I held up a fresh-from-the-bank, clean, crisp $20 bill and asked my students, “Who wants this?” Every hand shot up into the air. Then I crumpled it in my hands and asked, “Who still wants it?” Every hand was still up. I threw it on the floor, stomped on it, ground it into the carpet for a bit and said, “I hope I didn’t step in any doggy doo doo on the way here….Who still wants this?” A few hands went down, but most of them were still up. I spit on the $20 bill and most of the hands were still up in the air. Gross! These youth must really want to see the new movie this weekend! “What if I threw up on it?” I asked, “Would you still want it?” There was some hesitation, but there were still hands in the air! One of my students told me, “I’ll just wash it off! It’s still worth $20!”
Then I pulled out a second $20 bill. It was crisp, clean, and looked freshly pressed! “Which $20 bill is worth more?” I inquired. The students immediately responded, “They’re worth the same!”
“No, no,” I protested, “look at this dirty, crumpled up $20 bill. It can’t be worth nearly as much. It’s no good any more.” My students objected, “They are worth the same!”
“They can’t be,” I said in disbelief, “This $20 bill is totally ruined. A worthless piece of junk!” We argued back and forth for a bit and then I finally gave in. “Of course you are right. We can’t buy more candy with the crisp, clean $20 bill. The dirty $20 bill is worth just as much as the clean one. I want you to remember that: they are worth the same!”
Self Worth vs. Self-esteem
Then we had a powerful discussion. We are all $20 bills. We were born $20 bills and we will NEVER be worth less. Our worth is our potential to become like our Heavenly Father. We are His children and we are worth the full 20 bucks. Satan knows we are worth $20. He can’t ever change that so what does he do? He tries to make us feel like we are worth less. He has that dirty $20 bill look at the clean one and whispers, “You’re not worth 20 anymore – you’re dirty – you’re only worth 19.” If they keep listening, pretty soon they feel they are only worth $10, then $5, then $1 and then, sadly, $0. The poor $20 has been told so many times that he’s worth $0 that he actually begins to believe it.
“We cannot get more worth. A larger house, a better salary, and an impressive investment portfolio may give us more net worth, but our self-worth remains constant. Getting a new job or not getting a new job, driving an expensive car or driving a used car, wearing new clothes or putting on old clothes will not affect our self-worth, either positively or negatively. While our self-esteem fluctuates, our self-worth never changes. Our feelings of self-worth (or the degree to which an understanding of our self-worth is deeply internalized) will vary; but unlike self-esteem, our self-worth is unaffected by the ups and downs of life. It is a constant power and comfort in our lives. We change as we recognize – and act upon – this inherent gift, this endowment from God. But our self-worth is always the same. The more we realize our intrinsic worth, the less our self-esteem fluctuates, the more we are empowered to change our lives and build our self-esteem.”
–Lloyd D. Newell, The Divine Connection: Understanding Your Inherent Worth , 11
Self worth and self esteem are two very different things. Self worth never changes – it was set when we were born (it was set to our POTENTIAL, not our starting point). Our goal in life is to get our self-esteem (how we personally feel about our self worth) to be up as high as our self worth. It’s not enough to be a $20 bill. We need to feel like we’re worth $20.
So, how does Satan get us to feel like we are less than we are? Let’s examine three of his methods.
3 Ways to Ruin Your Self Esteem
The Comparison Epidemic
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
By comparing yourself to others and dwelling too much on what they think of you, you are giving away your happiness to other people and letting them control YOUR happiness. Your self-esteem will go up and down like a bumpy roller-coaster. One day you’ll be on the top of the world because everyone thinks you’re great – you scored the most goals, you got the highest grade on the test, or you looked the cutest, but the next day you’ll be on the bottom because you said something dumb. You will never be truly happy if you compare yourself to others. You will always find someone better which will make you feel worse.
“Have you ever thought: ‘I’m not very important so what I say or do will never really be noticed? What can I offer that will make any difference? What can I do that will truly help others, cause their lives to be different, to be better? Do I actually have any worthwhile talents? Is there anything I can do to reach another in need? I’m not that special. If I don’t help, someone else will come along and do a better job than I can do.’
One of the greatest challenges is to overcome the feeling that we are unimportant, that we are not special and unique. Do you think for a moment that Heavenly Father would have sent one of His children to this earth by accident, without the possibility of a significant work to perform?
