The Good List

“The Good List,” Liahona, Mar. 1999, 41

The Good List

Want to feel better about yourself? Here are 10 tips for a happier you.

Whenever anyone said something nice to Dan, he couldn’t—or wouldn’t—accept it. A typical conversation with his teachers quorum adviser went something like this:

“Hey, Dan, glad you came! We can really use your help on the ward basketball team.”

“I’m no good at basketball. The only reason I came was because the other guys kept calling me.”

“Well, get warmed up. We need your outside shot.”

“I don’t have an outside shot. I don’t even have an inside shot.”

“So … what do you do in a game?”

“Mainly try to get the other team to feel sorry for me,” Dan said glumly.

Susan seemed to have a similar ailment. But hers developed while looking in the mirror.

“Oh, I look awful. I hate my hair. And why can’t I be thin and tall? Is that asking too much?”

Does Dan or Susan sound familiar to you? Do they sound like you? If you’re your own worst critic, if you can list lots of negatives about yourself but not any good qualities, if you can’t take a compliment or believe you have anything to contribute, then read on. This article is for you. Here are 10 steps to help you feel good about who you are.

1. Ask For and Use the Good List

You have earthly parents who love you and see great good in you. Or you have grandparents who do. Or a bishop, home teacher, Young Women adviser, or priesthood quorum leader. Or a family member, schoolteacher, or trusted friend. Ask them for a list of your good qualities. Really.

Yes, this may be hard for you to do. You might even be afraid they’ll make fun of your request. Try telling them, “I’m serious! I read about this in the Liahona, and I need your help.”

Why should you ask for the Good List? Because your mom or dad or other respected person has known you for a long time. They think you’re terrific. They probably brag about you to their friends. But sometimes they may forget to tell you, directly, what they most admire about you. The Good List is your chance to know.

Your mom or dad or grandparents, for example, may have already told you some of the good qualities they see in you. But you may have figured that’s just what they’re supposed to say, and so you didn’t take their compliments seriously. The Good List lets you get their opinions in writing.

Once you get the Good List, put it where you will see it every day. Tape it to your door or inside a drawer you open over and over again. Read the list often, at least once a day. As you read each of your good qualities, pause and think, I can live up to that. This may be difficult, but do it anyway.

2. Bring Your Opinion into Agreement with Heavenly Father’s Opinion

You need to know that if your opinion of yourself is negative, it is wrong. Consider this: Heavenly Father has a high opinion of you. You are His son or daughter, with divine potential (see D&C 132:20). Your exaltation is His work and glory (see Moses 1:39).

If He sees good in you, if He values you, shouldn’t you also feel that you are worthwhile? Heavenly Father wants you to have joy, and true joy comes from knowing you are His son or daughter, that He has a plan of happiness for you, and that you are living according to His plan.

How can you know His plan for you? Start by discovering the power of prayer. There is One who knew you before you were born, who saw you stand among the noble and great ones and shout for joy at the plan for sending us to earth. Heavenly Father knows you and loves you. Isn’t it worthwhile to let Him know how you’re doing? Thank Him for your blessings. Ask Him for help. Seek to know His will about what is going on in your life. Listen for answers. Study the scriptures and pray about them, too. They’re a great guide.

A patriarchal blessing can also help. It is given by inspiration, just for you. It will help you to know the potential your Father in Heaven sees in you. Your bishop can help you prepare for this special blessing. Once you have received it, read it on a regular basis. It will help you realize that wonderful blessings lie ahead if you will keep yourself worthy of them.

3. Saturate Yourself with Service

The Savior said it best: “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:39). “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). King Benjamin said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

If you want to feel great, do Christlike things for others. It will help you focus on their needs, rather than on your own concerns. And it will fill your life with meaning. Think of yourself as a servant of Heavenly Father, ready to help those around you. What would He do to bless them? What would the Savior do? What can you do?

4. Repent Right Now

It is not part of Heavenly Father’s plan that we should feel forever guilty about problems we have righteously resolved. Once we truly repent, guilt should go away—it is intended to be a temporary feeling to prompt us to change.

But we can’t pretend our sins don’t exist or sweep them away all by ourselves. Do you feel guilty about something? Until it’s resolved, you can’t feel totally good about yourself. Major transgressions require help from the bishop (see D&C 58:42–43). If you have questions about what to do, ask him.

The good news is that the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is infinite and eternal. It applies to you. Consider these words from Alma the Younger:

“As I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

“Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

“And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:17–20).

Satan would like us to think that once we have done wrong, everything is lost and we might as well go on committing that sin or even more serious sins. Satan would like us to keep beating up on ourselves, to feel as though we shouldn’t go to church anymore, to assume that confessing to the bishop will only be embarrassing and won’t help at all.

