When I was a mission president, one of my responsibilities was to interview elders and sisters who had completed their missions and were returning home. I always asked what they were taking home as a result of their mission. I didn’t want to know what was inside their suitcases; I wanted to know what was inside of them.
One elder said, “I am going home liking myself.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
He said, “All my life I have wanted to be someone else. I was envious of the guy at high school who was popular with the girls. I wanted to be him. I was jealous of the guy who owned the red sports car. I wanted to be him. I wanted to be the quarterback of the football team.
“And when I arrived in the mission field, I had the same problem. I wanted to be the assistant to the president or the elder who could always quote the right scripture at the right time. I was always wishing I could be somebody else.
“However, as I have served these two years, I have realized who I really am. I am a son of God. I have a good relationship with my Savior and my fellowmen. I have a greater love for my parents and my family. And I realize I have talents I can develop and share and that others have their talents. I’m grateful for what I’ve been given. I’m no longer envious of what others have that I may not have. I’m going home feeling good about myself.”
I too had a good feeling about this elder and what was inside of him. How happy I was that he had come to appreciate himself and make that appreciation part of his life’s philosophy. Over the years, it has been a joy to see how this young man has developed and matured by sharing himself and his talents with others.
The Savior says, “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby” (D&C 46:11–12).
Jules Feifer wrote the following article, “Be Yourself.”
“Ever since I was a little kid, I didn’t want to be me. I wanted to be Billie Widdledon, and Billie Widdledon didn’t even like me. I walked like he walked—I talked like he talked—I signed up for the high school he signed up for.
“Which was when Widdledon changed. He began to hang around Herby Vandeman. He mixed me up! I began to walk and talk like Billie Widdledon, walking and talking like Herby Vandeman.
“And then it dawned on me that Herby Vandeman walked and talked like Joey Haverlin. … And Joey Haverlin walked and talked like Corky Sabison! So here I am, walking and talking like Billie Widdledon’s imitation of Herby Vandeman’s version of Joey Havelin, trying to walk and talk like Corky Sabison!
“And who do you think Corky Sabison is always walking and talking like? Of all people—Dopey Wellington—that little pest who walks and talks like me!” (quoted at the Million Dollar Roundtable, 1971).
I have a younger brother, Stan. He is a university graduate in engineering who can fix and build anything.
When I took some aptitude tests in college to get vocation suggestions, the person giving the test said, “One area you should not go into is engineering.” He was right. I have none of that ability. When I try to fix our plumbing I have to call a plumber to correct all the mistakes I have made.
I appreciate and love my brother, but I am not envious of him. I am grateful for his many talents, and he is very generous in sharing his talents around our house. Someone once said, “A bee may not be an eagle, but it can sure make honey.”
It is important to like ourselves and be ourselves. Often when I talk to youth of the Church, I ask them to look at one of their thumbs. I ask what’s unusual about it. Eventually they tell me they are the only one who has that thumb.
Of all the billions who have lived on the earth or who will live on the earth, no one else will have a thumb exactly like yours. Look at yours for just a moment. Doesn’t that tell you how important and how significant you are? If you ever get discouraged or feel sorry for yourself, take a good look at your thumb and then you can say, “I am special. No one else has my thumb, and no one else ever will.”
A wonderful sister missionary, a convert to the Church from France, used to put notes on my desk to cheer me up. One day I found this note:
“There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.”
President David O. McKay, in one of his last conference addresses, gave this counsel to the youth of the Church:
“Our body will not fulfill its purpose—it cannot—without that life-giving something within which is the offspring of Deity as eternal as [your] Father in Heaven. … That spirit within you, young man, young woman, is the real you. What you make of yourself depends upon you as an individual” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1967, pp. 134–35).
And Dr. Albert Schweitzer shared this thought:
“Unless you set aside some portion of your lives to help and serve others less fortunate than yourself, then your lives will not really be happy” (quoted by Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, commencement address, University of Utah, 1979).
The Savior has told us if we will lose ourselves in service we will find ourselves. That is the best way to learn who you truly are, to learn what you can really do, and to fill your life with wonderful memories by learning to like yourself.