I rehearsed my notes for the upcoming CTeen Shabbaton. Would the students like my message? More importantly, would they like me? Would the staff be happy with my presentation? These thoughts circled in my consciousness like hawks. Their easy prey was my peace of mind.

My weekly coaching session couldn’t haveThe irony was refreshing come soon enough. “I need a room full of people to like me, and I don’t know how to guarantee that.”

“What is your intention in going to speak?” asked my coach.

“To help teens love and believe in themselves.”

The irony was refreshing.

“Whose business is it if someone likes you?” she inquired.


“Whose business is it if you like you?”

“Oh, I guess that would be mine.”

“What can’t you do while being in their business, regarding how they view you?”

“I can’t share the message straight from my heart; I am too self-conscious and busy filtering and guessing what they are thinking.”

“In an interaction, if I need someone to like me, am I there to give or take?”

I knew she was right. “I don’t want to fly from Israel to America to give a talk to a room full of strangers who can give me what I can give myself: approval.”

“Beautiful. It is also a lot of expectation to put on anyone, that they give you the love, approval and appreciation you need. When I like myself and my focus is on liking others, I am free to love. When I am looking for love, approval and appreciation outside of myself, I am looking in all the wrong places.”

“So, I just shouldn’t care what people think? Easier said than done!” I argued.

“It’s not that we don’t care. It’s that we shift our focus from what’s out of our control into what we can control. My business is liking myself and liking others. Now turn around the original thought.”

“I need me to like me,” my shoulders relaxed as I finished the sentence.

“Try another turnaround.”

“I don’t need them to like me?” My head shook in confusion. “But I do need them to like me.” I insisted.

“How is that turnaround already true?”

“Well, they don’t know I exist, so they don’t like me.” I looked around at my arms and legs. “And I still exist. So, I guess it isn’t as essential as my nerves are telling me it is. I guess I don’t need them to like me. That’s my job.”

“One more turnaround.”

“I need me to like them. Liking the people I am speaking for will take away the preachiness and allow me to genuinely share with them, as well as be open to learning from them.”

The room was filling, and I closed my eyes for a moment and recentered.

I reminded myself, I don’t need them to like me, I need me to like them. I like me for being here and trying right now. And I like them; I appreciate them being here. I am not here to gain their love, approval and appreciation; I am here to be present for them.

An idea flashed through my mind. I walked away from the well-rehearsed notes on the podium and closer to the teens.

“How much of your energy goes into thinking about what other people think about you?”

Teens and staff from all over the room screamed out: “A lot.”

I thought of something I would love to do but feared they may not like it. I reminded myself that I needed to be in G‑d-consciousness instead of self-consciousness. I needed to be in the G‑dly flow of what G‑d is unfolding at this moment, and allowing it to flow through me.

“I invite you all to close your eyes.” The room sure looked a lot less intimidating with their eyes closed. Picture someone you love saying the nicest thing you could imagine anyone saying to you. Something that would make you feel loved, encouraged, appreciated and seen.

I peeked as smiles spread across faces. “Now say it to yourself,” I challenged. They laughed but slowly participated in saying those encouraging words to themselves.

“Who here says negative things to themselves that they would never allow someone else to say to them?” A sea of arms in the air showed their honesty and the sadness of this truth.

“Who is ready to start telling themselves the loving things they crave from others?” I felt like I was at a Chassidic Tony Robbins rock concert, looking at all the beautiful faces in front of me. I was grateful I got to love myself and them and every precious moment of our time together, instead of just needing them to like me.

When the focus was on them liking me and the people who hired me being happy with me, my focus was on it being successful and over. When the focus shifted to liking myself and liking them, I could be present and just love the time I got to spend with the teens without pressure or expectations on myself or them. That’s when things started getting fun.

In the morning prayers we recite, “Strength and joy are His place.” The soul is always in a place of joy and confidence. The soul doesn’t need anyone’s stamp of approval. The soul is essentially worthy.

Our healing comes when we connect to this wholeness within: the joy and innate confidence of the soul. The Alter Rebbe teaches in Tanya (Chapter 37) that one of the most vital lessons in being a healthy human being is knowing that the soul did not come into this world for any kind of fixing. It is good just as it is. I need to have direct access to that part of me that is essentially whole, good and unbreakable in order to find stability and strength in the emotional roller coaster of everyday existence.

If I did not have a whole inner core, I could not make a mistake or have a flaw, as that would be the end of me. Therefore, I must destroy or hide any parts of myself that I don’t like. But when I am in touch with that inner core of goodness, I can see my flaws in perspective, and I have the stability to grow without the fear of losing my identity since my flaws aren’t me.

When I have a voice inside of me that soothes me, that whispers to me in the hardest moments “You are good,” “I like you,” “I am here for you,” “You are enough,” then I can fall apart into it; I can feel the pain and emerge as whole as that place is. The soul is here for one purpose: to elevate the animal soul. It is a voice of compassion; it offers a space of being held.

Compassion fosters growth more than harshness ever could. Encouragement is far more effective and strengthening than any criticism.1 If I don’t have a safe inner space that can speak gently to me when II just hide it neatly and hope nobody notices am a mess, I remain a mess. I just hide it neatly and hope nobody notices. In contrast, when I feel the steadiness of my soul, then I can break down like a seed, become one with the earth, create roots and emerge a new leaf.

From that place of my unbreakable soul, I can be creative. I can fall on my face and laugh because it’s fun to try; it’s fun to live, and it’s good to be in this world. But when my source of validation is outward, I am living in survival mode. When I have a secure source of inner nourishment, I can breathe deeper.

As I push past my addiction to what others think and reconnect with my inner wellspring of joy and confidence, I am replenished by my own wellsprings, a soul level of nourishment, and then I can nourish others. I love you, from a place of truth. I love you, because G‑d loves you. I love you because you exist. I appreciate you, G‑d’s precious creation.

This energy lets a person know that they can exist in your presence; they can breathe, they can nurture their own connection with their spark of essence within. They do not need to do backflips to please you or gain your approval.

This love encourages them to turn inwards to the soul you see in them—to turn to that inner wellspring of joy and confidence for their love, approval and appreciation.