One of the most fundamental truths of the gospel can be found in the words of a beloved Primary song:
“I am a child of God.”
As children of God, we learn that we are loved by Him and that by following His plan we can gain eternal life. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf once said, “Brothers and sisters, the most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love.”
With an understanding of our divine nature, we should feel confident as we move forward through life. However, we often lose sight of who we are and struggle with our eternal potential. Many are plagued with feelings of self-hatred and worthlessness. Why does this happen?
Shame is the first tool of Satan.
Shame is an extremely painful tool of the adversary. It is the first deception he used in the Garden of Eden to attack Adam and Eve. Go and hide, he said. You are naked. Shame tell us that not only do we do bad things, but that we ourselves are inherently bad. We aren’t enough and never can be.
We will all experience guilt for sin. We will all recognize our complete need for the grace of Christ. However, when shame overcomes our perceptions, we are unable to recognize our own divine potential. To combat shame, we need to recognize the difference between guilt and shame, avoid comparisons, practice self-love, and focus on building a relationship with God.
We are intimately aware of our weaknesses.
If you’re feeling down about yourself, you may find others getting frustrated with you. “Why don’t you see how awesome you are?” they may ask. People may tell you how wonderful you are and try to reassure you, but you have a hard time believing them. A large part of our inability to gain perspective is because we are just too close.
After all, you are you. You are the voice in your own head. We analyze every thought and motivation, picking ourselves apart. We are intimately aware of weaknesses and failures. We are definitely unbiased when it comes to ourselves, whether for good or bad. It is important to take a step back and try to distance ourselves from our own emotions.
Pain is an immediate need.
Perspective is a hard thing to gain when you’re in pain. You can feel completely consumed by it. When you’re just trying to figure out how to live through the next moment, it is hard to even look beyond the next day. To make sure we find ourselves again, we need to honestly and vulnerably address our pain and take care of ourselves. By treating our pain, we are able to open up room inside our hearts and minds for God’s instruction and direction.
We rely on others to form our reflections.
Whether we realize it or not, we rely on the world to influence how we feel about ourselves. We seek validation from our peers, take notes out on how to live our lives from celebrities and magazines, and constantly compare ourselves on social media. With so much clutter and distraction, it is no wonder the spirit often has a hard time reaching us with the truth.
Take time to meditate and seek clarity through the gift of the Holy Ghost. Visiting the temple, or even just the temple grounds, is a great way to refocus on our potential.
We don’t apply the Atonement.
Do we understand the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ? Do we apply it in our lives? When we make mistakes or are faced with the consequences of sin, we often want to throw ourselves away. We feel we are hopeless. The Atonement can save everyone but me, we think. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The sacrifice of Christ was made so we can progress and receive all God has. Christ doesn’t limit us; we create the limitations.
If you are struggling with your eternal potential, remember these words by Elder Richard G. Scott:
“Our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously.”