Viewpoint: Facing our shadows

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Happy Groundhog Day!

I  love Groundhog Day, as cheesy as it can be. Growing up in western Pennsylvania, I actually looked forward to the anticipated moment when the world-famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil would tentatively peek his head out into the open air. Watching the newscast, I wondered whether he would see his shadow. Spring or six more weeks of winter? (To be honest, I always hoped for the six more weeks of winter, but that was simply because of snow days).

For those unaware of this celebration, if the groundhog sees his shadow, it “frightens” him, and we supposedly have six more weeks of winter.

I think we are often like that groundhog. We become afraid of our own shadows — our sins and imperfections — and others seeing them. We retreat back into our own personal darkness of embarrassment and often depression. We create our six weeks of winter.

In our culture, expectations run high. Between school, family, church and friends, life can quickly become overwhelming. As mentioned in recent General Conferences, we simply can’t do everything that is good or worthwhile.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we make mistakes. We are mortal and, at times, fall short.

This reality can be particularly hard on women. On average, women experience depression at twice the rate of men.  According to a 2010 report, a fifth of insured women in Utah were prescribed anti-depressants in 2009.

I want to be very clear here: I do not believe that such medications are bad. However, I do believe realizing that our imperfections do not lessen our value can curb some feelings of inadequacy.

In “Believing Christ,” Stephen E. Robinson recounted a breakdown his wife had during a particularly stressful year.

Robinson wrote, “She just started naming, one after another, all the things she couldn’t do or couldn’t do perfectly — all the individual bricks that had been laid on her back in the name of perfection until they had crushed the light out of her.”

With all the amazing things she was doing, she still felt that it wasn’t enough. Such feelings exist more often than we believe, or are at least willing to admit.

For years I struggled with many of the same issues. I’d do my best, but I simply wasn’t happy. Nothing was wrong: I had a wonderful family, a loving husband, and a relatively stable financial situation, especially for a college student. All in all, life was good. But, I still felt consumed by sadness. I felt hopeless and alone. I compounded the issue even more by feeling guilty for not being happy. I saw my shadow and condemned myself to an emotional winter.

As I worked through my feelings, I learned a simple truth: I cannot perfect myself. I will make mistakes. I must accept that to have any hope of moving forward and preventing such faults from keeping me rooted in depression and self-doubt.

I found comfort in the teaching of becoming like a little child. Children, being young, can only do so much by themselves. They constantly make mistakes and need correction. Yet, there is the major difference between children and adults: When children apologize, we forgive them, and they believe us unquestionably. When we repent and ask for forgiveness, we often doubt whether such forgiveness can even be offered — whether our Creator could even care for us after such mistakes.
In my opinion, this is one of the worst lies to plague us.

During the last Relief Society Broadcast, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf encouraged women, and all members, to remember their worth, saying, “You are known and remembered by the most majestic, powerful, and glorious Being in the universe! You are loved by the King of infinite space and everlasting time! He who created and knows the stars knows you and your name —you are the daughters of His kingdom.”

This Groundhog Day, emerge from the dark. Accept that “good news.” Face your shadows instead of returning to darkness. Look up and feel the sunlight. See the good and embrace it, imperfections and all.

Katie Harmer is the opinion editor at The Daily Universe. This viewpoint represents her opinion and does not neccesarily represent the opinions of BYU, its administration or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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