I have the sweetest friend. She is Costa Rican and she is incredibly talented. She is known all throughout our community for her talented cooking skills and friendly demeanor. She is also a dedicated friend, someone who prides herself in making sure each and every relationship she has has a good connection. She deeply cares about all those she knows, while constantly striving to be a loving wife and mother. I know she does this because I can see the love her family has received from her in their eyes.
But my dear, sweet, generous, hard working, talented friend thinks she isn’t enough. She looks in the mirror, just like all of us have to do every day, but the thoughts that fill her mind tell her that she is “too fat,” “not as pretty or talented as ‘so and so’,” “she needs to do better, try harder, go faster,” or “if only I looked ‘this way‘ THEN I would be happy.”
My heart broke when my friend told me that she can’t stop herself from crying every day. On the outside, you would never guest she was carrying this burden, but when I looked into her eyes, I could SEE her pain and misery. She is suffering from what SO MANY on this earth are suffering with . . . wanting to FEEL accepted, just the way we are – but we are too afraid to let go of the baggage we are carrying, in order to do this for ourselves. My friend, as well as myself, are surrounded with messages that tell us “YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH!” “YOU ARE FAILING – JUST LOOK AT YOUR OUTSIDE APPEARANCE!” So how do we get those voices to go away?
WE MUST STOP THEM OURSELVES!
Imagine that every morning, just as you wake up, there is a butler or maid who is standing by your bed. As you begin to flutter your eyes open, they place the needle upon a record on the record player. The record begins to play, even before you have had your first clear and reasonable thought. The record’s voice is familiar. You have heard this voice your entire life, because it is yours or the voice of someone you feel you should trust.
But because you have heard this record your whole life, you dismiss it and begin your day . . . but you feel sluggish. The recording isn’t always the same. Depending on the day, you will hear a different message, one that excites you, motivates you, praises you. But mostly the recording tells you WHO YOU AREN’T. It tells you that it is “doing you a favor,” trying to protect you. It is giving you what it calls “the truth” but it does this by comparing your weaknesses to other’s strengths.
It is also constantly telling you to “hurry up, you’re running late again!” so you never seem to have the time to stop and actually think about what the recording is telling you and check to see if it is true. So you run, as quickly as you can but as soon as you look into the mirror, you are disgusted with yourself. You are filled with “Why can’t I be like ‘so and so’?” or “What did I do to deserve THIS?” (while looking grossly at your face, hair, or body). Sadly, you refuse to walk over and TURN OFF the record player because your butler or maid is standing there, making sure the record is always playing FOR you.
You ponder, “What if I had the courage to turn off the record player or even tell the maid or butler to leave? Then who would I have to ‘protect me’?” But as soon as you ponder that thought you feel the loneliness, the fear of being alone to face your daily battles trickles down your spine with terror and you resign to the fact that being alone is far worse then listening to this recording every day.
But what kind of life are you LIVING?
Let me present another story . . .
You have lived a good life. You have obeyed everyone you could and you strove to make as many people happy as you could. You lifted up the down-trodden and oppressed, you comforted the sad, lonely or grieving, you even fed the hungry. Your time on earth has come to an end and you are relieved. As you walk up to meet “your Maker,” all those who you served or obeyed are walking with you. They are linked, arm in arm with you. You feel a sensation of being taken care of, like they are your protectors.
But as you step before your Maker, He looks at you with eyes of, “Who are all of these people? Why haven’t you come alone?”
You are confused? Alone? Why, I was never alone on earth. Aren’t these people the very people He put into your life for you to serve and obey? Is this a test? A trick?
He looks at you as if to say, “Do you want me to proceed with all of these people here during your judgement?” You say that you agree, thinking that this too is part of the test – that you require the humility to let these people hear your final judgement. Again, your Maker looks at you as if this is your choice, to let them stay or not, but you don’t know any other way. They have always been here, so let them stay.
You Maker asks you the first question, “Did you live a life of charity and humble service?”
The crowd shouts a resounding, “YES!”
You feel proud inside, strengthened by their answer. A feeling of confidence assures you that you are ‘going to make it’ to heaven, where you deserve to go after all of your hard work and effort.
Your Maker asks you, “Did you fulfill all the commandments that were given to you?”
The crowd shouts again a resounding, “YES SHE DID and WE made sure of it!”
Now you start to feel uncomfortable. ‘THEY’ made sure of it’? What about me? Didn’t I do anything to work my way into heaven? I don’t know if I agree with that statement?
Your Maker pauses to see if you would like to answer but you are too afraid, maybe they are right? It’s better to shut your mouth than be contemptuous. So He continues . . .
“Do you feel you lived your life to the fullest?”
What kind of question is that? What does that matter? Aren’t we SUPPOSED to be selfless and meek, humble and sacrificing. Give up our life for others? Is this another trick?
The crowd begins to talk among themselves. They begin to pick apart how you did this wrong or that wrong and how THEY saved you or fixed you and how you will OWE THEM.
