On Mother's Day, Sometimes There Are No Words

A successful career woman reflects on the greatest gift her mother ever gave her

Each year as Mother’s day approaches, I’m reminded how much of the success in my life is as a result of my mother. Nothing rings more true than the words “I couldn’t have done it without you,” but at the same time, no statement feels more inadequate to me. It is with this sentiment in mind that I approach the question of why... or more precisely, what was it about my mother (beyond the obvious contribution of giving me life) that made the difference in my life?

It has taken years, but I know now that self-confidence is the illusive answer to that question. Oftentimes self-confidence is the only difference between my success and failure. Self-confidence is the reason I even attempt something in the first place. Self-confidence protects me and inspires me. And perhaps most importantly, my self-confidence gives others confidence in my abilities and me. Confidence is contagious. Even the toughest problems can be solved by a group of confident people.

History is full of examples where confidence was the difference between success and failure. Think of Gene Kranz’s oft-quoted phrase from Apollo 13: “Failure is not an option.” And Nelson Mandela got much of his inspiration from the words in William Ernest Henley’s famous poem “Invictus”: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

I should point out, an integral part of this self-confidence is self-knowledge. One of my most vivid memories from high school is when I came home (completely beside myself with excitement) to tell my mom that I was the only sophomore to make the varsity cheerleading squad. To my exuberance she replied: “I knew you would.” Talk about a statement that takes the wind out of your sails… at first. But what it did for me over time was help me see my abilities and myself more clearly. What I had achieved wasn’t a stretch for my abilities, which Mother so succinctly pointed out.

A couple of years later, when it was time to apply for college, I made a big stretch. I decided to go to the Air Force Academy. Not only was it tough to get in, it was really tough to get through. In a letter to my mom during the Academy’s basic training, I wrote: “I knew it was going to be 24 hours a day when I came here, but I didn’t realize it was going to be 24 hours a day.” Four long years later, and with the unending support and inspiration from my family (and especially my mom) I graduated [pictured]. So on that very early and very cold morning when I was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Air Force, my mother was there to pin on my brand-new, shiny gold bars for which we both had worked so hard.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I experienced the devastating impact a close loved one can have on you when they undermine your self-confidence. I was considering a career transition and had been inspired by the tremendous effort it took to create the film Much Ado About Nothing by Kenneth Branagh. I was thinking what an amazing experience and challenge producing a movie would be. So I was talking about that dream to my then-husband when he asked, “What makes you think you can do it?” I was shocked. No one who loved me had ever said something so discouraging. As a test, I had the same conversation with my mother. Her response was very different. She listened. Then she said, “Okay, what do you need to do to make that happen and what help are you going to need?” A year later I was divorced and moved to Los Angeles. Over 10 years later, I’m on the verge of making that dream a reality, as funding to produce my first major motion picture has just been approved. (Mom never said my dreams were going to be quick and easy to achieve.)

Yes, my mother’s greatest gift to me was her unwavering confidence in my abilities and me. From my earliest memories, she infused in my soul the notion that I could do anything I put my mind to. Now, five years after her death, there isn’t a day goes by that I’m not grateful for her love and her lessons in self-confidence. So no matter what level of success it is, big or small… “Mom, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

In 2010, Leslie Beavers founded Timepiece Entertainment, LLC; a company committed to producing entertaining film and television content with timely social value that appeals to wide audiences. The first project will be an empowering film about female combat pilots in WWII. Leslie is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and she proudly serves our country as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves.

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