Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. Life would undergo a change of appearance because we ourselves had undergone a change of attitude.
– Katherine Mansfield
…If we could see ourselves as others see us… The card was propped on the bureau of the motel where my husband and I stayed on our 2-day drive from Pennsylvania to Florida. On the theory that we can’t see in our blind spots, the card went on to solicit feedback from the perspective of the guests in order to improve their experience. Pretty impressive for eighty-nine bucks including breakfast.
Being able to see yourself as others see you, however, is the first step in being able to hear what it is they are in fact telling you. For example, despite having been married for twenty years, my husband still looks at me like a lovesick puppy. If only I could see myself through the eyes of my husband for 5 minutes, I often wish. “You don’t get it,” he says, “you have no idea how unbelievably amazing and beautiful you are.”
Of course I don’t get it! For the decades that preceded meeting my husband, I saw myself through the eyes of others, eyes which were not kind, not benevolent, and no matter what, were inexplicably and unshakably attached to a negative vision as far as I was concerned. So when it comes to my self-image, the adult me struggles with the disapproving mental picture instilled in me as a child. So how can I hear – and accept as true – loving messages that belie a dis-affirming cognitive distortion masquerading as truth? Honestly, sometimes we would be better off if we refused to see ourselves as other see us.
Shame researcher Brené Brown defines wholehearted people as those who live from a place of worthiness of love, belonging and connection, because – and this is key – despite their acknowledged imperfections and vulnerabilities, they nevertheless believe themselves to be worthy of love, belonging and connection. For those of us for whom this is a struggle, however, I suggest that we learn to look at ourselves not through critical eyes that only see or magnify imperfection, but through the gaze of a loving Creator, through the very Eyes of Heaven.
After centuries of slavery and hard labor, the Jewish people had to confront a new horror – a depraved self-proclaimed deity who delighted in drowning their infants. At that point, the Jewish people were all but broken. When we were finally redeemed from Egypt, it was not because we deserved or necessarily merited it, which could make our newly gained freedom seem a little precarious and conditional. And having just witnessed the mind-bendingly awesome Ten Plagues and Splitting of the Sea, how could little mortal man even contemplate anything but entering into a new Master/slave relationship? In the words of the Who: Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
After all, what was their paradigm for personally serving a loving God? For a shattered people to believe that God wanted an intimate and healthy relationship with them meant the Jewish people had to see themselves as worthy of belonging and connection. And that is why God had to change our negative mental construct.
And now, if you hearken well to Me and observe My covenant, you shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples, for Mine is the entire world. You shall be to Me a kingdom of ministers and a holy nation. (Yitro 19:5-6)
With these words, God showed us a vision through the Eyes of Heaven – an intimate connection with the Divine, the actualization of our innermost potential, as well as the role we could play on the stage of mankind – a veritable epic shift of the world order. But that would depend on how we could see ourselves, and whether we could shift our self-image from detested slave to beloved treasure, and from servitude and bondage to a kingdom of ministers and a holy nation. The Jewish people could choose to see themselves as Pharaoh saw them, or they could buy into the vision that God was presenting and embrace a new paradigm of wholehearted living.
In life, there are many sets of eyes that will see you, judge you and attempt to foist their narrative onto you. It is said that people don’t see us the way that we are; rather, they see us the way that they are. The next time that someone (or even you) tries to make you feel small and unworthy, reject their self-serving perceptions and see yourself as God sees you – a beloved and holy treasure. Throughout the Torah God reminds us over and over:
“Be holy for I am holy.” See it. Hear it. Believe it. Live it.