So, as I was getting to the last slide or two of my first half of my presentation, skeptical looks and folded arms abounded. Then suddenly, one of the the younger girls cried out, "Why are you teaching us this?! Who would want to be miserable?!"
And I said all the following:
That is exactly the point! Thank you for making it for me! Who would want to be miserable? Not me! Not you! But, we all choose to engage in behaviors like the ones we've talked about on a regular basis, and we are surprised when that is exactly how we feel. You caught me girls. Obviously, this lesson isn't really about being miserable - it's about how to be more happy and confident. When we accept our part in the choices we are making that affect how we feel, that is when positive changes can happen.
Before we go on, I have to make two points:
#1: Ultimately, the choices for your own behavior belong to you. Our own happiness is ours to choose. Misery is ours to choose. And I'm not here to tell you how to feel, but demonstrate the things you might want to apply in your life if you want to be more happy and confident, and less miserable. The choice is yours.
#2: It is very normal to have times where you feel down, but if you struggle with serious depression, and thoughts of hurting yourself or wanting to die, you need to get help and see a counselor. There are people who can help you. Your parents, and any of us leaders are here to point you where you can get that help.
Now, for a story. A true story that I think is going to demonstrate something that can help us all learn an important lesson about confidence and where that really comes from.
Several years ago, I was walking in to clock in at my job, and several of the ladies I worked with were chatting about all kinds of things. The conversation turned to how one of the ladies' daughters had gone in to get a breast augmentation surgery done that morning. I listened as the others said things like, "Oh that's really great!" "She's already beautiful, but she's going to look even better now!" "I think it will really help with her confidence." As soon as I heard that last statement - about this surgery helping this woman's confidence - I'll never forget what happened. All the outside chatter faded and it got really quiet in my mind. Then a very strong and distinct thought came to my mind as pure intelligence. I will never forget what it told me, "True confidence does not come from outward appearance. True confidence comes from obedience to the Lord's commandments." I'll never forget that moment. I knew that what I had learned was a gift from God, communicated to me by His Holy Spirit.
I've pondered more on that truth. I have come to the conclusion that not only does our physical appearance have nothing to do with true, lasting confidence, but that true confidence is being true to who you really are. Say this out loud with me, it bears repeating out loud and every day: true confidence is being true to who you really are. And who are you? I'll give you a hint, we say it each Sunday in our Young Women's theme. . . You are daughters of Heavenly Parents! "We are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us and we love Him. . ." That is what we say. That is the truth of who we are. Our spirits know it, even though we forget sometimes. And when we live true to our great potential, our divine nature - that is when we feel a confidence and a happiness and a peace that outlasts any difficult time, any physical deformity, or awkward outfit. True confidence comes as we align our choices and thoughts with who we really are - and YOU are all daughters of God, with Eternal potential.
But, but, but! You might be thinking. What if you want to feel happy and confident, but you are struggling to take that first step.
I totally understand. Starting is always the hardest part. So, tonight I'm going to give you some ideas of tools and techniques you can use to help you fuel positive behavior, and most importantly - to just get started!
The first principle I want you girls to know, is that "Success fuels more success." Sounds kind of counter-intuitive, doesn't it? Kind of weird. But it is so true. When you make choices that get you moving in a good direction, that productivity and good direction gets you more excited about doing more and continuing on that good path.
One great way to get started is to wake up on a busy day, and take some time to do some power posing. Power poses are open, strong, big, and confident. When we take a moment to hold our bodies in confident positions, it can actually help us to feel more confident in our thoughts and actions. So, go into the bathroom stall for two minutes before you have a big test to take, and do some power posing. This TED talk is where I learned all about that topic. This is cool stuff girls.
*Power posing and laughing ensued.*
Since success helps us feel more successful, we should use small successes to help us toward a larger goal. If we have a massive homework assignment, start with one problem, or writing one sentence and pat yourself on the back. Keep at it, and congratulate yourself along the way until your enthusiasm and excitement in your productivity keeps you going. Messy room? Start with one sock. Pat yourself on the back, (literally and figuratively) and keep up the good work! Want to develop a habit of reading your scriptures for thirty minutes every day? Start by promising yourself you will read at least one verse every single day. When you have an overwhelming thing to do, pick the smallest thing you can do towards accomplishing that goal and start there.
Part of feeling happy and confident requires that we spend some of our time serving others. Serving others contributes to our well-being because that is being true to who we are. God loves us, and He has taught us we need to learn to love others as He does. What do the scriptures say about developing love or charity in our hearts?
