The Ultimate YES!

About a year ago I read Shonda Rhimes’s “Year of Yes.” In the book, Shonda takes us on a year’s journey where she decides to say “yes” to things that had always made her uncomfortable like speaking engagements and live interviews. 

I had all kinds of thoughts after reading “Year of Yes,” but most poignant was the moment I thought “Shannon, what are you saying ‘yes’ to?” As a junk food junky, work-a-holic, loyalist I tend to say “yes” to a lot of things that don’t get me any closer to the best version of myself. So I plastered Post-It Notes on my refrigerator, computer, bathroom mirror, car and office that read “What Are You Saying ‘Yes’ To”.

Let me give you a few examples of what I mean:

  1. If I say “yes” to eating that candy bar, then I’m saying “yes” to being overweight and unhealthy.
  2. If I say “yes” to volunteering at my child’s school, then I’m probably saying “yes” to less down time for myself.
  3. If I say “yes” to subbing that class for one of my teachers, then I’m saying “yes” to overworking myself more than I already do, and that means less time with my family.
  4. If I say “yes” to that toxic relationship, then I’m saying “yes” to those that bring me down instead of lift me up.
  5. If I say “yes” to exercising, then I’m saying “yes” to a better mood, healthier body, etc.
  6. If I say “yes” to taking time each day for a prayer and a gratitude practice, then I’m likely saying “yes” to a more positive day. 

See, it’s pretty simple. Every decision you make in your day has a consequence. 

  1. Are you saying “yes” to being healthy or unhealthy?
  2. Are you saying “yes” to yourself or “yes” to everyone else’s priorities for you?
  3. Are you saying “yes” to positive or negative?
  4. Are you saying “yes” to long term growth or short term satisfaction?

The list goes on and on. We get to decide.

Now, I’m not gonna lie. When Covid hit, I started saying “yes” to worry, overeating, stress, burying my head in the sand, you name it. Writing this today, is more an attempt to get me back on track, and maybe to help you take a look at where you are. 

So, I have a question for you. What’s THE ultimate version of yourself? If you could picture the absolute perfect you (your family, house, car, body, face, bank account, mood, clothes, pets, relationships, etc.), what would that look like? Write that down. Get a clear picture in your head. Then start saying “yes” to the things that get you there and “no” to the things that hold you back. The great thing is that small steps ultimately lead to big change. Look, we don’t have to conquer the world today. But we can decide to say “yes” to one thing this week that gets us closer to our Ultimate.

SO I’m back on the wagon today, folks. I’m not waiting for New Years Day. I’m not waiting until I have more time or more money. I’m not waiting until I lose 10 lbs. I’m starting right now. I hope you will to. 

And on that note, I’m going to say “yes” to folding the clothes on my couch while I dance to really loud Christmas music. 

’Til next time, friends.

A letter to my teenage students: Yes, you can shave your armpits.

With one of the biggest elections of our lifetime (almost) past us (eye roll), I wanted to take this moment to offer up my take on one somewhat political issue.

For your parents and grandparents, the word Feminist conjures up all kinds of feelings. The idea stirs up anger for most. I literally heard a male radio talk show host say that the feminist movement came about ONLY to help unattractive women get better jobs. Unreal! On the flip side there are some feminists who’ve claimed that being married and having children is the worst thing that a woman can do. Both sides are wrong.

Ask your parents what they picture or think of when you say the word “feminist.” Some will say they picture a man-hating, angry, pants suit wearing aggressive type. While others picture women wearing no bras with hairy legs and arm pits who are liberal to the core. Some will ONLY see women from the LGBTQ community. 

As for me, I picture myself – a moderately conservative southerner, CEO, mom and wife who is confident, successful and refuses to let anyone limit me. I’m a fighter, but I’m not angry. I’m not a victim because no human deserves that much power over my emotions. I’m a mom, and I believe that is way more important than my career. But I also believe that it’s important to show my daughter (and you, my students) that hard work pays off and success is not easy. 

I know that history is probably your least favorite subject in school following closely by Chemistry and Geometry, but humor me for a moment and keep reading.

The Bible was written by men. Before you gasp at my audacity, that is a fact. I believe Jesus is my Lord and Savior. There are parts of the Bible that sometimes get twisted. You may hear that the Bible says that women have to be submissive to their husbands. The Bible does in fact say that, but what you may not realize is that the Bible also says that husbands are to love their wives the way that Christ loved the church. That’s a pretty TALL order. There have been centuries of teachings that have conveniently left out portions of the Bible in an effort to convince women, minorities and immigrants that they aren’t quite as worthy as some.

