Looking in the mirror, do you sometimes wish for a different reflection? You sneak glances in a dressing room or hallway mirror, but every time it’s still you. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Some of you may feel that you are not as attractive and beautiful and glamorous as you would like to be. Rise above any such feelings, cultivate the light you have within you, and it will shine through as a radiant expression that will be seen by others” (Ensign, May 1995, 99).
Inside the physical body you look at every day is a spirit, full of light. It’s that little feeling of hope. It’s that spark when you think, I am a child of God. When you feel that spark and begin to accept yourself, you can find a wonderful new friend.
Kristi was 23 years old. She had a job she liked in her field of computer science. She was active in her young adult group and meeting new friends when she was in a head-on collision with a truck on icy roads. The brain surgery Kristi underwent after that accident saved her life but paralyzed her left side.
Kristi struggled, first spending time in a wheelchair, then walking with braces, and finally walking on her own again. But she didn’t walk the same as before. She couldn’t use her left hand, and her vision was impaired. Her poor eyesight and loss of use in her hand made it impossible for Kristi to go back to her former job.
Gradually it became clear to her. There were two paths she could take. She could continue not accepting herself and being miserable. Or she could accept herself and find happiness. The acceptance came as she realized that her spirit was whole. It was complete, the same spirit she had before her accident.
As Kristi grew in accepting herself, she began to reach out to others. Her struggles seemed to lessen as she began serving. She made a decision to return to school and prepare to go into social work so she could help others as she had been helped. Kristi looked inside herself, found and accepted a friend who was definitely worth having—herself.
To have a friend, be a friend
Being a friend to yourself means you like yourself. You’re happy with who you are. Feeling good about ourselves gives us confidence, self-reliance, and self-control. When we like ourselves, we know our worth. There is no room or need for selfishness.
We’ve all seen individuals who seem to not like themselves at all. With some, their language is bitter. With others, their lack of caring shows in their appearance. They’re unkempt, unclean, or immodest. Others aim for self-destruction in their use of alcohol and other drugs. That’s definitely not the radiant expression of which President Hinckley spoke.
Instead we find that light when we know our own worth and act accordingly. Elder James E. Faust describes that feeling as, “Not blind, arrogant, vain love of self, but … self-respecting, unconceited, honest esteem of ourselves (Reach Up for the Light, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990, 31). It’s being a solid, dependable friend to yourself, the kind that gives you encouragement.
In ninth grade, Tami had a friend who was good at everything. Tami’s friend, Sandy, was popular. She ran track and won. Tami joined the track team just to be like Sandy. But Tami never won a race. Usually she came in last. Sandy could tell a joke. And boys liked Sandy.
Just before Christmas, the school announced a writing contest. Tami decided to enter. She spent her evenings writing her poem instead of talking with Sandy on the phone as she usually did. She worried about entering the contest. It wasn’t the kind of thing Sandy would do. Tami didn’t even tell her friend she was doing it. Sandy might laugh, or maybe even make fun of her. But it was thrilling to find how much she liked writing. When the results were announced, Tami’s poem won second place.
Encouraging herself to try something on her own wasn’t easy. But Tami discovered something—deciding for herself what she wanted made her happier than trying to imitate her friends. It gave her strength to make more decisions on her own.
In the next few years, as some of her friends began making choices that were against Tami’s standards, it was easier to make her own choices, even when they were less popular.
All by yourself
Like a dressing room mirror with three separate angles, we sometimes present several different views to the world. We have one self for friends, one for family, and one for church.
Often the truest view of ourselves is who we are when we’re alone. What television programs do you watch alone? What music do you listen to? What do you read, and how do you spend your time? Answers to these questions determine who you are. The choices you make determine the kind of friend you are to yourself.
Just as Enos in the Book of Mormon went out into the forest alone to hunt, we have times when we want to be alone. Enos used his time alone thinking of the teachings of his father. Then he chose to pray for forgiveness of his sins. Enos could have moped and felt sorry for himself. He could have become discouraged because of the mistakes he had made. Instead, he let his thoughts turn to words of eternal life and the joy of the saints (see Enos 1:3). These positive thoughts were so strong that they brought Enos to his knees in a prayer of repentance for his soul.
Like Enos, we all need to take time for quiet thought and prayer. Fill that time with positive thoughts. If you have a difficult time keeping your thoughts uplifting, try following the example of Spencer W. Kimball. As a young boy, milking cows, he chose the direction his thoughts would take by memorizing scriptures such as the Articles of Faith and hymns.
Wherever you go, there you are
One thing you can be sure of is that whenever you look at yourself in the mirror, the person who’s looking back will be you.
(In Faust, Reach Up, 37.)
You do have to live with yourself for a very long time. Think of the mirrors in the sealing rooms of the temple. As far as you can see into the mirror, there you are. Accepting yourself, encouraging yourself, taking time by yourself in quiet meditation and prayer—being a friend to yourself—will provide an eternal smile for that eternal reflection. If you have to live with yourself, why not be a friend?