Over the past 5 years, I have been working as the director of a not-for-profit organization dealing with diversity education. I have had the honor of working with over 20,000 kids in primary and high school and taking them through a process that helps them realize that underneath the look, the clothes, the skin color, the gender, the religion, the language and accent, there are amazingly wonderful people.
I ask all my student to fill out a feedback form. The form asks them what message they took from the workshop/presentation/activity. I have received over 20,000 feedback forms with amazing things kids write. More often than not, they write, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.
In my workshops, the opportunity often presents itself to discuss our own self-judgment. I bring up the fact that it can be damaging to consider ourselves inferior based on what we look like on the outside. To illustrate my point, I share the water story. It is a great way to understand what is important in life and why what we have inside is much more important than the outside.
A group of working adults got together to visit their university professor. The professor was happy to see them. After a while, their conversation turned to complaining about stress in work and life.
The professor just smiled and went to the kitchen, returning with an assortment of cups – some made of porcelain, some made of plastic, some made of glass, some plain-looking and some looking expensive and exquisite.
The professor laid the cups and a jug of water on the table and gestured to his former students to help themselves.
When all the students had a cup with water in their hands, the professor said:
“If you noticed, all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal that you only want the best for yourselves, this is the source of your problems and stress. What you really wanted was water, not the cups, but each of you unconsciously chose the best cup.”
“Your life is like the water, while your job, your money and your position in society are like the cups. They are just tools to support your life, but they do not determine the quality of your life.”
“If you concentrate too much on the cup, you won’t have time to enjoy the water in it.”
It is not easy to ignore the look of the cup but it is more important to focus on the contents of it. So if you look in the mirror and feel that you don’t like the look of the person reflected back at you, remember it is just a cup holding the real you inside. The real you can be a refreshing drink of water. You just have to be able to look deep inside.