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You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important.


Today I saw an elderly woman, sitting in a restaurant, who reminded me of my mother. A one-dimensional woman. A paper doll with perfect pearls, a navy suit and well-coiffed hair pasted on. Like mother, she seemed more concerned about how she looked—and how people perceived her—than how she perceived and interacted with those around her. Like mother, I suspect she missed out on the best part of life: Really getting to know another human being.

In order to get to know someone, we have to be willing to be vulnerable.

Most of her life, mother battled low self-esteem and depression. I think the two may have been related. While mother never told me this, I believe her biggest fear was that someone would discover she grew up a poor girl, of divorced parents, from a small town in Tennessee. She was a girl with two dresses: the one she wore and the one she washed and ironed to wear the next day. It breaks my heart to think about that little girl, and the woman she became. I wonder if anyone ever told her how special she was?

Instead of listening—really listening—to what someone else was saying, mother was always figuring out how to present herself in the best possible light. I now believe that’s why she didn’t listen to much of what I said. She was too busy thinking about what she was going to say next and how she would fit in.

It must have been a terrible burden and a full-time job; one that didn’t allow her to relax or let her guard down. It also didn’t allow her to discover her true self, or anyone else’s, including mine. Perhaps the saddest thing was that mother was a smart, attractive woman. Other than her insecurities—which were everything to her—there was nothing she needed to overcome.

She was a girl with no college, but she became a model, a buyer in couture, manager of a retail store and President of Toastmistress. Even so, I think she feared someone would discover she was an imposter, and she belonged in the backwoods of Tennessee.

I wish I could go back in time and tell her she was just as worthy and important as the little girls with lots of clothes and whose parents were married. I would tell her the best love affair we can have is with ourselves. If we don’t embrace the things that are special about us, how can we share, or project, those qualities to others? I would tell her that which we project, we draw close to us.

Like Viola Davis’s character in The Help, I wish I could kneel down beside that little girl in Tennessee and tell her, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

Is there someone in your life who needs to hear these words? Perhaps it’s you. Is there something in your past you need to release? Until you love yourself, it’s going to be difficult to love someone else.

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17 thoughts on “You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important.”

  1. I’ve known some southern women like your mother. When you consider the times it was an enormous accomplishment for your mother to have the work success she had. Sadly, there are still some women today with the same issues. Self love comes late to many of us. Great post, Brenda.

    • Barbara,
      Your comment left me with a giant ah-ha moment. You are so right! Although the times were so different when our mother’s were young, especially in the South, I still wish I could comfort and reassure her that she is more than she ever could have imagined. xoxox, Brenda

    • Jennifer,
      I think you understand not just what our mother’s needed to hear, but the sadness that we weren’t able to share and tell them those words.

  2. I was fortunate. I was told how special I was when I was growing up. But I don’t know if my mother ever heard that growing up, as one of a large family. I doubt my Dad did, either. Barbara is right – self love comes late to many of us.

    • Alana,
      You’re right that some of us never heard that when we were an impressionable age. It comes way too late for most of us.

  3. It is exhausting to try to live up to other people’s expectations! And as you say, being able to tell ourselves, remind ourselves and really know it, it the most important work we can ever do. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Kathy,
      I’d never thought about this in terms of living up to other people’s expectations, but that’s a big part of what we think we should do in life. It’s ourselves we should be true to… If only there was a way to teach that… I think we’re talking about self-esteem.
      Thank you for the insight,

    • It’s hard for us to let ourselves off the hook, but we really need to keep trying. Our mother’s lived in a very different time and place. They wouldn’t want us to be bound by a guilt we knew nothing about. xoxo, Brenda

  4. Such a beautiful piece of writing, Brenda. My mother was raised in quite a violent family and has had low self-esteem all her life. She doesn’t talk about it much, but she didn’t try to hide it either. And yet, as a mother she has been absolutely amazing, and I think she’s finally starting to believe us when we tell her so. Much love, Essie. xx

    • Essie,
      Your mother is blessed to let go of the things for which she wasn’t responsible. Continue to tell her how special she is… Believe me… She knows how special you are.

  5. Oh what a beautiful post. This reminded me so much a neighbour who died at a relatively young age. She kept many secrets and lived quite a lonely existence in spite of having a lot of friends and acquaintances. I think compassion is the only response, and a vow to be authentic and real in one’s own life.

    • Hi Jen,
      Thank you for your comment. People like my mother, and your neighbor, absolutely need our compassion, and we need to find–and be–our authentic selves. It’s sad that’s so hard for some of us, isn’t it?

  6. I have a lot of compassion for kids like your mom who grew-up in poverty, having to so often find their way on their own. Thank you, Brenda. XOX

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