This week is my Bat Mitzvah portion and it contains a lesson in self-confidence!
In Parshat Shelach L’cha, the Jewish people send a reconnaissance team of 12 spies into Israel, in preparation for entering the land. When the spies return, they report that “…the inhabitants are powerful…. We cannot attack that people, for it is stronger than we…. All the people that we saw in it are of great size … we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them” [Numbers 13:28-33]
Note that the spies did not report that the inhabitants actually said the Jewish people were smaller or weaker; these statements came from the spies themselves. In fact, as a people who had recently destroyed both the Egyptians and the Amalekites, the Jewish people’s reputation may very well have intimidated the inhabitants!
But since the spies viewed themselves as mere ‘grasshoppers’, they assumed that this was how the inhabitants viewed them as well.
The way we feel about ourselves is often the way we assume others feel about us. If we feel insecure, we often believe others see us as insecure. If we feel incompetent, we believe others see us as incompetent.
People who think little of themselves often believe that no one else thinks much of them either. And people who think a lot of themselves usually believe that everyone else is similarly impressed. Neither assessment may be accurate, but each person’s thinking becomes the reality in which they live.
Most people go through life wanting others to view them in a positive way, but the best way to influence how others view you is to change the way you view yourself. See yourself in a new light; present yourself in a new light; the world will come to see you in a new light.
We limit ourselves when we see in the mirror someone we believe cannot do something. We fear mistakes; we fear failure; we fear ridicule. We look at ourselves as if through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars – a tiny grasshopper. Turn the binoculars around and see the giant!
When I begin tutoring Bat and Bar Mitzvah students, they usually apologize to me each time they make a mistake. I tell them that mistakes are allowed and even encouraged, but that apologizing for mistakes is forbidden. I do this in the hope of minimizing their self-perceived shortcomings with regard to an uncomfortable new challenge.
We seem to be wired to focus on what we believe we lack, over our talents and strengths. But we need to be willing to jump in with both feet to pursue our dreams, even when the thought of jumping in invokes fear.
When your personal Land of Israel appears on your horizon, run! But run toward it, not away!
Turn the binoculars around. See a giant.