I’m not normally a person who has a way with words, especially when I’m nervous. I tend to stammer, which I like to tell myself is my extremely rapid brain thinking too fast for my mouth to catch up. This is how I’ve managed to get out of public speaking duties for 25 years. My senior year of high school we were required to speak in the ward of our choice for our last seminary assignment. My friends all found out and showed up in support, which I stumbled my way through, voice trembling, and uttering moans and weird sounds throughout the whole talk which my friends found hilarious. This was the last time I spoke in church.
My problem with public speaking is in large part due to my struggle with self-esteem. I hate the feeling of being watched and automatically think I am being judged. When I was younger, I hated being the center of attention. Pictures taken of myself show me shrugging my shoulders up by my ears in an effort to try and hide my face. I resembled a turtle.
I never wanted to be seen or heard. In school, when I was called on, my heart would race, my hands would sweat, and an icy chill would flow over my whole body. I always felt everyone was laughing at me, especially when I would stutter.
You think as I have gotten older and wiser, I wouldn’t care about what others have to think about me. But unfortunately it carried on into my 30’s. Living in Utah, I regularly compared myself to the other moms in the ward and often came up short with the talents that I associated with these ‘supermoms', as I liked to call them. I put these moms on imaginary pedestals, which made me sink to a low depth of insignificance and depression. I also grew up in an inactive home and never had a firm grasp of gospel principles. I had tremendous guilt for not being able to teach and pass these down to my children.
I finally realized something needed to be done. I had a frank discussion with my bishop at the time and told him of my insecurities. With love and understanding, he told me that first and foremost, I needed to stop comparing myself to these other moms. He added that we all have issues that we are dealing with and that nobody’s family is perfect.
Secondly, he said to overcome my feelings of worthlessness, I needed to remember who I am, which is a daughter of God. I should seek His help through prayer. For the first time in my life, I prayed for help with my anxieties. I felt surrounded by what I can only describe as warm hug. I knew in that moment that my Heavenly Father loved me and every one of my imperfections.
Last, he said to surround myself with positive people and positive things. Have you noticed when you are in negative company, it makes you also want to be negative? However, this can work both ways. Find the uplifting people in your life that make you happy. The people who love you will always encourage you to do better and never in a critical way.
One thing I have come to notice is that my problem is not uncommon. At some point in our lives most people struggle with problems of self-worth.
Ether 12:27 says: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy added that, “Too often we wallow in our weaknesses so much that we do not allow “weak things” to “become strong.” Our condition is frequently misdiagnosed as humility, when in reality it is a lack of confidence. To lack confidence is to have feelings of low self-worth. We are preoccupied with our weaknesses, and we lack faith in the Lord’s ability to use those weaknesses for our good. We do not understand our inestimable worth in the eyes of God, nor do we appreciate our divine potential. Ironically, both pride and a lack of self-confidence cause us to focus excessively on ourselves and to deny the power of God in our lives.”
I still struggle with self-esteem and loving myself; I unfortunately always will. It’s hard changing a lifetime of insecurities. But I’ve come to realize that loving yourself is not about puffing your chest and tooting your own horn. It’s not trying to compare oneself to the world’s idea of flawlessness. In the end, I know through humbling myself, seeking Heavenly Father’s help through prayer, surrounding myself with those that love me, and knowing who I am, that my struggles and insecurities can and will improve. I have faith in knowing He will always love me, imperfections and all.