The Constitution of the United States was also written by men. Even as late as the mid-1800’s, women in our country were seen as property of their husbands (and some still are). If a couple got divorced, the husband received custody of the children, all property, all money and the wife was to leave the home with only one thing – the clothes she was wearing. Can you imagine?! Did you know that freed male slaves received the right to vote before women? Now, history is very clear that our fellow black Americans were terrorized and murdered when attempting to exercise their right, BUT I mention that to show that our culture’s disdain and lack of respect for women in general runs very deep. It wasn’t even until 1963 that someone decided women and minorities should get paid in a similar manner to white men. In 1975 (the year before I was born) the Supreme Court decided that women couldn’t be excluded from serving on a jury. Wow! Seriously? It took until 1975 for the “men” in charge to decide that women WERE actually smart enough to serve on a jury. And there are still states in our country who have loopholes in their laws preventing victims of marital rape from prosecuting their offenders.

I want to be clear as day. Women are not less than men nor do I believe that white men are the source of all evil. However, as you move forward in this world, I want you to understand how your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and so on were fed ideas that shaped their beliefs. Think about it for a second. Who decided that women didn’t deserve the same rights as men way back when? Was it some higher being? No. At no point does Jesus claim that women are a lesser species to men. Like I said before, there are men who were afraid of losing control who decided to change the Word of God to fit their narrative. Those men aren’t Jesus. They aren’t my Lord and Savior. They are not my God who created me in His image.

So what does it look like for YOU to be a feminist:

  • You believe in equality for women.
  • You believe women are not less than men.
  • You choose to turn your back on any ideals to the contrary.
  • You refuse to live in victimhood because being a female does not make you a victim nor does it make you an angry person. It makes you “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
  • You are strong.
  • You can be a mom and wife because that’s what YOU choose.
  • You can NOT be a mom and wife because that’s what YOU choose.
  • You can pursue your dreams because they are YOURS.
  • You can be conservative, liberal and everything in between.
  • There are NO beliefs that limit you.
  • You can choose to sit quietly, watching the chaos without choosing to be a part of it.
  • You can choose to stand up and fight right in the middle of the chaos.
  • You can be the CEO of a major corporation.
  • You can be the CEO of your home.
  • You can wear dresses, makeup and all the things (or not).
  • You can shave your armpits and legs (or not).
  • You will move through this life with the knowledge and understanding that history has created certain ideals that have become norms, but those norms were created solely to empower the few and NOT because of some divine proclamation.

That last point is important. There is anti-feminist rhetoric out there that claims female equality is against human nature. These people will try and convince you that many of the beliefs we hold are born into us and have been there for eternity. That is simply not true. Now, I’ll be the first to agree that there are inherent qualities of men and women related to things like child birth, parenting and our own attractions for one another. But the ideals that women aren’t as smart, savvy, strong, goal-oriented or capable of leadership is a belief created by history – by men who wanted to be in power.

Here’s the great thing. YOU, my teenage students, are going to be voice of change. You are going to be the voice of reason. I see it in each of you. You are different than any generation before you. You aren’t angry. You’re accepting. You’re still innocent and brave. You are more aware. You are AMAZING!

So go into the world. Stand for something. Shave your armpits. Bust down the doors. And do all the things they say we can’t.

The Key To True & Lasting Confidence

If only I could have a house like hers…

If only I was as thin as she is…

If I could just be in that group…

If I had as much money as them…

I would finally be confident.

I would have it all.

I would finally feel good about myself.

I could be in that group.

The list goes on and on, doesn’t it?

Man, are we hard on ourselves! So much of the time, we believe that our self-worth or our confidence will come from things outside of us – the house, the car, the beauty, the money, the clothes, the friends…But I have a question for you.

When was the last time you did something that scared you? When was the last time you did something that made you think, “Oh Lord. What am I doing?” 

Before we move forward, I’m 100% NOT talking about doing anything that is harmful to you or anyone else.

I’m talking about the time your friends were gossiping about THAT person, and you said, “I actually kind of like her.” Or the time you had the guts to ask for that raise. Or the time you went to that workout class even though you had no idea what you were doing and you were embarrassed of how big your thighs were in those leggings. Or the time you finally stood up to that jerk. Or the time you said “no” when everyone just knew that you would take care of that project.

Now, think back to how that felt. I mean how did it feel after the fact – an hour or so later? 

