I would cringe at the thought of these words when I was a kid. “Momma knows best.” You’re kidding me, right? Now I have come to understand the value of a mother’s wisdom and insight. We often feel that our parents are clueless about whatever stage of life we may find ourselves in. The truth is, they’ve been there. They have walked in our shoes before, which makes the weight of their advice that much more substantial.
Big hair and beautiful smile, my mom in the 80s
This didn’t quite click for me until a few years ago when I was going through a phase of rejection. I was applying to job after job and not hearing back or I was getting the call for a first interview and never hearing a resounding yes at the end of it. I like to think of myself as a go getter. I work hard for what I want in career, physical fitness, relationships, etc. I go after it. So what’s a go getter like me do when she hears no? I kept trying……and trying and trying and trying.
Now, lets be clear, there’s nothing wrong with refusing to quit. It is actually quiet rare that you meet people, who after much adversity and let downs, have continued to pursue a dream. Those people are rare. However, with the “never quit” mentality, I have learned there comes a balancing act, as well.
After what seemed like dozens of doors slamming in my face, I felt defeated. So what did I do? I felt sorry for myself. I turned on He’s Just that Not Into You and grabbed some Ben & Jerry’s (actually Blue Bell because I am from the mid-west) and moped. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed like rejection just kept calling my name.
Luckily, my pity party was interrupted by the words of MY MOTHER. I do not believe in luck or chance. So I will call this a moment of grace. When I reached a low point in my post-grad job search, I remembered an incidence as a child when I had faced rejection and the words my mom once spoke to me rang in my ears.
My mom helping me blow out the candles at my third birthday party
Here’s the story: I was in middle school, and a friend of mine had a birthday coming soon. In middle school, a girl’s birthday translates into one word, sleepover! As a kid, I was a pretty outgoing girl. I always had a lot of friends and I loved making new ones. Getting invited to a sleepover in middle school is essentially the same thing as an actor or actress being nominated for an Oscar. It’s a a big deal.
I remember all the girls were talking about the upcoming festivities. Everything from the location, to the theme, to the food, to the little invites…….but wait, I didn’t get an invite. This had to be some sort of mistake. This girl and I were friends. We may have grown apart that year because we had different homerooms but we were still good friends. I was in her group, her circle of people. How could she not invite me? Plus, she had kind of made it seem like I was invited by telling me about it. Needless to say, I was disappointed.
So I went home and cried to my mom. I felt left out. Did these girls not like me anymore? Why wasn’t I included? Why wasn’t my name on the elite list of birthday party attendees? I dried my eyes and went to school the next day, still confused and feeling left out. A few days later, the birthday girl handed me the golden ticket, an invite! I was so excited! She told me that one of the girls wasn’t going to be able to make it. She said she had wanted to invite me in the first place, but her mom only allowed her to invite a certain number of people. Now that one girl couldn’t come, I was invited!
Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I ran home and took the invite to my mom, telling her all the details. I just knew she would be just as excited as I was because she knew how disappointed I had been earlier that week. Excitement was far from her reaction. I will never forget. My mom turned to me and politely said, “Stephanie, you’re not going.” What??!! I shouted. I screamed. I whined. I cried. (So maybe I was a little bit dramatic as a child?) Why couldn’t I go? I had the invite. I remember trying to reason with my mom as a ten-year-old, explaining to her the only reason I hadn’t been invited is because there was a limit on how many girls could sleep over due to space. My friend wanted me there, but she just couldn’t add another person, but now a spot was open. Why couldn’t I take it?
My mom gently sat met down and explained to me that if “my friend” had wanted me at her party, she would have invited me. I would have been included from the beginning. She told me that I shouldn’t have to cry or beg to be included on someone’s elite list. By going to her party, I was essentially settling for being someone’s second choice, and no daughter of her’s was going to settle for being second rate.
Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):
“If a pair of shoes doesn’t fit today, they won’t fit tomorrow. Neither will that guy or that job. Don’t settle.”
I do not believe I ever really understood my mom’s reasoning until I reached adulthood and again was faced with rejection. Life is hard and it takes a lot of work. So yes, go after what you want. Do your best and give it your all, but if you find that one door simply isn’t opening, find another one. Do not give up on your dream, but understand that just because one job, relationship or city didn’t quite fit you, doesn’t mean there isn’t another one out there that is perfect for you.
If you’re anything like me, rejection hurts. I have faced it in dating, in friendships and in the career hunt, but I am learning that what looks like rejection is really a mix of protection and redirection. If you apply for a job, take all the necessary steps and still get a no, don’t keep emailing the HR person pleading your case. If a guy breaks up with you for someone else, let him go. If a friend walks out on you, let them leave.
Like I said, I am a hard working kind of person, but what I am learning is not to confuse persistence with desperation. Never be so desperate for a relationship or job that you cannot see yourself without it. Believe in yourself and know that you deserve the best in life. When you have this confidence, you will surely attract the best and you won’t have to beg for it. Value yourself enough to know when to walk away. You are too good to be desperate for anything or anyone. As my mom once told me, “Never settle for being someone’s second choice.”
Mommy and me