By Heather O.
I remember taking a self esteem quiz in eighth grade. It was one of the surveys where you answer the questions on a scale–1-4, or something like that. The only question I remember was, “Do you like getting up in the morning?” Y’all may have gathered that I’m not exactly the early bird type (my roommates in college use to joke that only a breakfast date with a cute boy could get me out of bed before 9), and I was even less so at age 13. I remember emphatically circling the 1, meaning ‘definitely NOT.’
At the end of this quiz, I was surprised to learn that I had low self-esteem. Then, of course, I started comparing answers with the other pre-pubescent girls in the room, and I remember that almost all of them also had low self-esteem, save one very popular girl. You all know her–the one you would love to hate but actually can’t because she is genuinely a nice person, dang it. Then the teachers started dividing us into groups based on our scores, and I discerned very quickly which group I did NOT want to be associated with. I hastily erased my answer to the morning question, changing my 1 to a 4. Those three little points vaulted my score into the “has high self esteem” category, and saved me from the embarrassment of having low self-esteem. I remember using my very advanced teenage vocabulary to describe the whole experience, quiz and subsequent psuedo-group therapy by the gym teachers, as “lame”.
These type of experiences persisted throughout my teenage years, with Young Women lessons focusing on talents, and making lists of things that we like about ourselves,etc. I understand why–after all, teenagers suffer from major self-image issues, and I was no different. And as adolescence is an extraordinarily self-absorbed time of life, it makes sense to tell teenagers that if they are going to spend so much time thinking about themselves, it might as well be good thoughts, right?
Ok, fast forward some years to last week’s Enrichment night at our ward. Upon arrival, I was given a sheet that said (I kid you not),
“List 3 things that you like about your physical appearance.”
“List 3 things that you feel you are good at.”
“List 3 positive messages to tell yourself every day.”
Then we had to share our lists with our neighbor. I hate to say it, but again, my sophisticated adult vocabulary came up with one word to describe the whole experience: lame.
Fast forward again to last Sunday, our ward conference. The Stake Relief Society President came to our ward to discuss, you guessed it, Self Worth. Her remarks were slightly better than our Enrichment, but not much. And she said that she had fasted and prayed about what this ward needed to hear, and this was the answer she got–the sisters needed to be reminded of their worth.
Ok, I can buy that. There’s plenty of women who don’t think very much of themselves. But really, is telling your neighbor that you think you have nice hair, or that you have clear skin going to change your attitude about your life? I hope not, because if that is what our self-worth is based on, it gets shattered in an instant with a zit and a bad hair day.
This is what I would like to hear about women’s self worth. I would like to hear that women are a powerful force for good who can do great things, even when we think we can’t. I would like to hear that we find our self worth from serving God, from knowing that our daily lives reflect what He wants us to be. I would like women to find self-worth in engaging themselves in worthwhile productive projects that when finished, they can point to and say, “I was a part of that.” And please don’t think this is limited to the typical Mormon mother activities like scrap-booking and sewing. Those are all good things, but if you don’t like them, you can (gasp!) DO SOMETHING ELSE!
And here is where I’m going to get a litte controversial. I honestly don’t think that focusing on the self will bring us happiness. Now, moms, don’t freak out. I think we all need some time-outs and refresher breaks from our kids, and that we as mothers give a tremendous amount already, so much that we feel we are at the breaking point sometimes. But a life completely devoted to the project of self will not bring us that ever elusive “self-esteem”. I think the key in finding our self worth is to look to God for the affirmation of who we are, and what we are meant to be.
And what are we meant to be? Goddesses, ladies. We are meant to be powerful, beautiful, celestial goddesses, cellulite and zit free. (Well, I don’t actually have any doctrinal references on that last part, but it would be only fair, right?) So I hope that we find our self worth in other places than just the quizzes that tell us if we rise up early,we must have good self-esteem. But if that’s really the case, you high-self esteem gals can just have a lovely morning while I glory in my own self-worth, snuggled down in my nice comfy flannel sheets until 9.
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