But none of that is true. You can begin a new life. Attending church is important. Letting your parents and family share in your growth can bring understanding. And your bishop is there to help you take advantage of the Savior’s Atonement. Once you visit with the bishop, you’ll start feeling better about yourself. Why? Because he will relieve you of part of the burden you’ve been carrying. More important, he will help you map out a plan of repentance. He will probably ask you to read certain passages in the scriptures, to pray, maybe to check in with him regularly.

Most of all, he will help you get close to the Savior and seek the promptings of the Holy Ghost. He will help you understand that you can become a new person. He will keep your confidences and will be a friend to you. If you do what he asks, you are on your way to moving forward full of hope and grateful for the Savior’s love, which makes forgiveness possible.

5. Look at the Positive Side

Going through life thinking, “I never do anything right,” builds a prison around you. Take a positive approach instead. Suppose you do poorly on a math test. Instead of saying, “I’m no good at math,” be specific. Say, “On that particular exam, on that particular day, I didn’t do as well as I would have liked.”

This approach, from Learned Optimism, by Martin E. P. Seligman, limits damage to your feelings of self-worth. Listen to any world-class athlete who has not done well, and you’ll hear something similar: “My timing was off today. Tomorrow will be better.” A champion leaves the door open for future success.

When it comes to being positive, be general. If someone notices you’re on time, say, “Yes, I like to be on time.” If someone gives you a compliment, don’t try to talk them out of it. Just say, “Thank you.”

6. Say Something Nice

Do you know someone who does nothing but criticize? Does it make you wonder what that person says about you when you’re not around? Don’t leave others wondering what you’ll say. Give sincere compliments whenever you can. You’ll be happier, and others will too. You can’t build your own feelings of self-worth if you’re spending your energy tearing others down.

Life is not about what people wear or how they look. Each person in your school, each member of your family is a cherished child of our Father in Heaven. He made us in great varieties of sizes, shapes, ethnic backgrounds, and abilities. He loves us all. Shouldn’t we do the same?

7. Celebrate the Creation

We all get discouraged at times. But listen to what the Savior said:

“All things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

“Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

“And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used” (D&C 59:18–20).

Does your heart need to be gladdened? Take a walk where there are trees and flowers. Peel an orange and enjoy the smell as well as the taste. Watch the clouds swirl through the sky. Find joy in the Lord’s creations.

8. Rejoice in the Savior’s Victory

Remember that the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ brings great blessings to you. “Be of good cheer,” the Savior said. “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Because of Him, you can overcome the world, too.

9. Follow the Prophet

President Gordon B. Hinckley often expresses his appreciation for the strength of today’s youth. At his first press conference as President of the Church, he said: “We are particularly proud of our youth. I think we have never had a stronger generation of young men and women than we have today. … They are going forward with constructive lives, nurturing themselves both intellectually and spiritually. We have no fears or doubts concerning the future of this work” (quoted in Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave He Stands,” Liahona, June/August 1995 insert, 4).

10. Let Heavenly Father Guide Your Life

When Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was young, he wanted to be a basketball star. He was the best basketball player among his friends. In fact, he taught one of them how to play. But his friend grew very tall, and he did not. One of the hardest experiences of his young life was being cut from his school’s basketball team while his friend made it.

Because he did not succeed as a sports hero, Elder Maxwell turned to words. The personal tragedy of the moment turned out to be an eternal blessing for many Saints who have learned from his wisdom, spirituality, and insight.

Let his life be an example to you. Not all your prayers will be answered the way you’d like. But if you trust Heavenly Father, He will not betray that trust.

One great way to have the influence of your Father in Heaven in your life is to prepare yourself to enter the temple. There you will understand more completely your part in His eternal plan. In the temple, you will receive help in times of trouble, and you will learn even more about how to bless the lives of others. Prepare now for that which is to come.

A New View

Let’s take another look at Dan, this time with a more positive light in his life.

“Hey, Dan, glad you came! We can really use your help on the ward basketball team.”

“I’m glad to be here.”

“Well, get warmed up. We need your outside shot.”

“Okay. Maybe I can work with Steve a little. He’s good at passing, and that, along with what I can do, should be a good combination. You know, I’m starting to feel a little sorry for the other team.”

And here’s Susan, back in front of the mirror, but with a new attitude:

“Wow, that ribbon Mom gave me really looks good with my hair! Maybe Jennifer would like one. It would look really good with the shirt she wore to Young Women last week. Whoa! Look at the time! I’d better hurry. I promised I’d make my famous cookies for Mutual tonight!”

Often the biggest changes begin with a simple change of attitude. Hopefully, this list of 10 suggestions has started you thinking about what you can do to feel better about yourself. Remember: When you have a positive attitude—toward yourself as well as toward others—you will have fewer doubts about your potential to follow and serve the Savior.

Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh