Growing up, my mom and dad realized the effect that parental enthusiasm and support has on children, and only constructively criticized me when it was absolutely necessary. I was never told I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t do a good job, or that my performance had been disappointing. In fact, it was quite the opposite; I was constantly showered with love, appreciation and applause, perhaps even when it was not quite warranted.
When I was six years old, as try-outs for the competitive gymnastics team began, I got my first taste of the “real world.” I quickly noticed that I ranked in about the middle percentile of my future teammates; I had exceptionally strong leg strength and was able to score 9.0 on the vault and beam, but my arms were not quite as flexible, making the bars and floor a challenge. After what felt like an eternity, results were in, and I had been drafted to the mediocre team, categorized with those who were good, but not great, and rightfully so. Nevertheless, my world fell down. For the first time in my life, I was told I wasn’t great, despite what my parents had been asserting all my life. I received this news as any first grader would: I cried, I screamed, I stomped my feet and banged my fists for days. Still, my parents persisted; “We’re so proud of you,” my mom whispered into my ear, after securing my tear-matted hair behind it.
Despite how supportive my parents have been, when I get categorized as average because I physically cannot bend my arms back any farther, I am continually aware of my imperfections. Yet through a strong support system my family has created, I have grown to accept and love all of my imperfections.
At age 20, I consider myself a confident woman, and I know that I owe this all to my parents’ tactics. As I have grown with their constant love and support, I have realized I have a lot to offer the world, despite my gender, appearance, and weight. Yet in comparison, I glance around at my peer group, and I see many incredible young women afraid to fully open up and be themselves. Even some of my closest friends refuse to walk around the water park in only their bathing suits or leave the house without makeup.
My friends, though, will not be lost in the shuffle. A confident, strong, role model can be found in various places; whether they turn to Beyonce or their grandmothers, a strong woman can be found to admire. Having a positive role model can greatly affect self-confidence; I was just lucky to have mine as my mother.