Know Thyself Terry Foraker All my life I have struggled with feelings of inferiority and self-doubt.

Why couldn’t I have the gifts and abilities that others seemed to have. Why did the simplest tasks feel like massive undertakings? Why did everybody appear to have it so much better than I did? One morning, while pondering these things and feeling the old pangs of self-pity, I had what I can only describe as a revelatory insight. It occurred to me that I had been asking myself the wrong questions: “Why? . . . Why? . . . Why? . .” These were the wrong questions partly because they had no specific answers that we can discern on our own, but also because they focus our attention on the wrong answers. “Why” questions generally keep us thinking of the problem. It is far better for us to ask ourselves “How” questions that help us find solutions. “How can I make things easier?” “How can I improve my abilities?” “How can I help others find answers to their questions?” In addition, it is essential that we ask these questions, even (or rather, especially) to ourselves, in the right tone. When Nephi and his brothers were commanded to obtain the plates from Laban, Laman and Lemuel asked, “How is it possible that the Lord can deliver Laban into our hands?” Can’t you just hear the whine there? On the other hand, when Nephi was commanded to build a ship, he asked, in effect, “How would you like me to do it?” Laman and Lemuel asked “How?” with doubt; Nephi asked “How?” in faith, fully expecting that the Lord would instruct him in matters that he could not work out for himself. The key is to focus on what we do have, what we can do, and what we are (or can become), rather than on what we don’t have, what we can’t do, and what we are not (or don’t believe we can become). A person who allows himself to be defined—by himself or by others—in terms of what he is not rather than what he is eventually finds that his identity amounts to a great big NOTHING. To fill in the gap, he then turns to comparing himself (as he is not) with others (as they are, or as he perceives them to be). Generally in doing this he seizes upon their most prominent strengths and ends up holding himself in contempt and resenting them. I was caught in this trap for years. “Encouraged” by those around me, I only saw myself as what I wasn’t but had no idea what I was:

--I am not an athlete --I am not a businessperson --I am not an Eagle Scout --I am not a leader --I am not a straight-A student --I am not a college graduate --I am not Elders Quorum President --I am not a homeowner When you take away all of the things that you are not, yet don’t add in what you are, what is left? NOTHING. This is guaranteed to lead to a full-blown identity crisis, because there is no identity; only a non-identity. Freedom came only when I stopped focusing on what I was not and started focusing on what I was: --I am an artist --I am a musician --I am a writer --I am a scholar --I am a teacher --I am an employee --I am a father --I am a husband --I am a priesthood holder --I am a child of God This is the essence of gratitude, focusing on what we are and what we have rather than what we are not and what we do not have. I then found it necessary to take this analysis further in order to counteract years of negative, NOTHINGNESS conditioning from parents, teachers, youth leaders, and others. In order to give my positive statements the maximum impact, I added superlatives based upon what I have been told from others. (As an aside, if you are going to believe what people tell you, you might as well believe the good things and ignore the less complimentary.) Two of the main problems that I have with prefabricated, generic “affirmations” and positive thinking statements is (1) that they lack force and (2) that they are often created by others so that I don’t really believe them and feel like I am lying to myself in repeating them. By making my own declarations of self and adding as much weight to them as possible—always informed by what I fully believe to be true—I am always persuaded by them. Let’s look at my revised list: --I am a gifted artist --I am a talented singer with excellent vocal pitch

--I am a brilliant writer --I am a scholar who delights in improving in wisdom and knowledge and in sharing that knowledge with others --I am a dynamic teacher --I am a diligent employee, emerging as a leader in my department --I am a sensitive and caring individual who loves to serve my fellow beings. --I am a loving father --I am a devoted husband --I am a faithful priesthood holder who desires to bless others --I am a royal prince of Divine Parentage with unlimited potential Do you see how much more forceful and convincing these statements now are? These have the power to reorient my thinking about myself and infuse my soul with immense positive energy. I am no longer focusing on what I lack that I see in others, but rather feel to rejoice in the blessings which my Heavenly Father has granted to me. Rather than resentment, I am full of gratitude for what I have and am more motivated to share my blessings with others. My affirmations are not just “positive thinking” attempts to psych myself up in a general way. Instead, they strike at the heart of what I already know to be true.

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