Guest Post: Self Esteem

Guest Post by Two of Three

“My dog ate my homework”.  “I only date ninjas.”  “I do all my own stunts.”  Cute t-shirts with funny quotes abound at the elementary school where I work.  I saw one in the halls one day that read “I am the best person I know”.  Either the little guy wearing it had a mom with a great sense of humor or he was a kid with a great self esteem.  I hope it was the latter.  I can relate.  Before you think I’m full of myself, let me explain.

As long as I can remember, I have liked me.  I like who I am.  I like what I do.  I like what I think.  Excluding a couple of awkward years in junior high, I have been very satisfied with me.  Not to say that everything I do is good.  It’s not.  I stumble along the way.  But I pick myself up.  I do dumb things.  But I forgive myself.  I fail at my endeavors pretty regularly.  But tomorrow is a new day.

I totally and completely have taken this for granted. It wasn’t until I was asked to write this post that I even considered why that is. This is what I have come up with.

I grew up with a mom who saw her children through rose colored glasses.  She loved us unconditionally; when we broke stuff, when we failed, even when we hurt her.  She never asked us to be anything we weren’t already.  She only truly wanted one thing.  For her children to be happy.   This is the greatest gift she ever gave me.  If I was good enough for my mother, I am good enough for me.

Another idea that has occurred to me is that I am very satisfied with the mediocre.  I have noticed that perfectionists put a lot of effort into projects that they are never fully pleased with.  My bar is low enough that it is fairly easy to reach!  My quilt squares are not the most accurate in class, but I like them.  My home is not the fanciest, but I am comfortable.  I am not the most spiritual person I know, but I try to find a relationship with Deity that meets my needs.  I am easy to please and that bleeds over into being content with myself.

It has also not escaped me that this may be a blessing from God.  When I think of spiritual gifts, I think of the standard issue gifts:  healing, interpretation, an understanding of scripture and doctrine, revelation etc.  But what about this.  What if, instead of being handed the “Craving Light and Knowledge” card, I got the “Self Esteem” card?  Perhaps I came with it.  If that is the case, I think I made out like a bandit.

If I had a dime for every person who has said, ”You are the happiest/most content person I know”, I would have…well, a lot of dimes.  My Mormon friends and relations chalk this up to the fact that I am a member of the Church, as in “Of course you are happy because there is just something special about Mormons!”  But as I was a happy person before I was a member, and also now that I am having doubts about where I stand in relation to the church, I don’t think it has anything to do with Mormonism at all.

I can’t honestly comment on the “what if I had grown up in the church” because I don’t know what my experiences would have been in that alternate plane.  Perhaps, I would have felt more of the weight and responsibility until it burdened my outlook. Perhaps, I would have been twice as happy.  Who knows?  I can say that my adult experience in the church has only reaffirmed what I already know.  God likes me just the way I am.

Life hasn’t been golden for me.  It is not a piece of cake for anyone.  I have survived tragedy, experienced pain, and suffered all of life’s bumps in the road.  Yet, I see life as my mother saw me- good enough. Everyday, I find something to laugh about.  My healthy self esteem certainly influences how I feel about the world around me.  It’s a nice place and I’m glad I’m here. At the risk of sounding like a children’s book: I may not be the best person I know, but I like me.

How does your upbringing affect your sense of self? What about Mormonism?


Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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18 Responses

  1. Howard says:

    Delightful thanks for the fun read.

  2. Ashley says:

    Great post! I am also among the few women my age that I know with great self esteem. I love my body and my self as a whole. I’m not sure exactly how I wound up feeling great about who I am, but if anything I think my mom was a big influence. She always taught me to believe in myself even when others don’t and to keep on going. It worked.

  3. alex w. says:

    I’m so happy to read something like this. I have struggled with my self-esteem for a long time, and I was doing really great for a while. I’ve been having a hard time with it again, but that might have something to do with wedding stress and facebook ads for wedding diets.
    It’s so nice to read something that looks at self-esteem in a positive way. Someone mentioned, or perhaps even wrote a post about self-esteem here or on Feminist Mormon Housewives and mentioned people in church being dismissive of it, and a couple of weeks ago during a high councilor’s talk there was a jab at self esteem and college and it seems liberals were tied in as well (it was a confusing moment for me). I wonder why self esteem is such an odd thing to be praised by some and looked down on by others. Perhaps I don’t understand why some are so dismissive of having great self-esteem.
    Personally, I feel my happiest when I can look at myself in the mirror, hold two thumbs up, have a big cheesy grin, say “I’m super awesome!” and mean it. But that’s just me.

    • Two of Three says:

      My sister has a morning moment where she looks herself in the mirror and says with sincerity ” YOU are SO cute!”

  4. Kristen Says No says:

    Wow. Until I got to the part that clarified that you did not grow up in the charge, I was lost and confused. The Church I grew up in does not produce people like you. (Yeah, yeah, I know. Sweeping generalizations.) To be fair my upbringing (family of origin) does not produce people like you, either, so I am probably biased.

