In my almost 20 years on earth, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and being inspired by many amazing women in my life. On my mother’s side, there’s my godmother, who I truly consider to be a modern-day living, breathing saint; my great-grandmother, who taught me how to be classy and respectful while always working hard to better yourself; and my mom’s cousins, who are more like sisters to her and who have always been so much fun to spend time with. On my dad’s side, I have several cousins around my age (a few years older) who I know I can always go to for advice in both my personal and professional lives. Every single one of these ladies is amazing beyond words and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without each of them. But in the spirit of today, I’d like to dedicate this post solely to my lovely mother.
To say that my mom is one of the most important people in my life would be an understatement. I could write pages and pages about what she’s given and taught me, but for the sake of space and time, I’ve narrowed it down to just a few. In no particular order, here are five things I’ve learned from my mom that have resonated with me throughout the years.
1. Go the extra mile
I’ll admit that I actually used to get a little annoyed when I would hear this as a kid. If I didn’t put my best effort into something, my mom would always respond to my complaining about having to do more work with these four little words. Now, I see why. Why quit while you’re ahead? It’s always worth the effort to do more than what’s expected. You never know when it could benefit you at the end of the day, and you’ve got nothing to lose.
2. Be proud of your abilities and talents
I was a smart kid. I learned to read when I was 4, and when I was in kindergarten, my parents got a call from my teacher after I spotted a note on her desk – which had been written in cursive – and proceeded to read it out loud. I didn’t give much thought to my academic talents until about fourth or fifth grad, when I got interested in watching “tween” shows on TV. I’d always gotten good grades, but the smart people on my favorite shows were portrayed as uncool, unpopular nerds who didn’t have any friends. I worried that my classmates saw me the same way, and I wondered if it would be worth it to essentially dumb myself down in order to seem cool (think Cady in Mean Girls pretending to be bad at math in order to get Aaron’s attention – except I wasn’t even in high school, I was maybe 10 years old).
My mom would have none of this. She told me that downplaying my abilities like this would be one of the worst things I could possibly do, and encouraged me to be proud of my talents and use them to get ahead in life. I’m infinitely glad that I listened to her advice – I’ve never forgotten this, and it’s still something I keep in mind today.
3. Don’t let your past define you
My mom experienced some challenging things in her childhood that had a huge impact on the way she was raised. It would have been easy for her to raise my brother and me in the same way, because that was all she knew. Thankfully, she knew better, and put in the extra effort to make sure that we didn’t have to experience some of the same things she did. She is living, breathing proof that you don’t have to be a product of your environment if you know the difference between right and wrong and make the effort to change things.
4. Remove toxic people from your life
Whenever I’ve had problems with friends or other people in my life that, no matter what I do, just don’t seem to get any better, this is the advice my mom has always given me. Life is too short to let yourself be weighed down by people who serve no purpose, or who serve a negative purpose in your life. The best thing to do, especially if you’ve tried and tried to fix the situation without any positive changes, is simply to just let these people go (and yes, that’s easier said than done). That’s not to say you can’t be civil and polite if you run into them at Starbucks or Kroger – as harsh as it sounds, cutting people out of your life doesn’t have to be done in a hostile way. What it means is to stop spending so much time with or around this person. Stop being available whenever he or she needs something, especially if they’re the type to take more than they give. It’s not easy, but in my experience, it’s such a liberating feeling once it’s done and you know you won’t have to be dragged down by that person anymore.
5. Be resilient
When I was really little, my mom found out she has fibromyalgia, which is a condition that causes widespread joint pain, swelling and discomfort. Despite this, she does not complain. She’ll answer honestly if you ask her how she’s feeling, but she absolutely doesn’t go around whining and complaining about being in pain all the time, even though it would be understandable if she did so. Maybe it’s the tough German lady in her, but she doesn’t let it get the best of her. I remember a few years ago, she and I were talking about it and she said something along the lines of, “I don’t have to live with fibromyalgia. It has to live with me.” It’s one of the bravest things I’ve ever heard anybody say and I think that same mindset can be applied to just about any difficulty in life.
So happy Mothers Day to my own beautiful mom and to all mothers out there. Thank you for doing what you do and for your unconditional love. We (literally) wouldn’t be here without you 🙂