In the movie Love and Other Drugs, the main character Maggie, a young woman diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease, meets and falls in love with Jamie, a slick but charming pharmaceutical sales representative who doesn’t believe in his own worth. At one point in the movie, she asks him to name four things he likes about himself. He struggles for a while and is ultimately unable to answer the question.
This small moment from the film reminded me of a true story that began over 300 years ago. As the Burmese army readied to attack Thailand (then called Siam), a group of Siamese monks rushed to protect a solid gold Buddha statue that resided in their temple. Knowing the Burmese would leave the statue alone if they believed it to be worthless, the monks covered the Buddha with a thick coating of clay. Sadly, the monks were slaughtered in the attack before they could tell anyone else what they had done. For two centuries the golden Buddha stood in the temple, no one knowing of its true worth.
In 1959 a group of monks had to relocate a clay Buddha from their temple to make room for a new highway through Bangkok. When the crane lifted the statue, it began to crack, and so the monks lowered it down again and covered the statue with a tarp until they could return with heavier equipment. During the night, the head monk came to check on the Buddha, and as he shone a flashlight under the tarp, he saw a glimmer of something shining from the crack in the clay. He began to chisel away at the clay and the reflection of light grew brighter. After hours of work, the last of the clay fell away to reveal the astonishing solid gold Buddha.
In my experience, the world is full of golden Buddhas hiding under a thick layer of clay. I was at a ladies’ luncheon the other day and was struck by how quick my friends were to list their flaws and inadequacies. “I really need to lose weight.” “I’m so disorganized!” “I’ve been such a bad mother this week.” “My house is such a mess!” These imperfections came quickly to their tongues, but when (inspired by the movie) I asked my friends to name four things they liked about themselves… like Jamie, they struggled to answer.
Maybe it’s easier for younger generations, with differences in parenting styles and endless social media opportunities to chronicle their lives on the Internet. Or maybe it’s something that’s lost as we get older, when real life experiences toughen our child-like belief that we can be or do anything. What I’ve seen in my own age group—particularly with women—is a real reluctance to recognize and claim one’s gifts. I was raised in a family that valued humility and discouraged bragging, but I believe that acknowledging your talents does not inevitability lead to vanity or arrogance. Particularly when you use those gifts to make a difference in your small corner of the world.
Your gifts can be simple but profound. They don’t need to be measured against anyone else’s. Perhaps you have a great sense of humor. Or a wild imagination. Maybe your gifts reside in the kitchen. Are you gifted with a special way of connecting with children? Are you gifted with being a good listener? Or a good leader? Do you have a special knack for making people feel good when they’re around you? Whatever it is that makes you shine… it’s imperative that you don’t ignore it.
Who you are at your core… that’s a gift.
OK… let’s see who’s brave enough to reveal their “inner golden Buddha.” Use the comments section below to name four things you like about yourself. Then forward this blog post to a friend and encourage them to do the same.