My dear friends, you are a royal generation. You were preserved to come to the earth in this time for a special purpose. Not just a few of you, but all of you. There are things for each of you to do that no one else can do as well as you. If you do not prepare to do them, they will not be done. Your mission is unique and distinctive for you. Please don’t make another have to take your place. He or she can’t do it as well as you can. If you will let Him, I testify that our Father in Heaven will walk with you through the journey of life and inspire you to know your special purpose here.”
–H. Burke Peterson, “Your Life Has a Purpose,” New Era, May 1979, 4
God made all of us different on purpose. Each of us has unique talents, abilities, and personal missions He needs us to fulfill. We are not here by accident! God has a great work for each of us to perform. We have things to say, share, do, and people to help that no one else can help as well as we can. Instead of looking around at all the wonderful things people around us are doing, it’s time to look inside of us and figure out what God-given gifts we have that we should be sharing!
“By comparing yourself to others, you limit yourself to being only as excellent as they may be and in so doing, prevent yourself from achieving a higher level of accomplishment that you never knew possible. Let others be guides, not goals!”
Wouldn’t it be tragic if God made an oak tree, and instead of the oak tree rising to the great heights it was meant to attain and sheltering the animals it was meant to protect, it spent its whole life trying to become like an apple tree? The oak tree would die hunched over and feeling like a failure its whole life!
Albert Einstein taught this same principle only he used a fish instead of a tree.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Developing Higher Self-esteem
An incredible book that we treasure at my house is You Are Special by Max Lucado. It’s a story about a village of wooden people called Wemmicks. Every day they go around and give each other gray dots or golden stars. You get a golden star if you can do amazing things and you get gray dots if you mess up, look funny, or don’t measure up. The main character, Punchinello, gets a lot of gray dots. One day he meets a Wemmick who has no dots or stars. He wants to be like her. Luckily, she shares her secret with him. Every day, she goes to see the Woodcarver (their creator).
Punchinello musters up the courage to go and see him too and it is a touching, beautiful story of God’s love and the power of realizing our self worth. Punchinello is worried that the Woodcarver will be disappointed with all the gray dots he has accumulated, but the woodcarver tenderly explains that he doesn’t care what the other Wemmicks think and that Punchinello shouldn’t either. “Who are they to give dots or stars? They are Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special.”
Punchinello goes on to ask him why the gray dots or stars won’t stick to Lucia. The woodcarver explains, “Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them….The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers.”
Now, I was super impressed that the gray dots wouldn’t stick to Lucia. It wasn’t that the Wemmicks didn’t try to give her gray dots; they just wouldn’t stick to her! That proves that we have control over our reactions. We can choose not to be offended.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
But why didn’t the golden stars stick to her? Aren’t stars a good thing? Shouldn’t we give stars to people? I finally realized that the stars didn’t stick to her because she didn’t NEED them to feel good about herself. It’s not that we should reject every compliment and thank you card we get – those are very much appreciated, but we shouldn’t need them to feel of worth.
Great danger awaits those whose self esteem is so low that they rely on outside sources to feel good about themselves. These people will do anything to get a star. I taught high school and I loved my teenagers, but my heart ached for those who started drinking or smoking or doing other things they knew to be wrong in order to get a star.
The secret to our self-esteem matching the level of our self worth (feeling like 20 bucks =) is coming to know for ourselves that God loves us and that He thinks we are awesome. If someone comes along and tells us we are stupid, we can respond, “I am a child of God and He thinks I’m smart. Which voices are we going to believe? Other people who have lived 10-100 years or an all-powerful, eternal being?
Nephi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, was not a carpenter, but he was commanded to build a ship. His brothers mocked him and said he couldn’t do it, but God had told him he could. Who was Nephi going to believe – God or his brothers? He chose God. Nephi performed miracles because he knew who he was.
Romans chapter 8 is basically Paul trying to prove to the Romans how much God loves them! Look at these incredible verses
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
We are God’s children. The Holy Ghost testifies of this powerful truth to us!
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God
God is always doing what’s best for us. If He wasn’t, He wouldn’t be God. Even “bad” things can turn into glorious things when we place our trust in Him and patiently wait.