Did you just smile? I did. It was one of those kind of arrogant looking smiles that says, “oh yeh! i felt like a boss! Like I was Superwoman!”

That’s confidence my friends. That’s real and lasting confidence. It’s doing the things that make us uncomfortable and coming out on the other side. It’s getting butterflies and doing it anyway.

That’s it. It’s that simple. 

Fear is the enemy of confidence. If you’re letting fear stop you because you’re not sure of the outcome, let go of that today. Fear is sucking the life out of you. It may even be causing you to lose sleep. But by doing the thing, the fear will go away. The outcome may not be what you’d hoped, but the fear will be gone. There is a finality to it. You’ll have the answer. You’ll now know the outcome. It’s over. 

Confidence can grow like an oak tree. The more you water it, the bigger and stronger it gets. But fear is is like a fungus. It will rot that tree from the inside out.

You can have all the money, beauty, brains and friends in the world, but if you aren’t doing the hard things, the things that scare you, you’ll never be the person you’re searching for. 

So I challenge you. This week do something that scares you. Do something that makes you nervous. Sit back. Revel in that feeling and know that you ARE Superwoman. Then give that tree some water again, and again, and again. 

Goin’ On A Bear Hunt

With a very contentious election coming up, I thought I’d lean back into my political days for a brief moment. 

Don’t worry. I promise not to talk Republican or Democrat because I’m as sick of it as you are.

Let’s talk “glass ceiling.”

According to Google (my primary source for all definitions) it’s an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities.

In short, it’s a theory that women and minorities can’t seem to get the same opportunities as white men.

Well, I’ve gotta tell ya’. I believe the glass ceiling is a bunch of bologna. To put in Italian, itsa crapola.

I think it’s an excuse for those who choose not to be accountable for their circumstances.

I know that’s gonna hurt some feelings, and I’m sorry.

Those barriers are only going to be there if you let them. I believe it with my whole being, and I’ll tell you why.

Let’s say Susie works for a large corporation. She’s been hoping to get promoted to that account executive position, but men seem to keep getting chosen. Susie is more than qualified and outperforms her male counterparts on a consistent basis. 

Susie has a few choices:

  1. “Whah, Whah, Whah all the way home” and continue working for a company that will never see her value.
  2. Give ‘em the old “deuces” and get a job with another company that values her work.
  3. Start her own darn business because she’s smarter than all of them anyway.

In option 1, Susie plays the victim and cries “poor pitiful me” every time a promotion comes around. She is choosing her circumstance. 

Let me say that again for the people in the back.


It’s that simple to me. But I’m a bootstraps kind of gal. Susie can let the people in power determine her path, or she can tell the people in power to stick where the sun don’t shine.

And before you come at me with “women are paid less than men for doing the same job,” I’ve got to tell you that I’m never underpaid at my job because I choose my worth. I determine my value. 

That deserves the old 3 Snaps in Z formation!

When I was hired at one of my first political jobs out of college, my direct supervisor said to me, “Look, as a female in politics, you have two choices. You can be a B***H or a WH*RE. You have to choose.” 

Y’all, you can’t even make this stuff up. I’m serious. He was telling ME what my choices were as a female. 

Boy, bye!

Truthfully, that job was kind of menial and certainly didn’t require me to be either of those things. But I was good at it, and I loved succeeding.

I got promoted fairly quickly and ended up taking that guy’s job. I was willing to do just about anything to be taken seriously at 26 because my new position required me to hob-knob with some pretty influential men while representing my boss, a U.S. Senator from Alabama. 

I can’t pretend that being a tall female with confidence didn’t help me hold my own in this world of southern men, but just to make sure, I decided to wear 3 inch heels to every meeting, appearance and fundraiser and even cut my hair short (OMG! It was a horrible look). I didn’t just intend to be the tallest woman in the room. I was going to be one of the tallest people in the room with a look and attitude that said, “I’m a B-O-S-S.” 

You can imagine some of the dirtbags I met along the way, but I cared not whether Mr. Party Pants (the guy who would leave disgusting messages on the office answering machine for me) was also a major donor or whether the guy in the other Senator’s office treated me like I was less than worthy of being his peer. I was a hustler, and I planned to give just as good as “they” did. One time my boss, The Senata’, as he was known in the South, told my mother that he had never seen someone so young move up the ladder so quickly. I LOVED it! 

Here’s where it gets good.

I can still picture this moment as clear as day and MAN, do I love this memory.

