In lieu of my mother’s recent birthday, I’d like to share a few things she taught me that have impacted the way I approach life. My story and living without hands is only a piece of what I believe is part of a greater narrative…Her narrative. My mother is the most fearless woman I know and she takes her role as Life Instructor ( Read: Parent) very seriously. My hands NEVER made me any different in her eyes. According to my mom, “we simply had a unique set of challenges.” As a result of those challenges, I’d like to share several lessons she taught me.
1.) “Hiding your hands will only bring more attention to them.”
When I was little (about 6 or so), I’d always keep my hands in my pockets when I went somewhere new. I was afraid of being teased and/or bullied. I didn’t like the stares, awkward questions, pointing, and whispering. Because of my fear, I would hide my hands until I absolutely had to pull them out of my pockets. One day my mom caught me doing this, called me over and asked..”why are you hiding your hands?”.I couldn’t answer the question because didn’t want to admit to her that I was ashamed. After the brief moment of silence, she told me this:
“Hiding your hands only brings more attention to them. Don’t do it. Be confident. If people want to ask what happened they will. If they don’t, you shouldn’t worry about them. Just be yourself. “
I’ll never forget that conversation because it taught me to never be ashamed of who I was. We have to learn the importance of embracing (owning) our imperfections. Years later, I am thankful my mom taught me this lesson at such a young age. I’ve met so many people that live with a fear of not being accepted because of things they cannot change. I’ve also seen this fear consume people so much that they forget about the things they can change… and they forget how to be themselves.
Let me put it this way…I can’t grow fingers but I can be a good person, a good friend, and do anything else I want to do. Missing hands doesn’t define me and neither should your imperfections. In fact, if you accept your imperfections and become comfortable with them other people will too. No one is perfect and we all have “special features” that make us who we are. Never be ashamed of that.
2.) “How you respond to people and situations says everything about you.”
I can remember the times I’d come home upset because I had been picked on. My mother (and grandmother) would use “rough” days to remind me of the importance of choosing MY response to situations. One very important thing mom taught me was that “responding to any situation out of anger is a waste of energy and it says everything about your character.”
When people, circumstances, etc. test you, it is an opportunity to increase the measure of your character. Responding to negativity with negativity gives external forces power over YOU. It takes courage to remain cool while under fire. When you remain cool, you learn how to think. When you think, you make smarter decisions. So even when under fire, never give your power away. Always keep a cool head and be smart.
3. )”Mediocrity is NEVER Ok”
“I can’t do that, I don’t have hands.“…was never an excuse in my house growing up. Even if I tried this excuse, it’d be followed by one question…”Did you even try?” There were no excuses, especially when it came to my hands. My mom taught me to understand my circumstances. I always knew that I was going to have to compete in this world…hands or no hands. This meant that the standards I set for myself would dictate my future. It also meant that it wouldn’t be anyone’s fault but my own if I didn’t try to go after the very best in life.
As a result, I never was satisfied with being the the best guy without hands. In fact, I’ve always tried to be the BEST at whatever I put my mind and effort to. Period. To be the best you need honesty. That said, to this day my mom is probably my harshest art critic. She is very honest with me about what I do good and what needs improvement. As I’ve gotten older, I realize the importance of having a force like that in my life. Not everyone has someone that will push them. And to be excellent we all need a push sometimes. It can be harsh at times, but my mother has always been honest in a way that made me better. You don’t have to be perfect but you should always be looking for ways to become better. Never settle…no matter your circumstances.
These are just 3 of the 6 Pillars of Power my mother gave me. They didn’t always make sense when I was a kid. As I’ve gotten older, I really understand the importance of having the pillars my mother gave me. There will be a part two to this post so stay tuned.