I have a cheerleader. His name is Dickey and every week after my column hits the press, Dickey sends me a short note complimenting or acknowledging the piece I wrote. This little display of appreciation and gratitude does wonders for my ego and self-esteem and it’s the fuel that motivates me to keep writing every week. It turns out, as science would have it, we all need a cheerleader in our lives in order for us to be successful. We need people who see our potential and acknowledge our talents and growth in order for us to be our best.
Despite popular belief, we actually don’t need a ton of people rooting us on. Just one key person will do the trick. So the notion of having a supportive teacher, two loving doting parents, a concerned coach, and friends who all cheer us on, isn’t exactly accurate.
For instance, did you know that former president Barack Obama was a child of a single mother? Maybe you did, but did you know that 11 more U.S. presidents were children of single parents? Washington, Ford, Clinton and Jackson were all raised by single mothers and yet despite this seeming disadvantage, they rose to lead the highest office in the land. It’s quite amazing to think of how hard it is to become the president of the United States, and yet, a significant portion of them came from single-parent homes.
It turns out, we humans are pretty resilient, even when dealing with horribly hard circumstances like living in poverty or losing a parent as a young child, we can still thrive and become highly successful adults. As long as there is someone there who makes us feel special, valued and can provide examples of good behavior and coping skills, we can turn out rather well.
In addition to having what I call ‘cheerleaders’ who truly make us feel special, roles models also play a key role in helping shape our success. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, role models teach us how to act, think and feel. “Parents are the most important role models for children, but caregivers, other family members and friends who spend time with the child are also role models.”
Famous Irish poet Oliver Goldsmith once said, “People seldom improve when they have no other role model but themselves to copy.” So during this month of good will and cheer, think about the children or people in your life who you can be a cheerleader for. Your words of kindness and encouragement often go far deeper and mean more than you realize. We tend to miss the opportunities to cheer others on, but I implore you to take a moment and realize that in order for each of us to become better as people, we need to know that what we do has meaning and value. Expressions of praise and appreciation are vital to our self-esteem and personal growth, and also happen to be 100 percent free to give.
When asked about his mother, Obama stated, “For all the ups and downs of our lives, there was never a moment where I didn’t feel as if I was special, that I was not just this spectacular gift to the world.” What a wonderful gift to give someone; the peace of mind that they are truly special.
So to Dickey, Ben, and the lady who liked my article but said I needed to learn how to use past participles better (I still have no idea what that is), thank you for taking the time to reach out to me personally and tell me my stories meant something to you. Your gratitude was just the eggnog my soul needed to keep me writing.