We all have that idea of the perfect missionary. They're kind, always happy, always on time, always say the right thing at the right time, and never has a hair out of place. They're basically Mary Poppins in missionary form, right? We think that to be a missionary you have to give up everything for 18 months to 2 years, including your personality in order to fit the cookie cutter idea of what makes a great missionary. Well let me tell you that THIS IS A MYTH.
Now just to preface, I am not saying you shouldn't change on your mission. One of the greatest things about serving is that you are given the chance to become the best version of yourself, and you are provided with divine help to do so. You should always be striving to be better and to improve yourself, that's why the Atonement exists! However, you don't have to give up your likes, interests, and other characteristics that make you you.
We have each been given gifts and character traits that identify us as unique children of our Heavenly Father. He wants us to strengthen these gifts and develop new ones so that we can bless others. He has sent you to a certain mission because He knows you personally and sees all the potential you have to change the lives of those in your mission with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Think of it this way: if we were all the same cookie cutter missionary, would it really matter where we served? Would it matter who our companion was?
When I entered the MTC I thought I had to be perfect. I thought I couldn't make jokes, talk in weird voices, or make silly faces. I even thought that I would have to put the sass on hold for 18 months. After a couple days of doing that I quickly learned two things. First, that I was BORING. Second, that that wasn't what Heavenly Father wanted me to do! I realized that the more I expressed myself and the more I embraced who I was, things changed! I was happier, I felt more at home, I grew closer with the missionaries I was serving with, and I loved the work more!
The same is meant for you! So don't be afraid to show who you are! If you like cracking jokes, do it! Like puns? Be punny! Sisters, don't think you have to wear plain clothes just because you're a missionary! Dress up! Wear what makes you happy! Trust me, if you like what you're wearing and feel good in it, you'll have a lot more confidence and will have more courage to talk to people! Use your talents as a means of finding new people to teach! Do you enjoy singing? Go caroling in a popular public area! People will stop and listen and want to know who you are and why you're there!
Don't hold back on the members either. While serving you will have so many opportunities to work with them and the better they get to know you, the more willing they will be to work with you and give you referrals! It's by showing who you are that special relationships are made. If they offer seconds during dinner and you want more, then eat more! Members want to know that you're still a real person!
Which leads to another thing...you are a real person, so don't be hard on yourself! Serving a mission is hard. Really hard. All your flaws and imperfections seem to reveal themselves all at once. Don't fret. It's okay! EVERYONE has flaws, not one person is perfect, not even your zone leaders or sister training leaders. Take everything one step at a time. Be patient. Learn to laugh at yourself. You're going to make mistakes so just learn from them and become better. My first week in the mission field I asked someone if they had ever talked with their family about "incest" rather than their "ancestors"! I could have easily cried about it and felt sorry for myself, but instead I decided to laugh at the situation and to study my mission language harder so that I didn't make the same mistake again. I finally learned to correctly say "ancestors" in French, and I often share that story with family and friends and laugh about it with them.
President Uchtdorf said, "We need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church." So in short, don't be afraid to be you. Embrace who you are, and let it shine through your good works! You will bless many!