to us, right? But sometimes it helps us even more to be the ones to take action.
I told how my mother, in her teenage years, was incredibly shy and miserable. Her mother, a very matter-of-fact woman, said, “Linda, I want you to go to school tomorrow and find someone more miserable than you are, and make friends with them.”
Well, my mom was sure there couldn’t possibly be anyone more lonely and miserable than she was, but because her mom was pretty forceful and she knew she’d be following up (ha!), she did look. And sure enough, she found someone who sure looked like they needed a friend, and nervously approached her.
That ended up becoming a special friendship, but even more importantly, my mother learned that “turning out” is perhaps the most important part of “finding ourselves.”
We find ourselves essentially by forgetting ourselves.
And that is such a beautiful thing.
We talked about how communication is such an essential part of connection. We all need to practice it!
We talked about specific ways people had felt connected, and this equation I heard:
V (vulnerability) + V (validation) = C (connection)
Of course, such an incredibly important part of connection is not only with others around us, but with God.
When we are connected with God, we are so much more likely to feel connected with others.
2) FIGURE OUT WHO YOU ARE AND BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
I introduced Lucy who, although she struggles with so much, deep down she knows who she is perhaps more than most other people.
She decided she was a basketball player (thanks to Carson shooting a few baskets with her), and despite all odds, she got herself on the high school team.
(She wouldn’t let me do her hair for picture day, but hey, that girl was the basketball team manager, and since then, we have both realized that was a little miracle…different from what she was begging God for, but a miracle just the same.)
She decided she was going to learn to play the piano and she worked her tail off to make it happen.
(It’s amazing how she memorizes the large music her teacher writes up for her, once she plays it right the first time, she knows it.)
And despite being on unsure ground some of the time, she does have a pretty good sense of who she is.
We talked about things that help you learn who you are, individually.
–Realizing our imperfections are actually gifts
–Do hard things that make you realize who you are and what you can do
–Read patriarchal blessing
–Figure out what you’re good at, your own unique talents/interests
–Learn to fail, and that that’s ok
(Just some of the ideas shared)
But perhaps the biggest tip to help figure out who you are:
So much easier said than done, right? But this is our one biggest downfall when we’re trying to build the foundation of our own self.
We each have such unique, God-given gifts.
We can cultivate those rather than wishing we had someone else’s something-or-other.
There is a fine-line between admiring others and finding mentors as you work on figuring out your own self, and the jealousy that leads to comparison.
“Comparison is the thief of Joy” as Theodore Roosevelt wisely said.
3) BE PATIENT & WORK HARD
I told how I decided I wanted to be a cellist. Really when I was a teenager, but I took action on that dream last year.
I talked about how, after a year of lessons, I’m still just as scratchy and awful as ever…until the week before our little conference when something changed:
Oh, I didn’t miraculously turn into an expert.
But I made time to practice every single day rather than just whip out that cello and cram for 30 minutes before my lesson each week.
I know, not rocket science, right? But getting better at something takes WORK!
Lots and lots of it.
And we have to be patient with ourselves as we work toward the things we want to progress with.
Joy comes in the process of trying to achieve a goal, not necessarily when you get there: once you finish your mission, graduation, run a marathon, sell a company, what’s next?
Progress is a lifelong process and it brings so much joy!
President Hinckley’s quote:
“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. Most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey–delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.“
4) REMEMBER JESUS
The answer is Jesus.
If we remember that we can get through anything.
I truly believe that.
I LOVE another story from my dear mother:
When she was a young adult, she had the opportunity to be in an outdoor pageant about Jesus.
I don’t know which one or where, but that’s not the important part of the story.
What is important is that one evening, during the performance, the man who was portraying Jesus appeared on the stage and something about what he said or did made a profound change for my mom.
Whatever it was, she realized THIS was what all this church business was about.
It wasn’t about not smoking or being modest or all the “fence laws” that sometimes crop up in church.
It was all about learning to be more like HIM (all those other things just scaffolding to help with that relationship).
Jesus isn’t going to come in and fix everything for us.
But because of Him, we can get through anything.
“He’s not waiting for us to be perfect, Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the Living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.” (Cheiko Okasaki)
The last words he spoke to his disciples were, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20)
Aren’t those just the most beautiful words.
He is with us.
If we’ll only let Him in to our messiness, our insecurities, our sorrows.
He will be with us even unto the end of the world.
I left the sisters with a CHALLENGE:
You are building your foundation for the rest of your life.
…about yourself, your companion, the gospel, your relationship of God, why you do the things you do, who needs you, DO THE LITTLE THINGS that lead to the big things.
—Develop communication skills
—develop pure love for others; try to see where they’re coming from.
—forget yourself and build your communication with Christ.
“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously conquered your daily task, go to sleep in peace…God is awake.”
Oh how I loved being with theses sisters with their open hearts, these mission leaders and all that I learned from them that day!
And also these dear friends who were along for the ride:
There is something so powerful about women, and I was so grateful to be immersed in the middle of all of these good ones.