Her words surprised me, such a strong, confident-looking woman telling me that she sees herself as weak? She’s the mother of nine children—that’s a woman who went through nine pregnancies and nine births—who has her own clothing business and a beautiful, warm home. Interesting, she didn’t say that she’s tired or overwhelmed or overworked, but weak; the woman actually thinks that she is weak.

I raised my eyebrows in surprise; if that’s weakness, then IHer words surprised me would like to know what it is to be strong! She continued to speak and as she did, she listed all of her inadequacies, the ones she saw in her own eyes. Where was this woman’s negative self-image, her poor self-esteem, coming from?

I took my kids to a children’s museum the other day. Their favorite activity was the mirror maze. You run through a room lined with mirrors. They are not regular mirrors, but funny ones. You know, the ones that make you look really short and wide, or really tall and narrow. The kids giggle and laugh as they see reflections of themselves that are distortions of their true appearance. They are mirrors; the children see themselves, but they know that they are not really seeing themselves—that’s why it’s so funny, that’s why they can laugh.

What happens when you see a distorted image of yourself and instead of laughing, you cry. You cry out in pain because you think that the distortion is real when it’s not. I think back to the woman, the one who sees her reflection in a distorted mirror. She certainly doesn’t see the strength that G‑d blessed her with. Do any of us really see the strengths that G‑d gives us? Or do we listen to the voices inside of us that say, “Nope, not good enough. You messed up. No point in even trying now. You’ll never change or improve. You might as well just give up. Just look at your failure!”

In Ethics of our Fathers (3:1) the sages remind us to always keep in mind three very important things: Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgement and accounting. We are warned to remember these things so that a person shouldn’t come to transgress. One reads this and says: “Of course, no one would sin if they understood the gravity of what awaits them!” No one could possibly sin out of fear of punishment.

But there’s another very important message that our sages teach us . . . “Know from Where you come from—from a Pure and Holy place, from G‑d! Know Where you are going to; you are going back to Him! The judgement and accounting; this will be on the fact that you lost sight of how pure and holy and good you are, of losing sight that you come from Good and will return to Good.” If we could only look past the distorted images of ourselves and see within—the clear, beautiful, truthful image of who we are—do you know how great we would want to be? How great we could, with G‑d’s help, really be?

Each morning there is a beautiful blessing that a Jew recites:

The soul that You, my G‑d, have given me is pure! You created it. You formed it. You breathed it into me. You protect it within me, and You will someday take if from my body and return it Do you know how great we could be? to me in the world-to-come. As long as my soul is within me, I give thanks to You L‑rd, my G‑d and the G‑d of my ancestors, Master of all Creation, L‑rd of all souls. Praised are You, L‑rd, Restorer of souls to bodies that have died. (Elokai Neshama prayer)

When I think about this blessing, I see the wisdom of the sages who instituted that we say it early in the morning, at the start of our day. No matter what happened yesterday, no matter how low you feel about yourself, we must wake up and start the day realizing that not only am I reborn today, but I am inherently good, and if I can tap into the Source of my existence, I am tapping into all the Strength, Good and Blessing in the world.

I tap into a true and clear reflection that can motivate me to do great things.