When I was a young girl and a teenager I had a terrible self-esteem. I had a great family, great upbringing and very loving parents. But, I still thought I was worthless and that no one liked me. I judged every part of myself. I hated my freckles and my skin. My hair was "dishwater blonde"...why do people call it this or "dirty blonde"?!...those are not nice things to say to a young girl. Especially when she has beautiful red headed sister's that got complimented everywhere we went. (No, I'm not jealous of their hair at all;) I thought I was fat, and ugly, and the list went on and on. I don't think I am alone in this issue. I would dare say most young people struggle with their self image and self worth. I know that not everyone does...because I have one son who was born with the best self esteem ever. I take no credit for it as his Mother, he was born that way!
The first experience I had that strengthened my testimony was in 8th grade. I was sitting on my waterbed crying. I was saying a prayer about how no one like me and I was being pretty harsh on myself. I felt so alone and very sad. I decided to try something I learned in Young Women's. "If you ever need answers from your Heavenly Father, hold your scriptures and let them open on their own and then read the first scripture your eyes look at." I wasn't sure it would work, but I tried it. I said a quick prayer that I would find something in the scriptures that would help me feel better. I held them on my lap and let them fall open. I read the first scripture that I saw.
D&C 18:10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
My eyes filled with tears and I started to cry. I never expected to have such an amazing instant answer to prayer. I was filled with a sense of love and peace, knowing that my Heavenly Father loved me. He loved me enough to answer my prayer and also enough to tell me personally that in His sight my soul was great. I thanked my Heavenly Father for hearing and answering my prayers. I will never forget that experience, it was the first major testimony builder in my life.
Even with that sweet message and reminder I struggled with self worth through High School. I would have to often remind myself of that experience and go back and read that scripture. When I met and married Jake my self worth seemed to get stronger. I loved being a wife, and I thought that I was pretty good at it. Jake was a very easy person to be married too and this made me think I was a pretty good wife. He was a very good husband. I was told daily how beautiful, smart, kind, loving, and amazing I was. Jake filled me up. He made me who I was. I was a good person because of Jake. His love made me better everyday. I loved being a Mom and he made me feel like I was the best Mom a little boy could have. He complimented me always and Never and I mean Never criticized me. I know that seems like a lie, but it's not. In fact, about a month before Jake died I asked him why he never got mad at me or found fault with me. His response, "If I have a problem with something you are doing, it's not your problem, it's mine. I just deal with it and move on." (This statement is profound in many ways and maybe points to why he was done proving himself on this earth. Can you imagine if more people in the world thought this way!) But I challenged him on this telling him that "if he holds it all in, he will one day just explode!". He simply responded with, "No I won't, because it's never stays an issue.". That gives you an idea of why he gave me a good self esteem. When I was down on myself he would spend hours telling me how amazing I was and everything he loved about me. Jake gave me my self worth. Everything that was good about me was because of him! This was great...while it lasted.
When Jake died, so did I. All that was good and kind about me, all of my faith was drained out of me. I was filled up with pain, sorrow and grief. It was all consuming. I had felt pretty because of Jake, I was faithful because of Jake, I was kind because of Jake, I was a good mom because of Jake, and I had worth because I was Jake's wife. My self worth had been defined by my relationship with Jake, and now he was dead.
A couple months after Jake died I was asked to speak in Stake Conference on "Overcoming Trials". I was not overcoming any trial at this time. I was being swallowed whole by this trial. I was in a fog of grief that left me hopeless in a downward spiral of misery. This opportunity to speak sent me to my knees in prayer and I was quite honest with Heavenly Father. I prayed, "if you want me to talk about overcoming trials, you better start helping me to overcome this misery!" This was a blessing in disguise that I will always be thankful for. The speaking assignment truly opened me up for the inspiration and revelation that I needed to start my road to healing and see a pathway through the fog. It also gave me the inspiration and awareness that I needed to rebuild my self worth.
As women and girls we often define our value in our relationships. If we have a good relationship with our children we must be good moms...and if we have a strained relationship, we must not be good moms. If our marriage is strong we must be good wives, but if it's struggling (even if it's an issue our husband is struggling with) then we must not be good enough. It was something we did to cause his issues. We build up ourselves through the relationship with others when they are good, and we tear ourselves down when they need work. I don't think very many men understand this reality. If our marriages are struggling, we are almost always struggling with our own self worth because of that. Men tend to define their value in their careers, their success' or failures, their hobbies and interests, and I dare say even the way their favorite sports team is playing;) (meant for my husband to read, haha) This is a generalization and doesn't apply to everyone, but I think a lot of people do this.
In my church we have a program for our youth. The Young Women's and Young Men's programs. The Young Women recite their theme each week at the beginning of our meeting. The first line states:
We are daughter's of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him.
This teaches a very valuable lesson. We are all daughters and sons of a Heavenly Father that loves us. We are all important to Him personally. I repeated this statement every week for years, but I didn't learn the importance of it until Jake died.
My self worth should never have been placed upon any person that lives on this earth. There is nothing and no one that can be constant and never leave us. The only person that we can build our self worth upon that will never leave us alone or let us down is our Heavenly Father. Even people we love and that seem to love us completely can betray us, let us down, lie to us, or by no fault of their own just die. The only sure thing in this life is the love and support of Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ. We have to build our self worth on them. "The foolish man built his house upon the sand, and the wise man built his house upon a rock." I didn't see building my self worth on Jake as foolish, in fact, I don't think I was even aware that I was doing that. But when the rains came pouring down, my self worth was washed away and I was forced to figure out how to rebuild. I learned to build my self worth upon a rock. The worth of souls is great in the sight of God. I am a good person because I am a Daughter of God. If I build my self worth on His love for me and all the potential He sees in me, I can begin to trust that and believe in myself. I have to remind myself of this lesson often. The voices in my head or of those around me in the world can try and "rain" down on my self worth to weaken it. If I stay true to who I am and can keep my foundation built upon my Heavenly Father my self worth can never be drained out of me again.
My name is Julie and I am a Daughter of God who loves me, and I love Him.