You stand there now with your head hung low. After ALL you did for them, it just wasn’t enough. You feel defeated and filled with despair. You did your best to please them, but as soon as you started to help one of them, you upset another one. So you would quickly help the first and move onto the second, only to upset the group at the end. As you began to work on the group at one end, you upset the group on the other end. You ran faster and faster, desperately trying to resolve each issue that THEY said YOU needed to fix. By the time your work on earth was finished, you really didn’t know who you were anymore. You had learned to look to this group for validation and comfort.
Your Maker looks at you and says, “Enter into thy glory, thou good and faithful servant.” You begin to take a few steps forward but the group stands firm in a line, they don’t move ahead with you. You have stepped away from the crowd. What is happening? What is this feeling I am having? You pause.
You look at your Maker with confusion, even frustration in your eyes. “Is that it? Was that ALL I was supposed to do? But ‘I’ don’t feel satisfied. I don’t know what to do if they can’t come with me. I don’t know how to be alone.”
The Maker smiles a soft smile and looks deep into your eyes. He his motioning for you to walk forward, but you start to back away. “NO! This isn’t what I wanted. I didn’t come to earth to end like this. I have more inside of me. More to discover to learn. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. I want to try again. Can I PLEASE try again?!?”
As you begin to walk backwards, away from your Maker, you are cutting through the crowd. If you are going to go back, you need to do it on your own, even alone if need be. If only you could try. You look up, one last time to see your Makers face, you want to know what He thinks of what you are doing. There is a smile on His face. His look says, “That’s my girl. Now go be who We know you to be!” And you leave.
I still remember the night I had that dream. I remember waking up and just lying there in my bed. It was a message. A LOUD AND CLEAR type of message, telling me that I had found the wrong path and needed to make some HUGE changes. But how?
I decided to pray.
I told my Father in Heaven what I had seen in my dream and how it made me feel but I also told Him that I had no idea HOW to change things for myself. I ask Him if He would please teach me. But instead of putting my life on hold, until I got the answer I needed to hear, I then asked Him what He needed me to do that day.
I was reminded that I needed to deal with my CPAP machine issues. My husband was concerned about my health and I kept putting off learning to use the machine. I felt embarrassed and emotional using a CPAP machine. I heard my mind say, “Only FAT PEOPLE use a CPAP machine. Are you a FAT PERSON?”
I had just completed a marathon in Salt Lake City, hoping to rid myself of all the fat on my body. “Fat chance!” I realized that no matter how much I exercised or dieted, I still needed my CPAP. So I made an appointment to see my Sleep Doctor. Upon arrival he immediately asked me, “So, how much fat did you lose in your throat from running a marathon?” I was dumbfounded. He then explained that it isn’t fat that caused me to need a CPAP machine, it was my airway. It collapsed while I slept at night, causing my brain to send an electrical current to my heart to wake me up. These electrical shocks will weaken my heart and substantially increase my changes for an early heart attack or stroke.
I was also sleep deprived, which is a MAJOR cause for depression and over-eating. Yes, the CPAP would be a sacrifice to wear at night BUT it would not only prolong my life but improve the quality of my life substantially. But wearing the mask was a HUGE issue for me. I felt like Darth Vader at night or like I had a squid on my face. I would hyper-ventilate and panic while I wore the mask. So the Sleep Doctor referred me to a Sleep Therapist.
I made the appointment but I was DEEP HESITANT! I didn’t want to go to the appointment and hoped it would be cancelled. But it wasn’t. So I drove my 4 kids with me to see this Sleep Therapist. On my way there, I was pulled over in a speed trap. The police officer was extremely rude and surly. He was almost giddy giving me the ticket. My spirit was crushed. I wanted to just go home but I had promised to deal with my issues concerning my CPAP. So I drove on to the Sleep Therapist.
I made a quick call, hoping that my being pulled over would cancel my appointment because I was running 15 minutes late but the receptionist comforted me and assured me that the ticket was a speed trap and that it happens all the time. She told me how brave I was for still coming and not to worry, Tom is more than happy to wait for you. WHAT? Now I HAD to show up.
I hadn’t waited more than 5 minutes when I was called back to Tom’s office. My kids followed me as if I was Mama Duck. Tom was so kind to my children. Before they could take a seat, he had come back with a few hospital snacks for each kid to enjoy. My kids were entertained, I couldn’t have asked for more. Tom walked over to me and asked what my concerns were. I explained to him that the mask made me feel claustrophobic. He smiled and said, “Well that is an easy fix.”
He took my mask and gently placed it on my face, as I leaned my head back. As he touched me, I felt something powerful run through my body. My desire to panic had been taken from me, but I KNEW that if I entertained the thought any longer, that the feeling would returned IMMEDIATELY and would most likely not leave without a severe fight. It was MY CHOICE. I could be rid of the temptation to panic or I could keep it. What did I want to do?
I didn’t WANT to have a CPAP machine the rest of my life but I looked at my children, quietly enjoying their snacks and I realized that my MAIN PURPOSE in this life is to be there for my husband and children. IF I didn’t sleep with this CPAP I could easily destroy my future. It was up to me to choose.