    I was never good enough for my mom; I am rarely good enough for me. No matter how obedient I’ve been, I’ve never felt good enough for the church, and usually not good enough for God. “God likes me just the way I am.” That statement seems to be the antithesis of everything I experience Church to embody. I don’t know how you sit through “Way Number 1,237 You Need to Improve to Be Acceptable Before God” lessons, all that delightful “instruction”, and believe that God likes you just the way you are. But, I’d switch places with you in an instant.

    I wish, as a parent, I was more like your mom. But I have a deep, nagging fear that “kids today” like themselves a little too much anyway. I wish could see the fine lines where a healthy sense of self rests and where unmotivated/ absurdly self-entitled begin and end. I wish I could give my children all of the Church’s good and remove all of the bad.

    • Two of Three says:

      I also want to give my kids what my mom gave me. I don’t know if I am succeeding, but I am really trying!

  5. Emily U says:

    This post is interesting because it comes on the heels of my reading an article in The Atlantic about how parents constantly telling their kids how awesome they are is bad for them:

    So it’s interesting to me that Two of Three connects her happiness with the unconditional love and acceptance of her mom. I want to give my kids that, too, but also worry about the balance between acceptance and accountability.

    But it’s great Two of Three has always liked herself. I wish I could say the same.

  6. BethSmash says:

    I know exactly how you feel!!! I didn’t necessarily get the ‘self esteem’ card, but I sure got the happiness card. And I know that it is a gift. I’m a happy person, and I like to make those around me feel happy. I’m not entirely successful – but I smile a lot, to help share the happiness wealth. That’s not the only thing I do – but it’s the easiest thing. It’s nice to know that other people have something similar about them.

  7. Allison says:

    I have also come across the negative attitude in the church towards self-esteem and it really irks me. My husband and I attended an institute class with the topic of narcissism, entitlement, and the “Me Generation.” While I realize this growing trend might be true to some extent and self-esteem is obviously something that can be taken to an extreme like all other things, I see nothing at all wrong with the type of healthy, joyful feelings you shared about liking yourself. I didn’t feel like that difference was clearly distinguished in the institute lecture I attended and I left feeling like he was telling us self-esteem was a bad thing to have. In a church where people already feel unworthy and guilty enough because our standards are set so unattainably high, I don’t think this is a message we need to be pushing on people.

    • Two of Three says:

      They need to separate self esteem and self centeredness. A healthy self esteem creates happier people. It is very different from being self centered.

  8. Tricia says:

    Amen to the power that comes from having a parent who enjoys who you are. One of my grandmothers used to praise me with superlatives, “you are the best”, “you outshone everyone”, and though I appreciated her support, I knew it wasn’t true. My parents used to tell me things they appreciated or noticed about me or what I’d done. Their specific appreciation was what taught me to recognize and appreciate myself (and was crucial in helping me get through the middle school years you mention). It became an essential element in my raising of my own children.

    I am not one of those people who has been gifted with a “happy” personality. (One of my brothers is and he’s a delight to have around.) Though I do smile, I don’t laugh every day. My gift is soberness. And that’s a good gift too. So, I’ll add my two cents that you can be one with a more sober personality and like yourself and and enjoy peace about who you are. It’s a variation on the theme.

  9. X2 Dora says:

    I think there are many ways to approach this issue. Certainly, individual gifts play a large part. Some people are gifted with healthy self-esteem. Others may not be gifted with self-esteem, but may have the sense of empowerment to be able to change the things they’re not happy with. Others may be gifted with the ability to be grateful for the blessings they have, and not covet the ones they don’t. For myself, I think it’s been a combination of many different things. Anyway, thanks for the post!

  10. One of Three says:

    As your sister and your friend, I am so very proud of you. This article is wonderful. You Rock! Love you!!

  11. Two of Three says:

    Thanks, Sis. 🙂

  12. Brittany says:

    Its funny that you mention this…. I kind of feel the same way. Doug asked me the other day to write a ‘bucket list.’ I don’t have a bucket list, nor have I ever thought about a bucket list. Sure I have some goals, but why set goals, I am only disappointed when I don’t meet them, and I kinda like where I am at. I am average. I am mediocre. I don’t need to be a perfectionist. And I sure don’t know if all that makes sense, but I am with you. And yes, you are happy. And yes, you do have a great self esteem… even in those awkward REALLY annoying (but I learned to appreciate) junior high years :). Love ya!

  13. Dee Aaron says:

    Thanks for sharing your actual experience. I really enjoyed your introduction regarding the tee-shirts. Great illustration! I appreciate your honesty in saying that you know your inner self and that it wouldn’t matter if you belonged to a church or not. That takes courage, as many organized religions take full credu for and use its members to advertise that it is only able of creating good people. When in fact great people make great people!

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