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
All things are possible with God’s help. He is more powerful than any of our enemies or trails.
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
God delights in blessing us and granting the righteous desires of our hearts.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Once we truly understand we are a child of God, we begin to see other people differently. They are also children of God and how hurt He must feel if we are mean to one of them! We were sent here to help each other up, not tear each other down.
We can’t control whether people like us or not or what they think about us. We can’t MAKE anyone like us. We can try to influence it by being kind, but ultimately, whether they like us or not is THEIR decision. It is foolish to base our happiness off of someone else’s choices.
We can’t control how much someone loves us, but we can control how much we love them. Forget about if other people love you or not. Focus on loving them – whether they deserve it or not. As you develop this gift of charity, to love as Christ loves, you will become more forgiving, understanding, patient, compassionate, sympathetic, and judge less. Life will be infinitely better because YOU have become a better person whether people around you have changed or not.
“Be one who nurtures and who builds. Be one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them. If we could look in to each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently.”
–Marvin J. Ashton
We never know what trials and heartaches another person is facing, so it is so unfair to judge them. Assume that everyone is doing their absolute best and be ready to lend a helping hand, especially if someone is unkind. If they are unkind, it’s a sign that their cup of sadness is overflowing and they need, more than ever, someone to be kind to them. Be so worried about improving yourself that you don’t have time to criticize other people. And remember that the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself.
“If you continuously compete with others, you become bitter, but if you continuously compete with yourself, you become better.”
How does Satan want us to react when we have sinned? He whispers, “Give up. You know you’re just going to mess up again so why keep trying? There’s no way God can love you any more. You’ve messed up way too many times…” These negative, despairing thoughts never come from God.
“The discouraging idea that a mistake (or even a series of them) makes it everlastingly too late, does not come from the Lord. He has said that if we will repent, not only will He forgive us our transgressions, but He will forget them and remember our sins no more.” (See Isa. 43:25; Heb. 8:12; Heb. 10:17; D&C 58:42; Alma 36:19.)
–Elder Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1989
How does God want us to react after we’ve sinned? He wants us to feel godly sorrow – be sad that we’ve sinned, but be determined to do better. God wants us to repent, learn from our mistakes, and move on! We shouldn’t dwell on our mistakes and beat ourselves up for what a rotten, terrible person we are. That is what Satan wants us to do! God motivates us to feel, “I can do better! I want to do better! I will do better!” It is a positive feeling. Don’t dwell on the sin – dwell on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and healing that will come to you as you fully repent, learn, and progress. Never give in to Satan’s lie that you have sinned too often and too much for God to love you.
…however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines… there is nothing that you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. “Come boldly [to] the throne of grace,” and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast “without money and without price” at the table of the Lord.
–Elder Holland, “The Laborers in the Vineyard,” Ensign, May 2012
Negative Self Talk
What if you got up every morning and told yourself, “I am stupid.” How would you feel after four weeks? I bet you would feel pretty stupid. What if you got up every morning and said, “I am gifted at coming up with solutions to problems.” I bet you would feel pretty smart after four weeks.
The Wemmicks were constantly giving gray dots to each other, but sometimes we don’t even need a gray dot from someone else to feel crappy because we give so many to ourselves! We would never go up to someone and say, “You are ugly” but we don’t even hesitate to say that to ourselves.
How do we stop the negative self talk? One powerful tool is affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements that help shape our beliefs of who we are or who we want to become. I had my teenage students fold a paper in half. On one side, I had them list 5 negative things they said to themselves. On the other side, I had them change these negative statements into positive statements. Here are a few examples:
I am ugly -> I am a beautiful daughter of God with a light that shines
I am worthless -> I am a child of God with infinite worth
I have a temper -> I am a patient person who listens and understands before speaking
Recipe for Self-esteem
Scripture Pancake #1: Ezra Taft Benson gave us the key ingredients we need to have a healthy, high self-esteem: “If we loveGod, do his will, and fear His judgment more than men’s, we will have self-esteem.”
Scripture Pancake #2: “The more we realize our intrinsic worth, the less our self-esteem fluctuates, the more we are empowered to change our lives and build our self-esteem.” (Lloyd D. Newell)
What are some things you’ve done (or some things you have taught to your children) that have built up your (or their) self-esteem? Comment below!