Have you ever seen a child hanging back from his classmates at recess, afraid to join in? Maybe he doubts his skill at a game, but often he doubts that he’s liked and welcome. Maybe you’ve even been that child.
A therapist I know of asks his clients to rate their value from one to 100. Far too many choose a low number. Yet, if you asked Heavenly Father to rate your value, it would be 100. He loves us and wants all of us back. Our Savior knows each one of us by name and atoned for every individual. This alone should seal the deal and convince us of our value.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf once said, “Brothers and sisters, the most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you…He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him.”
So how does this disparity happen? Sometimes we suffer verbal abuse, someone’s cruel words still echoing in our heads as adults. Some feel abandoned. Sometimes we sin so grievously that we doubt we can be forgiven. Often we compare ourselves to others who seem far ahead of us—spiritually, intellectually, athletically, any number of ways. Even highly intelligent people can question their worth.
Doubts and discouragement are powerful. They can rob you of a happy life, impact your health, and keep you from achieving your potential here on earth. Let’s look at some causes and solutions.
First and most common, is the temptation to compare ourselves to others. I say temptation because I believe the adversary is behind comparisons. We see others who are more gifted, more experienced, smarter about something. And, somehow, we completely forget our own talents and strengths. All we know is that we don’t have those. We all know that social media fans these flames. Malcolm Forbes described this well: “Too many people undervalue what they are, and overvalue what they are not.”
Let me tell you something I started doing as a child. When I met someone who was incredibly better than I was at something, I quickly reminded myself of my own talents and skills. Sure, she can hit a baseball better. And jump rope better. But I can ride horses. Or I can ski. Not only did this keep me from sinking into self-pity, but it freed me to be happy for others. I realized I had my own talents, so it was easy to cheer on someone else’s.
Ironically, people who value themselves poorly are actually unaware of the number of people who are jealous of them. You may be envying someone’s beautiful home, but they are envying your marriage. If we could all meet in a big circle and confess the things we’ve been admiring/envying, we’d all end up laughing because we had no idea someone thought we were that put together/smart/kind/generous and so on.
Next, we might be doubting our value if we lack the skills we need in our job or career. Here’s where we need to ask ourselves, “But can I learn this?” Of course you can. Everyone else started as a beginner at some point. The Church’s excellent Self Reliance program offers an ingenious set of manuals and mentoring to help people increase their capabilities to become more employable. If your lack of confidence comes from missing skills, address it and get the education needed.
Sometimes we assign ourselves a low value because of past sins or mistakes. Satan would love it if he could convince all of us that our past cannot be overcome. He makes us doubt the power of repentance, and tells us we cannot change. This isn’t just false doctrine, it’s superfalse doctrine, to coin an adjective.
Once you have repented, you’ve done all you can to rectify the situation, and you’ve truly changed your heart, you need to believe in yourself, accept God’s forgiveness, and move forward. True repentance is a joyful thing, not a shameful one. When we choose true change, we partake of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and realize how tender and caring He truly is. That, alone, gives us renewed confidence.
Sometimes those old, critical voices from our childhood (or from our last job) are hard to shake. A good trick is to mentally shout “Stop!” or “Wrong!” when these creep up. Drive them out every time they arise and you’ll see how powerful your brain actually is. Replace those negative comments with compliments. Take a moment to recall the good you do, the good you are, and know that God loves you. Tell yourself you’re awesome. Forgive those who spoke unkindly to you; be free from these ghosts. And, should any of these folks still be in your life, establish healthy boundaries so you don’t have to get suffocated by their downer messages.
A friend of mine told me that her husband used to minister to an elderly sister who would always pray her thanks to God for blessing “someone the likes of me.” It’s a cute story that shows her humility, but it also shows that she has no idea she is the equal of kings and queens, prophets, heroes—He loves every one of us the same.
Gratitude can quickly flip a disheartened evaluation of ourselves. Keeping a gratitude journal is a tried-and-true method used by millions. It will make you more optimistic and hopeful.
Choose friends and associates who build others up, instead of those who knock them down. So often it’s hard to feel we’re of value when we’re swimming in a sea of snide remarks and put-downs.
Be willing to get help. It can be a professional counselor, trusted friend, coach, or family member. When someone else helps us remember our value, it lifts our souls and reminds us that we matter greatly.
Last, don’t strive for worldly approval or mortal accolades. Even if you find them, they expire quickly as the next “It Person” shows up. You also leave that prestige here when you die. Instead, seek only for God’s approval. Even if the entire crowd boos you, stick with what you know pleases God and you’ll weather that passing storm. In fact, when we stand strong for what we know is right, eventually we meet people who admire us for it, and wish they had that much courage.
Know that your value is set in stone. No matter what you do wrong, or how lacking you may feel, it doesn’t affect God’s love for you. Sure, He wants us to repent and improve, but His love absolutely doesn’t waver. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, “Our individual worth is already divinely established as ‘great’; it does not fluctuate like the stock market.”
And when you think of Christ suffering to atone for our sins and sorrows, know that every single individual ever born is valued at 100. That includes you.
Hilton’s books, humor blog, and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Inter-Faith Specialist for Church Communications.