The Egyptian army that chased the Jewish people was a pale shadow of the formidable juggernaut that it had been a year earlier. The world's superpower had been decimated by the Ten Plagues. Most of its horses had perished. Many of its officers had died in the plague of the first born, which had occurred only a week before. A mere 600 chariots and supporting troops remained.
Facing them was the Jewish people - a nation made physically strong by years of slavery; 600,000 men of army age; strong leadership; high morale; well-armed with weapons they took from Egypt. By all measures, they could have pummeled the Egyptian army. So why on earth did they so completely panic upon seeing the Egyptians bearing down on them?
The Sages explain that it was all about attitude. For hundreds of years, the Egyptians had been their oppressors. The Jews were the slaves, the Egyptians the masters. The Jews must have all seen Spartacus and understood that ultimately, slaves don't beat masters. And so their own lack of self-belief convinced them that they were already defeated. And they were right. If they did not believe they could win, they would have lost, no matter how much stronger they were.
A great deal of accomplishing in life is about what you believe. You can achieve as much as you think you can. If you think you cannot do something, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nothing stands before the human will. If you want to do something, you will. Every one of us is so incredibly talented that there is almost nothing we cannot do - if we try.
The problem is that we just don't believe in ourselves enough. And so we don't try. Or we give it a half-hearted effort so that we can justify our efforts when we fail. When you look at the world through the distorted lens of lack of self-belief, then you will never be able to imagine how you can accomplish anything. Whereas if you know that you have the ability to do anything you want to do, so much suddenly becomes possible.
Had the Jewish people only taken an honest look at themselves, they would have realized the strength they had, and they'd have stood to fight the Egyptians. There is little doubt that they would have won - especially with God on their side!
The same is true for us all. If we can overcome lack of self-belief and false humility, we can accomplish a great deal more than we ever thought possible.