“You Are Not Special” The Best Advice Mom Ever Gave Me

Let’s get one thing straight first. My mother is a saint. The Lord dealt her a pretty sucky hand in life and I don’t think anyone could have done a better job raising her children.

There was no doubt that my siblings and I are special to HER, and I’m not sure she ever said the words “You are not special.” In fact, she thought that every kid should feel special on their birthday. Which would seem to contradict my original idea, but in reality, it meant that today you are special. Tomorrow you join the real world.

But implied that if we wanted to make our mark on the world we would have to work for it. No excuses. There was nothing about our existence that gave us any special privileges. We had to accomplish something first if we wanted to feel good about ourselves. She expected us to act and do well. Not use the bad things in our lives as an excuse to do nothing, or to do badly. So that pushed us to accomplish things. Not in “tiger mama” fashion, but in a laid back “You are the only person hurt by your bad decisions” fashion.

Based on that title you might be surprised to find out that I felt incredibly special as a child. I felt talented and accomplished. Why? Because my mother pushed me to accomplish things. At nine-years old I started working for her as an “assistant” at her Financial Counseling firm. Where she paid me with lunch at my favorite restaurant. There I learned all kinds of real world, entry level skills, that I would use later in life. Over time, as I became more accomplished, she let me do bigger and better things. If I did the filing right, then I could answer phones. If I showed a good phone manner, she would let me greet her clients and help them fill out the paperwork. Onward and upward. Rewarding my accomplishment with more opportunities, not unlike the real world.

Later She supported my sister and I in our decision to volunteer with a local organization. There we both won multiple recognition awards from the company and I was even nominated for a statewide award. Which is still one of my proudest accomplishments. When my brother and sister and I wanted to raise chickens, she said okay and helped us design and build our own chicken coop, and helped us get everything we needed to care for our baby chicks. She made sure we were taking care of our chickens. Those chickens would go on to win the blue ribbon at our county fair. She taught us Skills and she encouraged us to find creative ways to solve our problems instead of doing it for us. Always behind us she made us fight our own battles…respectfully and calmly.

She expected us to be to be professional and personable from a young age. When my brother applied for his first job, the interviewer came out and told my grandmother what an incredible kid he was and how impressed she was with how he spoke to her and how thoughtful his answers were.

The point of this post is not to brag about my childhood accomplishments. Instead I want to highlight something that my mother did right, that I hope to be able to pass on to my children. It’s not necessarily telling children that they are not special or even that they are.  It’s about helping them find ways to help them feel accomplished.


30 thoughts on ““You Are Not Special” The Best Advice Mom Ever Gave Me”

  1. wow, this was such a great read, seriously! your mom had a really wonderful way of teaching you to work hard to make your mark. I’m totally sharing this. <3

  2. I absolutely love this! Compliments should be earned, and praise is best when tied to accomplishments. Your mother sounds like an amazing person, who clearly raised wonderful children!

  3. I agree with this. No one is special or born to have certain privileges over others. Sad thing is white privilege is a real thing in our society and that needs to change.

  4. Growing up I had the same kind of sentiment from my parents. I try to instill the same value in my children. Stay humble, be kind – more kids could use that these days!

  5. Love this view. Absolutely not what you expect when reading the title first, but makes so much sense when you do read through it. It’s what we as mothers should be doing; helping our kids learn how to achieve instead of teaching them to expect.

  6. Wow this is a powerful read! I love the way your mom raised you guys, but better yet, I love the way you guys appreciated and respected her for that!

  7. Your Mom sounds like an amazing person. I struggled growing up with an alcoholic Mom who wasn’t present in life and I pushed myself to become “recognized” by her, which ultimately failed anyway and only resulted in me being even more disappointed. Mom and daughter relationships are so important in life. SO SO SO important. I have to tell myself to tone it down with my own daughter sometimes, because I do maybe try to overcompensate for the love I didn’t get as a child. This is a great lesson, though, and one I have to remember as she gets older. Thank you!

    Amanda @ Legally Mommy (www.legallymommy.com)

  8. Wow. I love this! I have 2 girls and self-esteem is a high priority for me in raising them, I don’t have it, and I will not pass that on! This is a great article because that’s what your mom gave you, the best gift, in my opinion. If we make sure our girls believe in themselves then nothing or no will ever pull the rug out from under them. No, everyone does not get a trophy…. Great post!

  9. Love this post! This is how I try to encourage my children to make their own way as special as they can without making a privilaged child. My youngest is 10 and loves the sense of accomplishment she gets when we volunteer for the local homeless shelter by cooking them dinner or her donating toys that the kids don’t have.

  10. Great refelction on your childhood and how you might pay that forward in your own role as mother. I think I’m in a trap of focusing too much on the negatives, but I need to think about the awesome things my mom did do for me.

  11. Great post! We are all wonderful in our own ways, but to me “special” implies a privilege. And sadly, some of the young people I know, at some point decided that because they’ve been told that they are special, they are also entitled. And that’s why many managers complain that the kids who come to work for them expect raises and promotions, company phones, cars and other perks. So your mom was right – we are all unique people, but that does not mean that we are special.

  12. I love that your mom instilled such a great work ethic and value in serving others at such a young age. It is a powerful thing to motivate our children to accomplish good things not only for themselves, but for others as well.

  13. I love this post. First off, kudos to your mom. Parenting is not easy, and it’s hard to teach kids these types of lessons, because of course, kids are SOO special to their parents. But it’s so important to help kids understand that we are all part of this world and we all have to contribute. Thanks for this reminder!

  14. This is genuinely such good advice, and I love how your mum let you level up once you accomplished something well, like a promotion at work, so in a way, I think she taught you you were special, just as long as you worked hard on your potential 🙂 x

  15. I really love reading your post. You are so lucky to have such an empowering and supportive mother. Parenting is not easy, so be thankful always to your loving mother.

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