Moroni 7:45-48 says:
45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.
Developing this love for others is something we need to do if we want to feel confidence before God and with others, and just as it says here in the scriptures, God is here to help us as we pray for that gift. We will find that as we serve and love others, we feel more and more motivated to continue doing just that - we will also find more confidence and happiness in the process.
This can help with motivation and fueling success, too:
The second principle I want to teach you girls about confidence tonight is this: It's all in your head! That's where it starts anyway. What you think determines how you feel and act and live. So, a lot of things can be targeted in their starting place, right there in your mind.
I don't know if you knew this or not, but
It totally is. Catfish just eat anything they can scavenge off the bottom of wherever they live. They are not partial at all - rotting matter and fish bodies and trash - they eat it all. Your mind is just the same. It doesn't discriminate, it just takes it all in. If you watched someone sweep the floor and dump the junk they swept up on top of your spaghetti dinner for the evening, you probably wouldn't eat it! And if you did, you'd probably throw it up. Unfortunately our minds don't have an vomit reflex. So? We have to be so careful what we put in them! Elder Dallin H. Oaks talked about this. He said,
"Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food. The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call a brain. The brain won’t vomit back filth. Once recorded, it will always remain subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind and drawing you away from the wholesome things in life.”
So, girls - consider everything you are taking into your mind. Be so careful with it! Limit the media you do take in and be very selective of what makes the cut.
Your minds are very open to suggestion whenever you are looking at a screen, so make sure that what you are watching is in line with what you believe. Shut out any filth the second it appears. You and your mind deserve better!
In the first part of the presentation I had all the girls write down something they couldn't change. At this point I collected them all in a toilet paper roll and we brought them to the backyard, and had all the girls commit to letting their concerns go by saying "I am ready to let this go!" and then lighting them on fire in our little fire pit. Other methods of this same exercise could utilize toilets, paper shredders, trash bags, or helium balloons.
Next, I guided the girls through a meditative imagery exercise where they imagined a block that was stopping them from reaching a goal. And I had them creatively destroy the blocks in their in their minds.
I explained that it can also be helpful to take some time to envision themselves doing something successfully before they do it, to boost their confidence in themselves.
Next, we talked about positive self-talk. I've talked about that on this blog before. I explained that oftentimes we speak to ourselves with self-defeating messages that we repeat over and over to ourselves. If we make our self-talk positive it can really help encourage us toward positive behavior and feelings and help us change the way we feel about ourselves. Memorizing scriptures can be a wonderful way to include positive self-talk in our lives. Scriptures like this one:
"I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." - Philippians 4:13
Music can be a great help in changing our moods, for better or worse. Happy, uplifting, upbeat music to can help us to get going. Music should have messages that are in harmony with our divine nature.
Next, I had the girls do this exercise: Take out your piece of paper that is folded in half. On one side, list 5 of your strengths, on the other side list 5 weaknesses. . . Got them? Great. Now, look at the weaknesses. Part of being a happy, confident person is accepting the fact that you are human and that you have imperfections! See your imperfections as opportunities to improve.
Now, chances are you wrote them in a not very happy way. Like for myself, I would probably have listed "Loud and Obnoxious" on the weaknesses side of my paper. But, what I want all of you to do is to think of a replacement word for your weakness. Cross that weakness off, and write the new word on the strengths side of your paper. So, I might write "Bold and Truthful" under the strengths. Get it? Alright. Do that.
Now, write a positive affirmation you can tell yourself each day involving the positive rewrite of your weakness. "I am a bold woman who loves to speak truth." Say that affirmation to yourself whenever you feel like having a beat yourself up session.
Study Ether 12:27 and Moroni 10:5 - God is there to help you be aware of your weaknesses and He has promised to help you overcome them if you trust in Him. You can find specific answers of how to tackle these weaknesses with His guidance.
Write down something God did for you in a little journal each day. Write down sincere compliments you receive. Write down things you did that were true to who you really are. Re-read them often.
And of course - study your scriptures and pray, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! Reading God's word and communing with Him, helps you to remember who you are, and to receive personal guidance on your journey. If you are ever struggling with your self worth, take some time to ask God how He feels about you, and He will let you know.
Also, President Gordon B. Hinckley made this promise to the saints when he challenged us to all read the Book of Mormon in a year:
“Without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”
The Book of Mormon is a powerful testimony of Christ and when we read it, we can come closer to Him.
Moroni 10:32 says, ”Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”