Uncommon Courage and Charisma

In honor of spring and school talent show season, here’s a Momservations’® classic:

Momservation: Believing in yourself is the best talent of all.

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Whitney, 3rd grade, charisma on display for the school talent show

Whitney, 3rd grade, doing her thing for the school talent show

It’s that time of year again. Time for our elementary school’s talent show.

Of course, talent has very little to do with it. But that’s what I love about it.

I love hearing each off-pitch song.

I love watching each stiff, unrhythmic dance routine.

I love seeing the kids who thought they were dazzling in front of the mirror at home become muted in their stage fright.

I love the jokes and skits that fall flat even though they were sure it was going to be hilarious in rehearsal.

I love dropped batons, squeaky violins, missed cues, and wrong piano notes.

Why? Because I love that these kids believe in themselves that they have something valuable to offer the masses. I admire their courage to stand before their peers, exposed, and say “Look at me! Look what I can do!” I think it’s absolutely fantastic to see these young children take a risk of flying, only to shake it off with an “oh well, I tried smile” when they fall flat. It brings tears to my eyes to see them soak up the attention of an audience packed with kids, parents, grandparents, teachers and strangers giddy with confirmation that they deserve that spotlight.

I applaud each and every one of them the second they step foot on that stage because their talent is already apparent: They have uncommon courage to be who they are.

My daughter, Whitney has been in the school talent show every year since first grade when she announced at the dinner table, “I’m going to sing in the talent show.” The fact that she was born of two tone deaf individuals deterred her none.

Each year she sang and danced her way through songs that had the audience cheering her performance, leaving them admiring that she was something special. It wasn’t necessarily her abilities, but that she absolutely owned the stage when she was on it.

This year, as a 5th grader, my heart dropped when she told me she wasn’t sure if she was going to do the talent show. “I don’t have a talent,” she said in a tone of c’mon Mom, you know that.

My biggest fear was coming true. That the day would come when little girls stop believing they are as beautiful, smart, and talented as they believed themselves to be at five years old.

“That’s not true,” I said.

“Then what’s my talent? I can’t sing and I can’t dance.” My heart constricted at the thought that the person she saw in the mirror wasn’t good enough anymore.

I didn’t want to prop her up with exaggerated encouragement, giving her a false sense of self. But I knew she was selling herself short. “You know what your talent is?” I said with absolute conviction. “Charisma.”

She looked at me perplexed. “You know why people love you on stage? Because they’re buying what you’re selling. You make whatever you do look fun and effortless with an extra shot of pizzaz. You may not be the best singer and dancer, but everyone wants to join you and sing along and dance with you. That, is a special talent. That is a gift.”

I could see she was thinking about it, giving measure to my words against what she saw in herself.

“Okay,” she finally said. I’ll think about it.

I didn’t want to push her, make her do it for me. As I left her alone I hoped she would do it for her; for the beautiful, smart, talented person I hoped she always saw in the mirror.

So tonight is the talent show and Whitney is in it. It’s her last one before she goes off to the self-esteem gauntlet of middle school. What did she decide to do?

She’s co-Master of Ceremonies. She’s using her uncommon courage and charisma to host the show, tell jokes, keep the audience interested, and go out on top of her game.

I can’t wait to stand up and applaud each mess-up.



  1. Grandpa says:

    My granddaughter, Whitney, often reveals herself through artistic expression and even more commonly with a gifted tongue. She defines herself by her powerful intellect and with all her myriad interests – passion. Her courage results from living life fully and exorcising its demons.


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