We all have things we wish we could change about ourselves: How we look. Who our families are. Bad habits we just can’t seem to change.
Being happy with yourself means accepting all the different parts of yourself – your personality, skills, talents, weaknesses, and life circumstances.
Some things are easy to accept. If you have a great voice, you can be happy that Hashem gave you this talent to inspire others through singing. If you have a knack for organization, you can be happy that Hashem gave you this type of personality that makes your life run more smoothly.
But some things are harder to accept. What if you were born into a difficult family situation? What if you have a tendency to be disorganized and sloppy? What if you were born with a strong tendency to get angry, and – though you try hard to conquer it – you still slip up quite often? What then?
How can we be happy with ourselves, when we wish we were different?
The Right Place at the Right Time
For guidance, we can turn to Queen Esther. Esther was forcibly taken to Achashveirosh’s palace to replace Vashti. You can bet Esther did not want to be there. What nice Jewish girl would want to live in a palace with Achashveirosh? Esther was probably wondering: Why is Hashem doing this to me? What kind of life is this, living with Achashveirosh? What did I ever do to deserve this?
Esther was likely very confused and uncomfortable with her situation until Mordechai came and asked her to speak to Achashveirosh to save the Jewish people. Finally, Esther’s position made perfect sense! Esther realized that Hashem had put her in exactly the right place, at the exactly the right time. Now it made perfect sense why Esther had to endure all those years in Achashveirosh’s palace! She had been put thereto save the Jewish people from annihilation!
As Mordechai told Esther: “U’mi Yodei’ah Im La’eis Kazos Heega’at LaMalchus!! – Who knows? Maybe the whole reason why Hashem made you queen was for this opportunity!” (Esther 4:14)
We don’t always get to see why Hashem puts us in tough situations. But we do know one thing: Every aspect of our lives, personalities, and life circumstances, are determined by Hashem. And if Hashem created us this way, in this situation, then He must have a very good reason.
Every Jew Is a Star
Many times throughout the Torah, the Jewish people are compared to the stars and the sand. What’s the difference? Why are both comparisons necessary?
Rav Simcha Wasserman1 explains that sand represents our need to stand together in unity: A single particle of sand is almost nothing. But when joined together, thousands of particlesf of sand can hold back the entire ocean. By contrast, every star is huge (they just look small because they are far away), but every star needs to stay separate, by itself.If two stars get too close, they will explode.
The Jewish people are like the stars. Every single Jew is unique and has a unique mission to fulfill in this world. Although we are united as one nation (like the sand), we must each “stand alone” like the stars, by fulfilling our unique purpose in life. Hashem gave us each a unique “package” of skills, strengths, and weaknesses. We need to recognize these things and appreciate ourselves for who we are. Because we each have a mission that only we can fulfill.
Struggling with laziness? Or anger? Or a challenging parnassah? Maybe that is why you were put on this earth, to journey through these struggles. When we overcome our challenges and use our unique personalities to serve Hashem, we make a big kiddush Hashem in the world and bring the world closer to fulfilling its ultimate purpose.
No Room for Jealousy
When we recognize that each of us is unique and has a different purpose to fulfill, this helps us avoid feelings of jealousy.
Imagine if a first grade Rebbe was jealous of a Rosh Yeshiva. He thinks: Why am I teaching the Alef Beis to first graders all day, when I could be teaching high-level bachurim instead? But the first grade Rebbe must realize that his tafkid (life purpose) is just as essential as the Rosh Yeshiva’s. If the first grade Rebbe would quit his job and start teaching higher-level students, how would the boys ever learn to read the Alef Beis?
Every person was created to fulfill a unique purpose, utilizing the unique set of skills, talents, and life circumstances he was born with.
This week, let’s practice being happy with ourselves – accepting every aspect of our personalities, life circumstances, skills, strengths, and weaknesses.
The feeling of happiness comes from knowing that we were each created this way for a purpose -to fulfill our unique purpose that Hashem handpicked for us, in the grand scheme of the universe.
Sources:  Quoted by Rabbi Eliezer Krohn in One Little Star
Notice something about YOURSELF that makes you happy, and say it out loud (or whisper). It can be something good you did, some aspect of your personality, or one of the life circumstances you were born with.
- “I am happy that I’m an organized person, because it helps me make a structured schedule for my day, and get a lot accomplished.”
- “I am happy Hashem made me an energetic person.”
- “I am so happy that I was born into a family that values Torah learning, because it made it easier for me to value Torah learning on my own.”
- For an extra challenge, try to find something that you normally think of as “bad” – but now find the “good” in it. For example:
- “I am happy Hashem made me short, because I don’t have to bend down so far when I talk to little kids.”
- Which person in Moshe Rabbeinu’s family could have been jealous of Moshe, but chose to be happy instead?
- How was this person rewarded for being happy for Moshe? (See Rashi on Shemos 4:14)
- There was a person in the Torah who was unable to accept his position in life. He was upset that Moshe and Aharon were chosen to be the leaders of Klal Yisroel. He felt that everyone should be “equal” and get to serve Hashem in the same way. Who was this person?
- How was this person proven wrong?
- The Gemara (Brachos 28b) writes that when a person leaves the Beis Medresh, he should say a special prayer expressing his appreciation that Hashem created him a certain way. What does this prayer say?
- About whom (or what) is it said: “Simeichim B’tzeisam V’Sassim biVo’am – they are happy when they leave, and happy when they return” (said before Krias Shema in Shabbos Shacharis)?
- The Gemara (Shabbos 30b) says that a person cannot get Ruach HaKodesh (Divine inspiration) unless he is experiencing a certain type of happiness. What type of happiness?
Questions to Ponder
- The Sefer “V’hayeesa Ach Sameach” (pg. 91) writes that there are two middos that prevent a person from appreciating what he has (i.e. being same’ach b’chelko). The two middos are (1) Taivah (giving in to problematic physical desires) and (2) Kavod (pursuing honor for its own sake). Why do you think these two bad middos make it hard for a person to be satisfied with what he has?
- The Gemara (Brachos 31a) says that a person should only daven in a state of simcha. Why is happiness a necessary prerequisite for prayer?
- We often cry out to Hashem when we are in pain, or in a state of great need. Is it possible to daven from a emotional state of pain, while still feeling happy at the same time?
- If acquiring things causes happiness, and lacking things causes sadness, why did Hashem create us with the feeling of sadness? It’s inevitable that we are going to lack things in life, so why did Hashem put us in this situation where we might constantly feel sad (if we choose to focus on what we lack)?