STRENGTH IN SELF RESPECT
Objective: The single woman will increase herself-respect and her ability to act interdependently.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:16, 17.)
Give each sister a pencil and paper and have her complete this statement ten different ways: “I am__________.” (Allow five minutes.)
Each of you has just written ten statements that reflect yourself-image – some of the ways you see yourself and think about yourself. As you look at your list of statements, consider the following questions: (Note: These are thought questions, not to be answered aloud.)
1. Do your statements tend to be positive or negative? If you had been describing your closest friend instead of yourself, would your list have been more positive? More negative?
2. What aspects of yourself did you focus on? Your physical appearance? Your abilities? Your emotional makeup?
3. What roles do you see yourself fulfilling? Did you name yourself in any family role? As daughter? Sister? Niece? Aunt? Wife or mother?
4. What are the sources of your opinions of yourself? Are they honest appraisals? Feedback from friend, family, fellow workers, students, relatives, neighbors? The result of contentment? Of discouragement? Of prayer?
Here is the way President Harold B. Lee answered the question, “Who am I?” in a general conference address:
You are all the sons and daughters of God. Your spirits were created and lived as organized intelligences before the world was. You have been blessed to have a physical body because of your obedience to certain commandments in that premortal state. You are now born into a family to which you have come, into the nations through which you have come, as a reward for the kind of lives you lived before you came here. … What a difference it would make if we really sensed our divine relationship to God, our Heavenly father, our relationship to Jesus Christ, our Savior and elder brother, and our relationship to each other. (Harold B. Lee,”Understanding Who We Are Brings Self-Respect.” Ensign, January 1974, pp.5, 6; Conference Report, October 1973, pp. 7, 9.)
The most important answer to the question “Who am I?”is “I am a daughter of God.” We are everlastingly his daughters. This vital identification does not depend upon any earthly role we may or may not play. We are his daughters whether or not we are contented or discouraged, whether we are married or single, whether or not we are living his commandments. President Lee emphasizes further that understanding who we are brings self-respect. No daughter of God should feel anything but respect for herself. She is the temple of God, and as she obeys the commandments, the Spirit of God dwells within her. Self-respect, President Lee states, brings virtue, peace of mind, and love. Lack of self-respect brings discouragement, rebellion, and unhappiness.
(Prepare two columns on a chart or chalkboard. Title one column “Aware I Am a Daughter of God”; title the other “Unaware I Am a Daughter of God.”)
Think of a woman who seems to sense her divine relationship with her Heavenly father. What qualities does she exemplify? What qualities do you sense within yourself when you remember that you are a daughter of your Heavenly father?
(List these answers under the Aware column. They may include such qualities as confidence, patience, peace of mind, forgiveness of self and others, and self-respect (self-respect is not arrogance).
If a woman loses the sense of her divine relationship with her Heavenly father, what words characterize her feelings and behavior?
(List these answers under the Unaware column. The list might include such qualities as discouragement, intolerance, selfishness. If it seems appropriate, you might suggest that the sisters compare these two lists the group has compiled with their own lists of the ways they view themselves.)
The opposite of self-respect is self-pity or self-rejection. What are the results of these feelings? First, they are basically selfish feelings. They cause us to move away from the Lord and from people. Our thoughts turn inward and we are not likely to bethinking about anyone else. We become discouraged and are more easily subject to temptation.
We should concentrate more on our successes. Failure and disappointment must not be allowed to rob us of self-respect. No one can have continual success. Consider the probable feelings of the Father when his son Lucifer rebelled and of Christ when his disciples failed to understand and follow his teachings. Each of us is faced at sometime in our life with disappointments.
BE A FRIEND TO YOURSELF
Some women who experience a lack of self-respect relate these feelings to the problem of loneliness. A single woman may find herself spending considerable time alone, either through choice or through necessity, whether she is living alone, with roommates, or with her family.
Solitude does not need to mean loneliness. To make this a positive experience, a woman must genuinely like and respect herself. She must realize her divine relationship with God. She needs to develop her talents. She needs to become interested in a variety of sports, hobbies, and cultural pursuits to be an interesting person. She is not frightened by the idea of spending time alone. She uses this time in valuable ways.
For other women, however, life alone tends to be a downward spiral of depression and self-pity. A sister from the Southwestern United States tells this story:
On my last birthday, my sister-in-law gave me a beautifully wrapped present. She sat and watched me as I opened it, and it turned out to be the most gorgeous lounging robe I had ever seen – blue silk, with delicate embroidery.”Oh,” I exclaimed, “it’s lovely! Too bad I don’t have anyone to wear it for.” She looked at me in surprise. “Why, Charlene,” she said,” and just why couldn’t you wear it for yourself? Aren’t you important enough?” Now I must admit this was quite a new idea to me – not so much the lounging robe, that’s relatively unimportant – but the thought that may be my own company would be sufficient reason to dress up, to look and act my best.
I began to think about the kind of life I lived in my apartment. When I started recalling some of my habits, I was horrified at some of the things I had lapsed into. I was a solitary slouch! Often I ate meals standing at the sink. I had never stopped to think what this might mean in terms of my health and self-respect. And when I did go so far as to eat at the table, I cleared off just space enough and threw on a hodge-podge of mismatched silverware and chipped dishes. I was treating myself in a way that I wouldn’t treat my worst enemy, and I didn’t even care. It was obvious some changes were in order.
