Happiness

In the LDS Church, we have high expectations and high ideals. Leaders do not shy away from teaching a very specific ideal family constellation, sexual purity before marriage, and patterning our life after the Savior’s life in every possible way. There is nothing wrong with teaching ideals and one could argue that that is the primary job of religious institutions. However, in real life, holding up ideals often leaves members never feeling  “good enough” because they have not achieved the ideal righteous Mormon life. Chronic feelings of  “never good enough” because your life doesn’t look like an Ensign magazine cover, your child has left the Church, your spouse isn’t committed to church callings, you’re struggling with the word of wisdom, you’re having difficulty forgiving someone, you’re not a good provider, or you’re not an attentive mother or father, can erode our whole sense of self.

What is shame?

Shame is a universal emotion defined by researcher Brené Brown, PhD as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Shame inspires us to hide ourselves from others, to judge ourselves and to go deeper into secretive behaviors.

Shame triggers

Religious institutions are not the only place we get messages about ideals. We are bombarded with messages about how we “should” be–what ideal women and men look like and act like, what the ideal house and household looks like, how your children should behave and more. Not living up to our ideal identity or how we want to view ourselves and be viewed by others has been identified as the primary trigger for shame.

One of my ideal identities is the desire to be viewed as a “good mother.” If I am not behaving as a “good mother” – if I’m being preoccupied with work, forgetting their doctor appointment, or losing my patience– my ideal identity is challenged and I am susceptible to feelings of shame. Shame can be triggered not only by how we view ourselves, but also by how we think others view us.

What’s wrong with shame?

You may be thinking, “What’s the problem with feeling shame when you don’t measure up to your ideal? Doesn’t that make you want to change?” No, shame does not inspire self-improvement. It most often initiates and fuels self-destructive behavior. Chronic feelings of shame are present in toxic perfectionism, eating disorders, problematic sexual behaviors, substance abuse, and sexual abuse. Over time, shame can become integrated into our self-image, into our core experience of who we are (not what we have done).

Where shame gets particularly tricky for Mormons is that while we can discount the world’s messages about our ideal selves as shallow, uninspired and sometimes downright evil, faithful members can’t easily discount the ideals put forward by inspired Church leaders. Nor should we. How do we accept the ideals set forth by our Church leaders without spiraling into self-destructive shame because we don’t measure up?

1. Draw clear distinctions between ideal and real

I am not suggesting that we throw away the ideals presented by our doctrine and teachings. What I am suggesting is that we overtly discuss that the image of an ideal family, ideal mother, ideal priesthood holder, ideal child or teen as something to strive for, not to actually achieve anytime soon. I have seen the damaging consequences of believing that the religious ideal is actually attainable in this life contribute to destructive perfectionism, depression, anxiety, low self-worth, and shame. Dr. Brené Brown suggests that “healthy striving” toward a goal is very different than toxic perfectionism.

As an adolescent, I recognized my blessed and privileged life and yet, for a period of time, I still wasn’t happy. I concluded that something must be inherently wrong with me. I started to experience deep feelings of shame–that I was somehow flawed because I went through periods where I wasn’t able to feel joy and gratitude. I have the Gospel. I should be happy. I slid into several years of toxic perfectionism, denying my emotions, and hiding my authentic self.

Read full story by Dr. Julie De Azevedo Hanks on Meridian Magazine.

Joseph Anderson has been home from the mission for eleven years. Since returning he has watched countless returned missionaries feel like a fish out of water when they get back. Because of this he created a free 90 day training course for any RM who wants to just watch his videos. You can watch them on his YouTube channel or find them on his website RMUniversity.co. On the website there are also worksheets to download every day that accompany the videos. This sets it apart from any other training out there.

About this project, Joseph said this:

“A few years back, I heard the story of Mark Mabry. If you are unfamiliar with his story, he is the photographer that created the reflections of Christ exhibit. He had talked about how he wanted to use the talents and gifts that he had been given in order to build the kingdom of God. As I reflected on this, it got me to thinking, “How is it that I can use my gifts and talents to further build the kingdom of God?”I pondered on this for a while.

“One day as I was playing guitar, an idea came to me so strongly of what I could do to build the kingdom of God. Over the past few years, there have been many RM’s coming home from their missions and falling away from the church. It was brought to my attention that the number of RM’s falling away was far too high! And it occurred to me that these RM’s would come home and often feel like a fish out of water. There lives had been planned for them since they were little kids and now they had many decisions and choices to make. It was during this time of figuring things out that many would fall away.

“For many years, there has always been a joke about creating an RMTC that taught RM’s how to return to regular life and still keep their spiritual depth that they gained on their mission. So as I was playing my guitar this powerful impression came that I should create one. For the past 14 years of my life I have studied personal development and have my own life, business and relationship coaching practice. I realized that many of these tools could be valuable to RM’s when they return, however most RM’s are broke and have no money. In the scriptures, it says that they did receive great learning because of their riches. I wanted to provide that learning to all RM’s in a convenient resource. So that being said, Welcome to RM University!

Here is the introduction video:

Go to his website to see more and watch the videos or to share these videos with any returned missionary you know who just got home or who may have been home for a while. Really anyone could benefit from the principles that Joseph shares.

Life after paralysis: Hope
Image found on LDS.org

What if? It’s a question we all ask ourselves at one time or another.

“What if I had married that one person?”

“What if I had gotten into college?”

“What if I had gotten that job I really wanted?”

“What if I didn’t get sick?”

What if …

It’s a question we can spend all day thinking circles around, and if we’re not careful, it’s a question that has the ability to paralyze us in the past instead of propelling us in the present. So how do you move past living “What if?” to live “What is” and to find joy in it? It’s by no means easy, and it doesn’t happen right away, but after spending over a decade in a wheelchair, this is what I’ve learned.

Nightmares Can Be Real Life

That was me—the girl who loved doing gymnastics and dancing on the back of a moving horse. The sport is called equestrian vaulting, and I fell in love with it at a young age. I spent 10 years training in equestrian vaulting to become an international competitor. At that time, I was also a ballerina, I did gymnastics, I did cheerleading, and I was also a member of my high school diving team. I saw myself as an athlete and as a horsewoman.

But on June 21, 2005, I was training with my equestrian vaulting team and miscommunicated with my partner on the horse. I went for my aerial dismount and hit my partner with my leg. It changed my rotation in the air, and I landed in a position that broke my back and severed my spinal cord. I became permanently paralyzed from the waist down. My dreams for the future were crushed. My life drastically changed.

READ FULL STORY ON LDS.org.

And Watch her Mormon Channel “Hope Works” Talk below:

 

Uchtdorf Dodgers pitch
Image via Patheos.com

Does the above image make you happy? It makes us happy too. 🙂 Elder Holland says that God wants us to be happy. He shares 4 tips how we can do that. Here is what he says.

I wish to comment on Nephi’s phrase about living “after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). It suggests a quest for happiness, not necessarily happiness itself.

I do not think God in his glory or the angels of heaven or the prophets on earth intend to make us happy all the time, every day in every way, given the testing and trial this earthly realm is intended to provide. As President James E. Faust (1920–2007) once phrased it: “Happiness is not given to us in a package that we can just open up and consume. Nobody is ever happy 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” But my reassurance to you today is that in God’s plan we can do very much to find the happiness we do desire. We can take certain steps, we can form certain habits, we can do certain things that God and history tell us lead to happiness.

Read the full article at LDS.org.