This article was originally published on LDS Blog’s sister site, Third Hour.
Okay, so obviously Mean Girls isn’t often a vehicle for gospel learning (although, if I’m being totally honest, I did reference it in my missionary farewell talk), but I can’t think of a better way to start my article than this:
Regina George: “You’re like, really pretty.”
Cady Heron: “Thank you!”
Regina: “So you agree? You think you’re really pretty?”
For a long time, I’ll admit to being a Regina. I mean, I didn’t create a burn book or punch anyone in the face (“One time she punched me in the face… It was awesome!”), but I did have an alarm that would go off in my head blaring the word “Conceited!” any time someone complimented their own appearance or admitted they were smart or funny.
You think your haircut looks good on you? Self-absorbed. Think you look awesome in that dress? Stuck up! Said you deserved that ‘A’ on your history test? Sheesh, brag much?! Basically, if someone liked themselves or gave themselves credit for something, I thought they were vain.
But liking yourself? Being comfortable with who you are and the skin you’re in? That’s awesome. And it DOES NOT make you conceited.
We SHOULD Like Ourselves
A New Era article back in 2014 stated:
“The Lord wants you to be yourself, not someone else. He knows that you and everyone on this earth have strengths and weaknesses. Comparing yourself to someone else doesn’t help you be better. Of course, it’s important to improve yourself and to make goals, but they should be based on doing your best, not someone else’s.”
We are unique, and that makes us all uniquely beautiful and important. Recognizing our individual worth and importance is a huge stepping stone to finding peace and happiness.
Remember when the lawyer asked Jesus Christ what the greatest commandment was? Christ responded:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (emphasis added).
Whoa. You mean there’s an actual scripture that says we should love ourselves?!
YES! The second great commandment is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. That means we should love ourselves and take care of ourselves. It also teaches the important lesson that if we don’t love ourselves, it makes it so much harder to love other people — and, on the flip side, that the more we love and serve other people, the happier we usually are with ourselves.
There’s a HUGE Difference Between Boasting and Being Comfortable With Yourself
Okay, so obviously liking yourself is not the same thing as being conceited. I love the quote, “Don’t think less of yourself; think of yourself less.” Being conceited doesn’t just mean that you really like yourself — it means that you think only of yourself! Being vain means that you think you’re better than others, whether that’s being prettier than others, more talented, smarter, or whatever.
In Moroni 7:45, Moroni reminds us of the characteristics of charity, which is the pure love of Christ:
“Andsuffereth long, and is , and not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily , 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.”
If we truly love ourselves and others, we’re long-suffering (i.e., patient), kind, and selfless. Someone who has charity for herself (or himself) doesn’t spend all of her time thinking about how great she is; instead, she is simply comfortable with who she is — and that allows her to focus her time and energy on others rather than on her own self-perceived flaws.
In March 1979, the New Era published a question asking, “Others tell me I need to love myself. Yet how do I do this properly without being conceited?” In his answer, Boise State professor Clark Swain explained:
“As you develop your talents, you will discover that you sometimes excel over others in certain activities. This does not mean that you are better than they are. Conceit comes from comparing yourself to others and concluding that you are better than they are. Comparing yourself to others can also result in either feelings of inferiority or superiority. Psychologist Maxwell Maltz says an inferiority complex and a superiority complex are merely opposite sides of the same coin. And the coin is counterfeit, for no one is either inferior or superior to anyone else. A person is just different from others. Accept yourself as the unique person that you are without comparing yourself to others. Doing this will help you love yourself properly without conceit.”
Being conceited means that we compare others to ourselves, claiming (whether it’s internally or vocally) that they don’t measure up. On the flip side, being happy and comfortable with ourselves means we’re aware of our talents and strengths, but that we’re humble enough to recognize how we can grow and improve, too — and we extend the same courtesy to others. We don’t need to brag because we don’t crave others’ approval. Instead, we recognize that God’s approval and our own are the only ones that actually matter.
Learning to Like Ourselves
Liking ourselves is essential to our happiness, but sometimes we fail to recognize how crucial it is. It affects all aspects of our lives: how we treat ourselves, how we allow others to treat us, how we perceive our future, etc. One woman shared her journey to greater self-esteem in an Ensign article from 1982:
“I became quickly convinced of the necessity of knowing and liking myself—something I had neglected.
Real self-acceptance didn’t come easily. I had spent twenty-seven years thinking of myself primarily in negative terms and it wasn’t an easy habit to break. Debilitating thoughts continued to come uninvited to my mind at every opportunity, but now I recognized that negative thinking was my enemy—and I fought it with every ounce of strength I had.
First, I dismissed negative, critical thoughts, telling myself they weren’t valid. I learned to turn them off the same way I turn off the television set when something unsuitable comes on. In their place I substituted positive thoughts, reminding myself of the things I could take pride in.
At first it was difficult to find positive thoughts about myself. When I looked for my strengths, my mind would go blank! Luckily, my husband filled in the gap. He patiently pointed out to me over and over the things he saw in me that were praiseworthy—until I began to recognize and appreciate them for myself. The assurances from the Spirit that my Father in Heaven loves me also helped. Such feelings would often overwhelm me when I arose from prayer, and did much to reinforce my battered self-esteem.
Searching for my assets caused me to examine my values and priorities. As I brought these things into better focus, I was able to acknowledge the areas in which I was succeeding and identify ways I wanted to change.”
The author goes on to explain that the more she liked herself, the more she liked other people and treated them with greater patience and kindness.
Liking yourself isn’t being prideful. It doesn’t make you vain, conceited, or self-absorbed.
It makes you happy.
Amy Carpenter is the site manager and editor for LDSBlogs.com. She served a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Denver, Colorado, where she learned to love mountains and despise snow. She has a passion for peanut butter, dancing badly, and most of all, the gospel.