So I chose to let go of the fear.
Tom saw me make my decision. His eyes were enlivened. I assumed we were through but Tom walked over to the door. He turned around and with a brave face he said, “I could get fired for telling you this, but I feel moved I should anyway.” Boy did he get my attention. I felt nervous for him and also concerned for me and my kids. What was he going to say to me?
He was in a hurry, running around looking for something. He finally ran to his computer and found the file he was looking for and printed it. It printed sheets of paper in large numbers. He handed them all to me and told me that he had proof. “Proof for what?” He said, “Did you KNOW that YOU can CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS?”
What was he talking about?
But the Spirit told me to listen. So I did. I open my heart, my ears and my mind to what Tom was trying to tell me. He simply stated that the thoughts I am currently creating could be changed, if they weren’t true. But what was true? He explained that truth is thought that motivates us to do good things. Truth is what empowers us to do better, to keep trying and to not give up hope. And hope was the feeling that if I do my best, it is enough. Didn’t I want to feel this way? Was it missing in my life?
The answer was YES!
And that was it. He didn’t dive into deep mediation or chakra training or new age healing. He simply helped me start the journey to REPROGRAM my own thoughts and to desire to learn more how to do it. Wasn’t that the beginning answer to my prayer, to understand the dream I had a few weeks before.
Fast forward MANY ‘line upon line moments’ and several years of practice later and I am who I am today. It didn’t happen all at once, but neither can a garden grow without time. It took one thought at a time, asking myself if this thought was:
* completely true
* partially true
* not true at all
If it was completely true, I celebrated and encouraged myself to continue to think it. If it was partially true, I held onto the truth and then told the lie that I would not believe it anymore, but what to replace the lie with. Well, I couldn’t make something up and I couldn’t ask someone else what to believe (that is how so many of my lies were created). Instead I told myself the truths that I already knew. Which were:
I am a daughter of God
He loves me no matter what
He cares about WHO I am and that I remember WHO I am
I am a good friend
I am a great cook
I am a caring mother
I care about my home and how people feel being in it
As I kept “bearing my testimony” to myself, I began to grow more and more truth. And as this truth grew, the more I could see the lies that I believed and I chose to “weed” them out of the garden of my mind. Instead of worrying about adding more plants or vegetables or fruits to my garden, I nurtured the ones I had and helped them to grow. Then I would be gifted new ones and I noticed when they arrived and celebrated them, all while caring for the ones I had in the first place.
This experience has reminded me of the parable of the talents. It is in nurturing and using the talents or “gifts” that we already have that we are able to gain MORE talents that we didn’t have before. Don’t worry about what NOT to believe or what to add. Start with the basics and nurture those, then the garden of your mind, heart, and spirit will become one and you will create SELF ESTEEM!
If only I could hurry up and “fix” the garden of my friend’s self esteem . . . but then I would be no better than the crowd that joined me in my dream. I know now that the BEST help I can give anyone, is to be an example to them that they CAN! They CAN be alone and be HAPPY, because in trusting in our Maker and the guidance we receive through the Spirit, we are NEVER alone. He is ALWAYS with us.
He has promised that He will never leave us, as we covenant during the Sacrament and Baptism. Why don’t we trust Him. I am truly grateful that I have been blessed to “come back to earth” and receive my Self Esteem. Loving myself for WHO the Lord knows me to be has been the GREATEST gift I can give myself. Especially since the last 2 years have change my physical body in a way that I still get shocked when I see myself in the mirror. This is when I stop and pause. I tell myself to STOP those shocking feelings, as if I have seen pornography. I tell myself, “NO. You are NOT those thoughts. You are wonderful the way you are. You are strong. You are recovering from major surgery and how you recover is different for you than anyone else. It takes time to heal and the Lord knows your heart. You are not lazy, you are a hard worker. You are getting stronger each day. I love you NO MATTER WHAT!”
Yes, I have to do this EVERY time I have a difficult thought hit me but isn’t this what we teach our children to do when they see pornography. “THIS ISN’T REAL! This isn’t good for me! I don’t want to remember this!” Well, I do the same thing to my negative thoughts towards myself and it really has worked.
No, I’m not a swim suit model or talented athlete because that is not who I am called to be. I am called to be Wendi, a unique. There is no one on earth who has ever been, ever will be or ever is me. I am ME and I GET to be me. I would much rather meet my Maker being me, than who a crowd thought I should be. And I would MUCH RATHER be alone when I meet my Maker, than let anyone else be part of my judgement. They don’t KNOW ME perfectly, but He does.
Back to the record player, records and maid/butler. Get rid of them and replace them with beauty and truth. Fill your room with beautiful, truthful music. Turn to prayer and the scriptures to teach you truth. And strive to look at yourself in the mirror the way the Lord sees you. No, it won’t happen all at once but I would rather plant one good thought a day than battle hundreds of ugly thoughts, only to believe them. You too can change your thoughts. I hope you will pray for the courage to take the leap of faith you need to be your own best friend! I love you!