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Me? Special?

Me? Special?

Appreciating Others is Important. Appreciating Yourself is Crucial.


During the last few years, I've done the following activity with my high school students.

I instructed the girls to take a piece of paper and fold it in half. On the right side they were to write three positive things about themselves – strengths, or qualities they like in themselves. I gave them examples: I am kind, I get along with people, I'm smart, I attend synagogue services on my own, I'm patient, I have a good relationship with my mother, I'm pretty, I'm funny, I'm creative, I'm a good baby-sitter, I'm conscientious...

On the left side they were to write a negative quality about themselves, something they would like to change or get rid of. (I reassured them that this was strictly for their own use – no one would see what they wrote.)

After they finished, they were to tear the paper in half. The paper with the good qualities was for them to keep; the paper with the negative statement was folded up and put into a paper bag. We then put a match to the paper bag, and "burned" or eradicated these qualities. We did this activity before Passover, to demonstrate the inner meaning of removing and burning all chometz (leaven) from within our homes.

It's interesting – and a little sad – that each time, I encountered a similar reaction from the girls. "Three good things?" "I can't think of three good things about myself! Can I write only one?" "How about if we write three things we don't like and one good thing?" Then, when I explained what we would do, there was always the question "Why do we have to write down something good about ourselves? Why don't we just write down the bad things and burn them?"

In his work "Hayom Yom," Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory, wrote:

" …every Jew, each commensurate with his abilities, whether scholar or businessman, must make an accurate accounting in his soul of everything that occurred in the course of the year. Each must know the good qualities in his service of G‑d and strengthen them; he must also be aware of the deficiencies in himself and in his service, and correct these. Through this excellent preparation, one merits a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually."

We have a tendency to focus on our imperfections. We can tell We have a tendency to focus on our imperfections. But how many of us are equally honest about our strengths? exactly how disorganized or uncreative we are; how many of our projects last year were flops; how we're not good mothers because we give our children too little time or too much junk food; how we don't study enough, do enough, keep up with our mothers or our cousins or our friends; how we should become more computer-literate, raise more money, balance the checkbook, write a book, cook healthier meals, ad infinitum. And ad nauseam.

But how many of us are equally honest about our strengths? When making an accounting one must "know the good qualities in his service of G‑d," even before being "aware of the deficiencies in himself and in his service."

Why? Because only by recognizing and strengthening our good qualities can we correct the problems.

Think about it. If a person is just a pathetic loser, how can he ever hope to correct anything? If all he has is deficiencies, he may as well just throw in the towel and give up.

So, I challenge you: Write down three things about yourself that you are pleased with, three areas in which you are successful, three good qualities which you possess. Only then can you focus on any deficiency within yourself and, with your strengths and successes, you will surely be able to correct these. And, then, "Through this excellent preparation, one merits a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually."

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RD Thornhill, Canada July 18, 2009

Insight? How do you find the good in yourself when one can think negative- bc it's easier to think bad vs. good. I am an optimistic oerson towards others- but harsh on myself- how can i change this? Reply

Anonymous Southampton, Pa. September 7, 2008

Me? Special? It is an excellent exercise. I believe that we should find the good in ourselsve. The problem is that what is so wrong stands out so glaringly in spite of any good. I wish I knew how to really find that good and make it override the bad. Great article! Reply

Norma Krasne-Levine Canadensis, PA, USA via September 5, 2008

Me Special? Thank you for this wonderful essay. It is so true that many of us for whatever the reason, are so afraid to see good things about ourselves. We think we will be braggarts, show vanity, and be arrogant. All negative qualities that we do not want to be associated with. However, in reality, seeking our good qualities forces us to look inward and partner with G-d to grow to be better human beings. Reply

Anonymous September 3, 2008

Wow. Great advice. Difficult task. I can fill a whole page with what I lack. Having difficulty finding even one good thing. I'll have to focus on finding the good today.

Thank you for such wonderful advice. Reply

Avi California, America September 2, 2008

thank you! so, so, so true. it is very easy to focus on the negative, in fact, it's human nature unfortunately. thank you so much for your uplifting article. Reply

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