I couldn’t believe it. She kept pointing to the skin between her thumb and her forefinger, and asking if I saw it. I had no idea what she was talking about. I looked at her hand; I looked at mine. They looked the same.

Everyone has skin between the thumb and forefinger. That skin allows us to move our fingers and grip things. But she kept pointing to hers and insisting that it was different. That hers was ugly. That hers was something to be hated.

This young woman is 17 years old. She is an honor roll student at a very competitive private high school, and just got accepted to every university she applied to. She has a loving and supportive family, lives in a beautiful home and is blessed with physical abundance. The only reality that counts is her realityShe has a 4.0 GPA, is captain of the basketball team, and just happens to be stunningly beautiful, albeit too thin, at 5′6″ and barely over 100 pounds.

But it doesn’t matter.

You see, she is fat and ugly. She has hair that sometimes frizzes, legs that are too long, and what tops it off is the most horrendous skin between her thumb and forefinger.

Is this true? Any of it? Yes, all of it. Why? Because that is how she sees herself. And that, ultimately, is all that matters.

After speaking with this young woman and trying to let her see herself through my eyes, I realized that the only reality that counts is her reality. Is it objective reality? Of course not. But she is living her reality, and until she is willing to see herself another way, nothing is going to change.

The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, taught us that a person is where his thoughts are. Basically, we are what we think. Our thoughts are the basis for our reality.

We are all aware of the high incidence of eating disorders and other mental illnesses amongst our youth today. In addition to the natural insecurities at this transformative time in their lives, they are bombarded with media messages about how they should think, what they should care about and how they should look.

While our thoughts are the basis for our reality, our thoughts are often the result of someone else’s speech. “Ew, she is so fat and ugly!” I have heard so many of these young girls say as another young girl walks by. They hold her physical appearance against her, as if she had any choice in the matter.

Reflecting back on my own life, I am still scarred by certain terrible comments that were made to me about my looks. Those comments became truth, at least my truth, and changing that truth can be extremely difficult.

I am still scarred by certain terrible comments that were made to me about my looksAs a mother of three girls, I worry that I may unintentionally say or do something that could create for them a negative body image. Even as I work towards a healthier lifestyle for myself, I need to be so careful about not complaining that I just ate a lot of fattening food, or commenting on how terrible I think I look in a certain outfit.

Conversely, I need to be careful that I not compliment my daughters constantly on how beautiful they look, or how nice their hair is, or how their blue eyes shine when they wear certain colors. Of course I want them to feel confident and secure about their appearance, but I also want them to know they are much more than just a pretty face.

We have a lot of negativity to combat. There are a lot of unhealthy messages being thrown at us and at our children. But the amazing thing about thought is that we can’t multi-think. We can do many things at once, but we can’t think many things at once. If this girl is busy thinking about how ugly the skin is between her thumb and forefinger, then it means she is not able to think about something positive or healthy.

But the flip side is also true. If she is thinking something that inspires her and makes her feel good about herself, then she can’t be focused on what she dislikes or even hates about herself. Chassidic thought teaches us, Tracht gut, vet zein gut, “Think good and it will be good.” Change your thoughts, change your reality.

That’s all it takes. One positive thought to remove the negative one. So let’s find those girls who are beating themselves up inside, and remind them of how intelligent, successful and powerful they really are. And let’s tell ourselves that as well. After all, we are what we think.