Now and then, people ask me how I’ve “accomplished so much so early in my life.” It’s kind of an awkward question to answer for two reasons. The first is that I’m an Achiever, so I often feel like I haven’t yet achieved enough.
And the second, perhaps even more prominent, is that very little, if any of it, has been done on my own or without the help, support, prayers, and guidance of those behind-the-scenes cheerleaders in my life.
Maybe you have a person, or a group of people, like that in your life, too.
While I feel blessed to have several of those, perhaps the one who has always been standing there, rooting on the sideline and quietly guiding and supporting me, is my mom.
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My mom has always called herself my biggest fan—and she’s lived up to that title in more ways than one.
Growing up, she never wanted credit for my successes, although she was the one driving me to and from practice, signing me up for new things, and bending over backward to help make them possible. Instead, she would quietly champion me from the background.
One of many examples of this was my short-lived basketball career. In high school, she would sit and cheer me on, game after game, joking that she was totally cool with having “bleacher butt,” (as she put it), if that meant getting to clap for me from the sidelines, watching my wins, and helping me learn from my losses.
Her behind-the-scenes support and wisdom weren’t only game-changing, they have proved to be life-changing.
As I look back at all that’s happened, the opportunities and experiences I’ve had as my unique career has blossomed over the last several years, it’s as if I can rewind and bring it all back to one single point.
During my junior year of college, while getting a degree I wasn’t passionate about, I had an interview for a summer internship with an insurance company. I interviewed in a corporate office with a bunch of men in tidy business suits.
As I sat across from executives at a big desk and answered question after question, I realized that that type of career was so not my style.
The interview went fabulously and I should have been thrilled. Yet I felt disheartened.
On the drive home, I began to wonder, Did I choose the wrong thing? What if I’m not supposed to be doing this with my life? It’s too late to change my major; I graduate next year! I am SO stuck.
Later that week, my mom happened to visit me in my college town.
I told her the concerns I was having and how nonplussed I was about the career path I was about to step into.
I expected my mom to remind me how much time and money had been invested in the pursuit of my degree, or how great an opportunity this was, or how I ought to at least give it a shot. Except she didn’t do that. She simply responded, “Okay, so don’t. Don’t do it.”
Wait . . . what? Don’t? Isn’t telling your kid not to take a job opportunity against some unwritten mom code?
“What do you mean, don’t?” I asked.
“Don’t feel the pressure to prove yourself or think you have to figure it all out this second. For now, I encourage you to try some other stuff while you’re still in school.”
Again, I asked what she meant.
“You work hard and have done everything to be responsible with school, future opportunities, and more. Maybe you’ll get the internship; maybe you won’t. And I’m proud of you regardless,” she explained. “But I think you’ve put so much pressure on yourself to have the perfect plan that you haven’t taken any time to explore your personal interests and passions along the way.”
I did not see that coming.
After more conversation and a lot of encouragement (she gives the best pep talks), I decided to take her advice.
Doing so led me to try my hand at an entrepreneurial side hustle by opening a small Etsy shop.
As I created content online, began to connect with an audience, and sell items I was passionate about, I discovered how much I loved that type of work.
Although my business and career have evolved a lot since then, starting small like that quite literally changed the trajectory of my entire life. And now, I realize how powerful that conversation was.
My mom gave me the permission I had never given myself: To take imperfect action before I had a perfect plan to execute.
She didn’t just encourage me to work hard. She didn’t impose certain expectations or put pressure on me to be successful according to society’s standards, either.
Instead, she dared me to step outside the box and gave me permission to try new things, start small, and redefine success so that I might find a way to do something I felt was significant.
So, here’s to the moms who cheer for us, dare us to dream, and give us permission to step into all that we were born to be.
May we never forget just how much they’ve changed our lives for the better.
Featured Image: Jinny Kwon; Author Photo: © Lindsey Plevyak