With This One Trick I Taught My Children How To Have Healthy Self-Esteem

There’s a little game I’ve been playing with my children since they were old enough to speak. It’s a way to build up their self-esteem while simultaneously teaching them where we derive self-worth from in Judaism. This is how it goes:

Me: Who made you so smart?

My kid: Hashem (which literally means the name, but is how observant Jews refer to G-d)

Me: Who made you so beautiful?

My kid:Hashem

Me: Who made you so funny and cute?

My kid: Hashem

Me: Who makes you so good?

My kid: me

I got the idea for this game based on a parable a friend once told me that went like this: If a beautiful object is reflected into a mirror, the mirror can’t say that it (the mirror) doesn’t look beautiful because a) It wouldn’t be true and b) It would be an offense to the beautiful object reflecting into it.

The mirror also can’t take credit for the beauty since the beauty doesn’t come from the mirror itself but rather from the beautiful object. What the mirror must say is that it is beautiful because something beautiful is reflecting into it.

That is the Jewish way of looking at strengths and talents. We are all mirrors reflecting tiny pieces of God’s various attributes and light. Therefore, we must be careful to acknowledge when a talent exists within us.

It’s not egotistical to know that you’re funny or smart or athletic. It’s necessary so that you can be grateful to the One who gave you your strengths and so that you can make sure to use them to uniquely improve the world. But it is also important to remember where the talent comes from so that you don’t come to take credit for something that you are not responsible for.

In truth, as the game with my children illustrates, the only thing that we control is the choices we make, for it says in the Talmud, “everything is in the hands of Heaven except for the fear of Heaven.”

Let’s choose to take an honest look at the talents we were endowed with, give thanks to the One who bestowed them upon us, and find a way to give back with the gifts we’ve been given.

This article was originally published on www.jwrp.org

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  • Avatar photo Amanda says on August 3, 2010

    I am not Jewish, but have been learning more in hopes of possibly converting. I look forward to whenever you write a new article, or film a new episode. Thank you for writing your topics in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. And I love this particular article. Too often the world makes children, particularly little girls, almost ashamed of the talents they have been given. It is nice to hear someone say it is okay to recognize what the Creator made.

  • Avatar photo Nicole says on November 15, 2010

    While we want to acknowledge and appreciate compliments as gestures of kindness, we don’t want to take credit for something that’s not our doing; so how do you teach your girls to respond when someone tells them they’re beautiful?

    • Avatar photo Allison says on November 15, 2010

      Great question, Nicole. I’ve thought about this dilema before. If someone tells you that you’re beautiful, you should technically say “thank God.” Such a response, would be totally misundestood by most people, though, and would seem to be very arrogant.

      Therefore, I think the only thing you *can* do is to politely say “thank you,” but have in mind where your talents and strengths come from.

    • Avatar photo Michael Feldstein says on March 24, 2013

      A simple thank you is the appropriate response, Nicole. You are still thanking the person who gave you the compliment, for noticing the beauty that Hashem has bestowed upon you.

  • Avatar photo Abigail says on March 22, 2013

    Wow, that is so beautiful and rich with insight!! Your children are lucky & blessed to have you as their Mama. I am sharing this with my friends that really need to be reminded of these simple truths. Thank you Allison!

  • Avatar photo bill price says on March 22, 2013

    Who made you such a great teacher?

    Thank you for choosing to teach.


  • Avatar photo melissa says on March 25, 2013

    lovely article.

    What if you feel like a very flawed mirror?

    • Avatar photo Allison says on March 28, 2013

      Thanks! But we don’t allow for flawed mirrors in this analogy. God makes perfect mirrors which reflect His attributes accordingly.


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