My direct supervisor and I were having lunch in D.C. at some small cafe table outside. He wanted to give me a heads up that the Chief of Staff was planning to offer me a promotion later that day.

This moment right here gives me so much satisfaction:

I replied, “Oh, well, I’m actually about to resign because I’m starting a dance studio.” 

Y’all, he about fell out of his chair. How could I leave this prestigious position at only 28 to teach dance? I mean not many people (especially women) get the kind of opportunity that HE was going to bestow upon me.

His reply to me was was as clear an example of someone realizing they were losing control of a situation as you might imagine:

“You should probably rethink that because you’re not very good with people.” 

Oooooh. Y’all. That lit a fire so deep inside of me that it still burns 16 years later.

See, HE had already made up is mind what my value was. I was only worth what he was going to give me. I was not going to be good enough for anything but what he gave me permission to be. 

Now, we know that Option 1 Susie would have straight up accepted that promotion and would have given up on her dreams because some good ol’ boy told her too. 

I have to be real for a minute. He was partially correct. I am 100% NOT good with people who try to control me (aka tell me what to do), threaten me, dismiss me or pretend to be superior to me. I’m pretty good with everyone else. He fell into one (or more) of those categories.

Oh, and did mention that I was WAY taller than him too? 

Starting my own business in 2005 was very hard particularly when the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008. But in 2011, I doubled the size of my studio. In that moment, I wanted to call that guy and say, “not good with people, huh?”

In early 2019, I moved into my brand new 11,000 square foot studio which was almost quadruple what I’d started with in 2005. “Not good with people, huh?” 

Also in 2019, I hired my first full time employee followed shortly by my second full time employee in 2020. “Not good with people, huh?”

Those are the moments I live for. I want my daughter and ALL young women to know that you can carve you own path. People may tell you that you’re not good enough or make you feel like you’re not worthy, but what they’re really saying is that they’re angry you won’t be their doormat. 

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that all women should own their own businesses, because that’s not realistic. I am saying that being clear about what you’re worth and what you realistically have to offer others will ultimately place you in circumstances that allow you to prosper.

What we (as women) can’t do is act like victims. We can’t whine about the good ol’ boys. We can’t blame the world. And we certainly CAN NOT make excuses.  

I have a line that I often use with my students:

The people who make the best excuses also make the best coffee (for someone else).

I’ll wrap up with this last thought.

Remember that nursery rhyme about going on a bear hunt? That’s how I want my daughter to approach any obstacle thrown her way.

“Can’t go under it.

Can’t go over it.

Gotta go through it.” 

Go through it, sweet girl! 


And by they way, you can do it all without being a B***H or a WH*RE.

My Dad’s Last Words

Alright. Before I get into this blog post, I have to make a few rules/declarations:

  1. I HATE for people to feel sorry for me, so please don’t. I am NOT a victim and refuse to be treated like one.
  2. You may not make judgements about my dad because all-in-all, he was pretty awesome.
  3. Today would have been my dad’s 69th birthday. So I felt compelled to let him be my inspiration.
  4. Parents, make your teenagers read this. Teenagers, make your parents read this.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, on with the show…

Late in the evening of September 20th, my dad, Sonny McClure, spoke his last words to me:

“If I die in a car wreck tomorrow, it’ll be all your fault!!”

Guess what? He did

It’s okay. You can close your mouth now.

I was 15 years old, and I was the epitome of a bratty teenager. I wanted NOTHING to do with my dad. He got on my nerves. He was embarrassing in the way that only the father of a teenage daughter could be. He was very overweight, and at 15, appearances mattered WAY more than they should have. He wanted to be in control of me as he’d been my whole life, but at 15, I was having NONE of that. 

I distinctly remember 3 phases of my relationship with my dad. The daddy’s girl who would climb in his lap to play “kiss the nose” while he lounged in his rust colored, faux velvet La-Z-Boy recliner. Then the preteen who could play Gin Rummy for hours on our yellow shag living room carpet while eating Spam (bleh!) and gloating every time I beat him. Lastly, the girl who couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him. The one who had to clinch her teeth and roll her eyes every time he spoke.

I don’t know how this happens. How teenage girls decide that the man who once could do no wrong, is now the source of all evil. 

Let me tell you a bit about my dad Sonny.

