click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Tzav
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

You <i>Cannot</i> Be Anything You Want
Mom with a View

You Cannot Be Anything You Want

We all have limitations. Deal with it.


Our generation is told that we can be anything we want to be! A very mundane experience recently reminded me that this isn’t true.

There was something I wanted on the top shelf in a store. I couldn’t reach it no matter how hard I tried or how much I stretched and I was forced to search the store to find someone who could. This is not such an infrequent occurrence (note to store owners; think of your short customers!) and I have accommodated myself to the reality of my situation.

It is not such big deal but it does make the point – there are some things I could not be, like a women’s basketball player. I’m also pretty close to tone deaf which has precluded me from becoming a great musician, despite hours of practice. I don’t have the gift of abstract thought necessary for physicists, mathematicians and philosophers. The list goes on and on… but enough about me!

We all have limitations. And that’s okay. When Ethics of Our Fathers enjoins us to be happy with our lot, it means more than our material possessions. It means all the circumstances of our lives and includes our particular strengths and weaknesses, talents and lack thereof. Even our limitations. Because this is the way we were created and these are the opportunities in front of us.

It’s important to recognize our limitations professionally. If we have a serious issue with our eyes, we prefer to visit an ophthalmologist instead of a general practitioner. If we have a serious psychological issue, we prefer someone with a degree and experience and not just a good friend. Likewise if we are in a position of counseling others, it’s important to know when to refer out – to the people with special expertise in the field.

We have grown up thinking that limitations are bad because they are…well…limiting. Limitations are neither bad nor good; they are just an expression of reality, a reality that we need to accept and embrace. And once we recognize our limitations and are at peace with them, then we really know the parameters within which we can truly grow and flourish. That is a tremendous gift.

We may spend our lives struggling to be something or someone we are incapable of being. We may spend our lives unhappy that we haven’t achieved certain completely unrealistic goals. Or we can be happy with who we are and work with the strengths and abilities we actually have as opposed to the ones we wish we did.

We can be miserable that we weren’t the visionary who created a business or organization or just enjoy being the one who is able to turn that vision into a concrete reality. We can be unhappy that we aren’t the life of the party or enjoy the meaningful conversations we have with the few people standing near us. We can wish we were the fun mom always making up games and projects for our kids or we can focus on the security and stability and time that our children are getting from us.

There are so many things we could wish for. We could live in a constant state of dissatisfaction. Or we could try to abide by the words in Ethics of Our Fathers and accept who we are. If the Almighty had wanted me to be tall, he would have made me that way. If he wanted me to sing or dance on Broadway (just a little fantasy of mine), He would have given me those skills and those breaks. So I guess He wanted me just the way I am.

I am not talking about character flaws (I’ll spare you the list) that we can (and must!) work on and eliminate; I’m speaking of the boundaries of what we can accomplish given the abilities and skills we do have and ones we don’t.

It’s initially disappointing to realize you can’t be anything you want to be but it’s ultimately freeing. And it’s an ultimately gift. Yet another reason to say thank you to the Creator.

July 29, 2017

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 4

(3) MESA, August 2, 2017 1:14 PM

YES! It's so important for high school and college students to hear this. They need to work hard and get the best grades they can in everything, but they need to be able to focus on the good things they CAN do and choose career paths based on those things.

(2) Rachel, August 2, 2017 12:16 PM

What about character limitations?

The big challenge is to try to overcome one's own character limitations and accept those of others. For example, every time we restrain our irritation or anger and don't act on it, it requires effort, maybe even as much effort as it would to go exercise or to practice a musical instrument. But understand your family's and friends character limitations: this one is almost always late, that one has no sense of humor and doesn't understand jokes, and that one is a motor mouth and you're not going to get in a word edgewise. If those limitations bother you, then work on being the opposite so you won't provoke the same reactions as they do from others. Of course I'm never going to win an arm wrestling match with my sons but will I win the wrestling match with my yetzer hara? Ah!

Nancy, August 3, 2017 11:06 AM

To commenter #2 Rachel

Alas, I sometimes lose the wrestling match with my yetzer hara. :-(

(1) Nancy, July 30, 2017 12:16 PM

I feel vindicated

I am not what you would call a handy person. I also have a BAD sense of direction. It would be wonderful to have gifts in those areas, but this is simply not my reality. However, I have learned to compensate for these weaknesses by asking for help when necessary.

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment