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Who's in Your Mirror?

Posted on 04/20/2013 @ 08:11 PM

There’s a new video going around, produced by Dove. The premise is simple: a sketch artist makes two drawings of a woman. The first is based on her own description of herself, the second on a stranger’s description of her. (I know some in the blogoshere are questioning the diversity of the women in the ad, or the points made through the ad, but just stay with me for now!)

Not surprisingly, the two images differ dramatically. In the Dove video, the self-described pictures are harsher, sadder, and more closed-off. The women look tired. The strangers, however, described “happy eyes” and “friendly smiles.”

I wonder – this can’t just be about how we perceive the shape of our nose or the prominence of that scar we’ve always hated. Our self-image goes much deeper: who we are as a Jew, a human, a son or daughter, a parent, a friend, an educator, a mentor… How do we see ourselves? How does that differ from how others see us? If we focus on the negative, it must affect how we see ourselves. Without becoming pompous or self-aggrandizing, how can we learn to integrate the positive that others see so readily?

In one of my favorite Jewish collections of wisdoms, Pirkei Avot, we find this quote: “Ben Zoma said: Who is one that is wise? One who learns from every person. (4:1)”

Every person, Ben Zoma said. You count. And so does the stranger. And your teens. And your teens’ parents. So, to be wise, we must allow those other voices to be integrated into our internal images. Next time you look in the mirror (physically or metaphorically!), remember to give voice to how others see you - - you may just get a little wiser in the process.

When the author looks in the mirror, Rachel Meytin, Director of Panim & Jewish Enrichment always smiles back.

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