He was friends with EVERYONE. He lit up a room like no one you’ve ever met. He was a leader in his family of 5 younger siblings, and he fiercely loved his mom. People respected him. He was VERY smart and loved nothing more than beating his brother Terry (a super worthy opponent) at Trivial Pursuit. My dad LOVED us (his wife, my brother Shane and me), and I mean LOVED. If you messed with his family, you better watch out! When we asked him for $10, he always gave us $20. He had a comb-over that rivaled Donald Trump. He (like his daughter) did not work well FOR other people. He was a business owner too. He was a talented athlete and had the voice of an angel. Well, maybe not an angel, but he could sing a mean version of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by the Righteous Brothers (the high AND the low parts). Oh, and he always had candy stashed in his glove compartment.


He was stubborn. He was passionate and not always in the most pleasant way. He was NEVER wrong. He was the boss. When my dad got angry, his voice would boom like thunder. He would do anything for a laugh – even if it meant making fun of his wife in front of the kids. He was a workaholic. He was quick to point the finger and blame someone else (particularly my mother and me). And he often used his quick wit and humor to make others the butt of his jokes.

So on the night of September 20, 1991, he was planning to get up very early to take his friend to the Alabama vs. Georgia football game the next day. My mom and I got in really late from a high school football game that went into overtime – Baker High School vs. Vigor High School. The dance team had to ride the buses back to school, so we were at the mercy of the football game, and remember there were no cell phones back then. 

The moment we got home, he tore into both of us for being so late. He’d stayed awake waiting on us when he really just wanted to go to bed. 

That’s when he said it staring straight at me.

“If I die in a car wreck tomorrow, it’ll be all your fault!!”

I stormed off to my bedroom and slammed the door. OOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH. I hated him in that moment.

He and my mom went to bed together that night. Although I don’t know exactly what was discussed between them, I’m sure she explained the reason we were so late, and all was right with the world (between them, that is). 

When he left for the game on September 21st, I was still asleep. 

Not long after midnight, there was a knock at the door. I heard my mom talking to someone. Then I heard her scream. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard. It was the kind of gut-wrenching yell that can only be conjured up in a moment like that. Just as I rushed out of bedroom, my mom was heading toward me and said “Dad’s dead!” 

Y’all. My world stopped. The police officer said it was a car wreck. 

Oh God! Had he actually fallen asleep at the wheel? Was it actually my fault? 

We found out later that he was killed by a drunk driver. That driver murdered 3 people and himself on Hwy 69 just outside of Moundville, AL near the 121 mile marker. 

That trauma has given me a unique perspective. There’s still a part of me that will always feel like a 15 year old, and there’s the 44 year old me that sees life from his viewpoint. I’m pretty sure this is why I’m able to connect with so many of my students.

So, to all the teens out there, listen closely:

  1. Words matter. I can’t say that enough.
  2. My dad stayed up. Maybe you missed that because of the shock of his last words to me, but HE STAYED AWAKE. He was so worried about us, that he couldn’t let himself go to sleep even though he knew he needed to. He loved us that much.
  3. It’s okay to go to sleep angry. It’s not okay to say things that you may never get to take back. The Bible says that we can’t let evil come from anger. Meaning don’t let sin overtake you in those moments. My dad did that. But he was a sinner, just like you and me. He, although I wanted him to be, was not perfect and was not meant to be my Savior. For a long time, I held him to an impossible standard.
  4. You’ll never ever know how much your parents love you until you are one. I know. That’s so annoying to hear, but it’s true. See, my dad wanted me to be his baby girl forever. It hadn’t quite hit him yet that HE and my mom had actually done their jobs. They had raised me to be a strong, independent, self-sufficient young lady. Someone who was ready to take on the world and make mistakes. It’s hard to let go sometimes. It’s particularly hard for parents. 
  5. Parents don’t automatically know how to be awesome. It’s true. What I need you to hear is this: Parents only know how to be themselves. That’s it. It’s not that they’re bad or good. They are what they know. They are who the world conditioned them to be. They are products of their past, just like you will be. For example, if your parents grew up in a home where fighting, yelling and anger were the norm, chances are there will be a lot of that in your home. It’s what they know. Give them grace. 
  6. Ask you parents about their childhood. I grew up in a home where saying “I love you” was just straight up weird. No one ever said it. It made people uncomfortable. In my early 20’s, I finally asked my mom what her childhood was like. She told me that “I love you” wasn’t something said in her home. There wasn’t a lot of hugging or lovey-dovey kind of stuff happening. AH!!! There it is. Understanding what made them who they are will help you understand why they parent the way they do. Guess what? After that conversation with my mom, she and I never missed a chance to say those three magical words to each other. I think she didn’t even realize until that moment how she had brought something from her childhood into her parenting. 
  7. Your parents love you so much that they would jump in front of a moving train for you. They’ll get it wrong A LOT. They’ll pretend that they have all the answers A LOT (p.s. they do not). They’ll likely get on your nerves A LOT (p.s.s. you get on their nerves too). It’s okay. Most parents really are doing the very best that they can. Most parents (who are normal functioning adults) just pray that they aren’t screwing you up too much. That’s the truth! 
  8. NEVER drive drunk!