The first thing I did was to go out and buy a single place setting of a beautiful china pattern that had been my favorite for many years. I began to think of other nice things that I could afford but had just never bothered to get – things like a frilly shower cap, fresh flowers for the table once in a while, and some fancy decorator pillows for my bedroom. And I vowed that I would never again put on sloppy clothes and say, “After all, it’s just me.” I always tried to look attractive. At first I felt very self-conscious, as if I were a glamorous movie heroine, pretending to be alone but knowing the camera was trained on me. But soon I was enjoying it. Now I didn’t even mind if I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My morale zoomed. My posture was better. I found myself thinking higher thoughts, getting more done, cooking better meals, and making more exciting plans. I think I’ve always known I was an important person; the only difference is, now I’m treating myself like one.
This woman was able to begin to look at herself in an entirely new light. Why did seemingly small changes in her way of life make such a difference?
What are some other things we can do to enrich the quality of solitary life?
(For instance: subscribe to magazines other than women’s magazines, pursue new hobbies, enroll in classes and interest groups to create new interest. Plan a personal study and reading course at home. Arrange home evening with friends; plan ahead and go with others to special events – a dinner out, a concert, a lecture. Plan a party, arrange outings. Schedule time with nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends of all ages. Make things happen.)
While leading an enriching solitary life and developing pleasures and rewards during time spent alone, a woman should not have the goal of living the life of a hermit. Many of the hobbies and activities suggested will benefit us only if we interact with our brothers and sisters. But a women cannot hope for the respect of others unless she first has respect for herself; she cannot expect others to find her interesting unless she is an interesting person to herself. Thus her attitude toward herself, the degree to which she senses that she is a daughter of her Father in heaven, will influence her relationships with others. At times she will find herself in the role of the giver, as she cares for and assists others; at other times it will be her turn to receive, as others show their love and concern for her.
SELF-RESPECT AND INTERDEPENDENCE
In the last lesson we discussed the principle of interdependence. We observed that in an interdependent relationship, each person plays his unique role and makes his special contribution, just as different parts of the body, functioning separately but cooperatively, are each necessary for a complete, living human being. An interdependent woman is able to give assistance and support to others. She is also able to ask for and accept help graciously.
A woman’s self-respect may influence the way she responds to interdependent relationships. An overdependent woman seeks help at the smallest sign of a problem or trouble. She may become a burden to her parents, her friends, or her church leaders. Instead of developing her self-reliance and learning ways to meet her problems, she relies completely on others. In doing so, she presents a negative image: to the man next door, she is “the woman whose car never starts”; to her landlord, “the one who can’t even change a light bulb”; to her bishop, “the woman who always comes in crying.” The self-respect of an overdependent woman is likely to be very low. Each time she finds herself asking for help –asking out of habit rather than need she has less faith in her inner strength, and less confidence in her ability to function as a responsible adult.
At the opposite extreme is the woman who asks no one for help. She may not acknowledge that she has any need or problem she cannot take care of alone. Both the dependent woman and the independent woman slow their personal spiritual growth by ignoring the principle of interdependence. Because of her independence, others who have problems may feel that she would not understand them, and thus hesitate to come to her for help. She deprives other people of the joy and growth they could receive through helping her, and she deprives herself of the opportunity to express gratitude. This woman, too, is insecure in her feelings of self-respect. She mistakenly fears that accepting help would sacrifice her dignity and worth as a human being.
Consider this instance of a capable woman who was careful to guard against extreme independence. Two young priesthood holders had been assigned as her home teachers. She welcomed them each month. Each month the young men would ask, “Sister Martin, is there anything we can do for you?” She would smile kindly and reply, “No, thank you. Everything is fine.” She began to realize that perhaps she was preventing these young men from magnifying their calling as her home teachers. She began to think of small ways they could truly help her. She asked their advice about her car, and one evening she asked them to move her sofa away from the wall so she could vacuum behind it. The young men enjoyed helping her and the woman appreciated their help. She had been sensitive enough to their needs and desires to set aside her naturally self-sufficient nature and accept their offer of help.
How did this woman show that she had strong feelings of self-respect?
(She did not consider it demeaning to ask for and accept help from her home teachers.)
How can a dependent woman increase herself-respect by increasing her independence?”
(Learn simple home repairs and car maintenance, investigate printed sources, consult Church and community agencies that can help her to deal with specific problems. Adult school classes, school counseling services, government pamphlets, the public library – even the yellow pages might be sources of help in solving a specific problem.)
The sister who senses her divine relationship with God has great respect for herself. She knows she has much to offer to her brothers and sisters. At the same time, she can ask for and accept help without demeaning herself. Her self-respect helps her to function interdependently as each new situation demands. Though mistakes and discouragement bring periods of unhappiness, she meets life serenely and positively. She realizes the wisdom of President Lee’s admonition:
I would charge you to say again and again to yourself, … “I am a [daughter] of God”and by so doing begin today to live closer to those ideals which will make your life happier and more fruitful because of an awakened realization of who you are.” (Conference Report, Oct.1973, p. 10.)
Ask each sisters to make another list of ten statements. The first statement will be “I am a daughter of God.” Ask them to make sure that each of the other nine statements, beginning as before with “I am …,” reflects the way a daughter of God would view herself. Ask the sisters to keep these lists and review them at the start of each day during the coming month.