Springfield, MO

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Mar’Ellen Felin

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Mom Didn’t Call Me 
‘Pretty’ or ‘Smart’ 

Every little girl (or at least most) wants to know if she is pretty and smart. I was no exception.  

There was only one person I was brave enough to ask, “Am I pretty and smart?” That person was my mom. 

I knew Mom would give me a straightforward, honest answer. I braced myself for what I believed to be the worst-case response—no, you are not pretty or smart. Perhaps clarified with a couple of infographics showing precisely where I landed on the spectrums, or better yet a scatter diagram that factored in both variables. I didn’t know what these things were in elementary school, but that was the kind of specificity I was seeking.

Her response was anything but direct. It was so unlike her to dodge a question, so her words really stuck with me. She said, “You work hard, and you do the best with what you were given.” I said, “So, I’m ugly and dumb.” She simply repeated with no clarification, “You work hard, and you do the best with what you were given.” So, I changed tactics, “What about Susie, she’s prettier and smarter, right?” She said, “Susie works hard and does the best with what she was given.”
What seemed like an evasive statement left me still wondering, so I decided to play it safe by working hard and doing the best with what I was given. 

With mid-life, finally came clarity. My mom was raising a leader who refused to compare herself to other women, who never looked back at the faded beauty of youth, who continuously raised her own bar of achievement, and ultimately was in charge of her own definition of success. 

Mar’Ellen Felin 


HighTide Communications 



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