Inspire your children to impress themselves

April 02, 2002|By Rebecca Faye Smith Galli

IT DOESN'T happen often. But when it does, you hope that what you say will be the words they need to hear.

Kids today are so independent, self-reliant and amazingly adaptable to demands on their time that we rarely get a glimpse of what hurts their hearts and needles their minds.

But it's the season of anxiety for our children as they seek their places in new schools, sports and jobs. We join their emotional roller-coaster rides where "what if" and "maybe" riddle their routines, and ours.

There are tryouts, applications, nominations and interviews, deferrals, waiting lists and rejections. First competition, then painful judgments. Varsity and JV. Thick letters of acceptance and thin letters of rejection.

What do we tell our children when they want something so badly but we can't guarantee it for them?

"Do your best," was my standard reply.

Somehow that answer rang hollow, devoid of the energizing force I wanted to give.

Then my friend Jeff gave me a phrase I'll never forget. Jeff's a big chunk of a guy who had just turned 25 yet exuded a raw energy more like the kids he coached. Jeff bounced in after practice one day and told me about his 7-0 soccer season.

"It's amazing," he said. "I told a fellow coach about a couple of plays I dreamed up and we used them," he recounted.

"How'd it go?" I asked.

"Awesome," he said. "We scored the first three goals using those plays -- bam, bam, bam!"

"That's great!" I said.

"Yeah, I think I'm starting to impress myself!" he exclaimed, shaking his head in disbelief.

I smiled and congratulated him. I felt particularly pleased that Jeff had impressed himself.

Impressing yourself. Often we try to impress others. But do we ever consider impressing ourselves?

We can be our toughest critics or our staunchest supporters in the effort to impress. In our minds only do we know the difficulty of a task, conversation or activity.

I found several instances of "doing my best" in reviewing the past few weeks. But "impressing myself" ratcheted the assessment to a new level of evaluation.

So when young eyes full of hope and fear look for a rare moment of encouragement, I now say, "Just impress yourself. Dig down deep, finding the best that you have to give, developing all that you have been given. Then you can be proud, no matter what the outcome."

When we push ourselves to impress ourselves, we set ourselves up for success at the most genuine level.

Rebecca Faye Smith Galli is a free-lance writer and columnist who lives in Phoenix, Md.

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