“The Good List,” New Era, Jan. 1998, 35
Whenever anyone said something nice to Dan, he couldn’t—or wouldn’t—accept it. A typical conversation went something like this one with his teachers quorum adviser:
“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 afflicted with a similar ailment. But hers came when she looked in the mirror.
“Oh my gosh, I look so awful. Other girls have bad hair days—I have bad hair seasons. Why can’t I be thin, tall, blonde, and from Sweden? 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 ten steps to help you feel good about who you are.
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, school teacher, or a trusted friend. Ask them for a list of your good qualities. Really.
Yes, it may seem hard for you to do this. You might even be afraid they’ll make fun of your request. Try this: Tell them, “I’m serious! I read about this in the New Era, 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. This 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 tossed the compliments away. The Good List lets you get them 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.
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 has, for thousands of years, known you and loved 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 know how to prepare for this special blessing and how to know when you’re ready to receive it. Once you have received it, read it on a regular basis. It will help you realize that wonderful things lie ahead if you will keep yourself worthy and prepare for them.
The Savior said it best. “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:39). “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). “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 covered the same topic when he 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 your own worries and concerns. And it will fill your life with purpose and meaning. Think of yourself as a servant of Heavenly Father, able to help the people you come in contact with. What would he do to bless them? What would the Savior do? What can you do?
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 if we let it prompt us to change.
But we can’t pretend our sins don’t exist, or all by ourselves sweep our transgressions away. Feel guilty about something from the past? Until it’s taken care of, you can’t feel totally good about yourself. Major transgressions require help from the bishop so that you can confess your sins and forsake them (see D&C 58:42–43). If you have questions about what to do, ask the bishop.
The good news is that the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is infinite and eternal. That means it’s big enough to apply 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, that we might as well go on committing that sin or more serious sins. Satan would like us to keep beating up on ourselves for the rest of our lives, to feel like 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 take 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 and let him know how you’re doing.
Most of all, he will help you get close to the Savior and to seek the promptings of the Holy Ghost. He will help you to understand that you can become a new person thanks to the Lord’s sacrifice on your behalf. He will keep your confidences and will be a friend and a counselor to you. If you do what he asks, then you are on your way to clearing up your problems and to moving forward full of hope and grateful for the Savior’s love that makes forgiveness possible.
Going through life thinking “I never do anything right” is like beating up on yourself. It 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 a book called 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 positive things, 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.”
Ever been around someone who does nothing but criticize? Does it make you wonder what that person says about you when you’re not there? Don’t leave others wondering what you’ll say. Give nice, 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 things down.
Life is not about what label is on a person’s jeans, or how tall or short a person is, or how cool they look. Each person in your school, each member of your family, is a cherished child of our Father in Heaven. We are all more wonderful than what brand of shoes we put on. Heavenly Father made us in great varieties of sizes, shapes, ethnic backgrounds, and abilities. He loves us all. Shouldn’t we do the same?
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).
Do you need your heart to be gladdened? Take a walk where there are trees and flowers. Peel an orange and enjoy the aroma as well as the taste. Watch the clouds swirl through the sky. The Lord’s creations put on a great show. Take it in.
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.
President Gordon B. Hinckley often expresses his appreciation for the strength of the youth in the Church today. 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. … Surrounded by the forces that would pull them down and tremendous pressures to pull them away from time-tested virtues, 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.”
When Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve was growing up, more than anything he wanted to be a basketball star. When he was young, he was the best basketball player among his friends. In fact, he taught one of his friends how to play. But as time went on, his friend grew very tall and he did not. One of the hardest experiences of his life was being cut from the school basketball team while his friend made it.
Let his life be an example to you. Not all of 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 or discouragement, and you will learn even more about how to do good and bless the lives of many people. Prepare now for that which is to come.
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 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 does look good with my hair! It matches my dress, too. Maybe Jennifer would like one. It would look really good with the T-shirt she wore to Young Women last week. Whoah! Look at the time! I’d better hurry. I promised I’d make my famous Swedish meatballs for Mutual tonight!”
Often the biggest changes begin with a simple change of attitude. Hopefully, this list of ten suggestions has started you thinking about what you can do to feel better about yourself. Remember that the better you feel, in a humble, spiritual way, the fewer doubts you will have about your own potential to follow the Savior, and the more you will be able to focus your attention on serving others and serving him.