Tuesday, February 9, 2016
There is a tendency in today's stress-filled world to thoroughly beat ourselves up over varying items. We criticize our appearance, our choice of clothing for the day, how we walk, talk, and at times, breathe. In short, we are our own worst critics. I'm sure we have ample help from a certain personage who delights in shredding our self-esteem whenever possible. He hates the fact that we have a body, and a chance for eternal growth, and he does not. So it brings him and his followers great pleasure to add to our mental barrage whenever possible. We find ourselves deluged with negative thoughts on a regular basis as a result. See if any of these thought patterns sound familiar:
"Why did I say that? I just made a complete fool of myself and now everyone hates me!"
"I look ridiculous! Why did I ever think this color looked good on me? I am hideous!"
"I am a total klutz! Everyone saw how I tripped and nearly fell! They must think I'm an idiot!"
"Oh, man, why did I give that gift instead of something else? I know they hated it! What was I thinking?"
So on, and so forth. I think you get the idea. No one tears us down like we do to ourselves. We are constantly worrying over how other people perceive us, instead of realizing, most people are fighting the same battle. We are so preoccupied with making a good impression, that we're making ourselves miserable in the process.
This is one of my biggest weaknesses. I worry far too much about what other people think. So much so, that I've had a couple of dreams regarding this tendency. Though I know that most dreams are silly nonsense, and a way for our subconscious to sort things out, I believe that once in a while, when the need is great, we can receive important messages through that format. I will briefly share a couple of dreams that I've been given regarding this topic:
In the first dream, I was given a small part in a large production. I had one line, but oh, how I stressed over it. I rehearsed it repeatedly in front of a mirror. When it came time for the performance, I ran out onto the stage and uttered my line, then ran down into the audience to see if they liked it. I asked several people if I had enunciated clearly enough. Then I asked if I was loud enough. Did they understand what that line meant--etc. and so forth, until I realized that the entire play had come to a halt while I was interrogating the audience.
When this fact dawned on me, I was mortified. I ran back onstage and when the production was over, I hid in the green room backstage, certain I had ruined the entire play. While I was busy hiding from everyone else, it was announced that the Greatest Director of all would be coming in to talk to the cast. Everyone else milled around in excitement while I remained hidden behind whatever I could find. I sensed when the Director came into the room, but I was so certain I had ruined everything, I stayed out of sight. He still found me, and told me lovingly, "I am the only one you need to please."
As you may have guessed, The Great Director was our Savior. After giving me this sound advice, He then handed me another part to play in a larger production. I was feeling overwhelmed, but He assured that I could do it. Then I woke up and pondered the peace I felt from that dream. It has brought me comfort and insight repeatedly.
A few years later, I had another interesting dream regarding this same subject. In the second dream, I was doing my best to climb a golden staircase. It seemed like I would take one step forward and slide back three. I was growing discouraged, certain I would never succeed, and then my eyes were opened. I could see that a dark force was doing its best to hold my legs in place. It was like wading through black, sticky tar. During those difficult moments, angels appeared to drive the dark force away, but it was up to me to continue taking the steps forward up that staircase.
Once again I woke up and pondered an important message. I periodically have to remind myself that it is up to me to continue forward. It's easy to give into the dark thoughts and negative mindset that holds us back, but we're not in this battle alone. This is something that we need to remember. And, we are doing better than we ever think we are. It's important to take each day as it comes, do the best we can, and avoid the tendency to second guess what we've accomplished. It's also important to lift those around us who are fighting the same battle. Be kind. Be generous. And most of all, be encouraging to others. Don't be stingy with compliments. When someone does a good job at something, let them know. Odds are, they are silently berating themselves for not doing better.
Wouldn't it be an awesome world if we were all focusing on making others feel better about themselves, instead of criticizing them or ourselves? (See Acts 20:35; D. & C. 81:5; & Philippians 4:13)
So today, focus on the good things. Choose to be a positive influence in this world of turmoil and strife. Keep taking those steps forward, and eventually we'll find that we're making more progress than we ever thought possible.