Parents, it’s your turn:

  1. Words matter. I can’t say that enough.
  2. Take a step back in your kids’ teen years and realize you did your job. Let them spread their wings. The bottom line is that our job as parents is to raise happy, healthy adults who aren’t too messed up. You’re doing that!!
  3. Don’t ever let sin take over in moments of anger. My dad should have NEVER said those words to me. That interaction between the two of us on the night of September 20th haunted me for YEARS. I hated him for it. I hated that he left me here on this earth to struggle with that final argument while he got to live happily ever after in Heaven. Don’t ever risk putting that kind of burden on your children. 
  4. You are flawed. Keep that in mind as you move forward in your parenting journey. More importantly, acknowledge that to your kids when you mess up. 
  5. Tell your kids about your childhood when they ask. They need to understand. They need to know what and who made you who you are.  
  6. Love your kids like crazy. Tell them you love them like crazy. Make memories. Play “kiss the nose.” Play gin rummy, and eat Spam. 
  7. Help them to know that you aren’t their Savior. Help them to know who is. Tell them that you are merely a vehicle. That God chose you to be your child’s parent and raise her to know that she is actually a child of God. 
  8. NEVER drive drunk!

I’ll wrap up with this. I am so proud to be Sonny’s daughter. He, despite not graduating from college, started TWO of his own companies that did fairly well. He never let my brother or me settle. He wanted more for his family than he ever had and was willing to move heaven and earth to make that happen. And he was Sonny…if you knew him, you’re smiling and probably laughing right now. If you didn’t, MAN, did you miss out!

Give Your Child Permission

So my teenage students walked into class the other night, and (being a pretty good reader of teen faces) I knew there was a general funk. I asked what was going on, and immediately everyone started chiming in about what was consuming them in that moment. Want to know what they were saying? 

They were anxious and stressed about a whole host of things.

And before I get too deep into this discussion, I want you know who my audience was. This class happened to be my most advanced group of students. If kids make it to this level in dance, it’s because they’re talented, over-achieving, hard working, organized, and usually VERY smart kiddos. They generally takes honors and AP classes; they do a lot of school activities like dance team, cheerleading, track, SGA, you name it; they are active in their churches; they dance at the studio a minimum of 7 hours a week, but most do more. These are the kids that we need making decisions when we’re 80. These are the kids that we want saving the world when we’re too old to do it.

BUT…I think we’re making it WAY too hard for them.

Let’s be real for a minute. Teens and tweens have it WAY harder than we did at that age. Their world is full of impossible expectations. So impossible that the lines are blurred for them between the things they feel they HAVE to do and the things that they can CHOOSE to do. They feel guilty about doing things that they love because it takes time away from the things that bring them stress. 

Hear that again.

Many high achieving young people believe that the things that cause stress and anxiety must be more important than the things that bring them joy. Joy, in their minds, is a frivolous notion. They believe that they aren’t being good little children if they aren’t working super hard at being THE smartest, THE best, THE most popular, THE most talented, and on and on.

Because I’m a HUGE advocate of empowering kids, I want to tell you why I think we’re actually taking power away from them instead.

How many of you feel like you’re on the hamster wheel of wanting your kids to do and be everything but can’t seem to let them pull back when it all gets to be too much? Or maybe we don’t know exactly what to have them pull back on.

Slow hand-raise in progress. 

The problem is that I (and probably you too) want my child to be the best. I want her to be Miss Everything. I want her to have experiences and talents that I never had. I want her to be considered the smart kid. I want her to be popular. I want her to be the teacher’s pet. I want. I want. I want.

Aaaaaand I just got slapped in the face with a big ol’ dose of “IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT. IT’S ABOUT WHAT SHE NEEDS.” 

The problem is that we, the parents, are adding to this notion of choosing stress over joy.

So, back to my teenage students and our discussion…

After listening to them, I posed this question, “What would happen if you didn’t take that AP class in high school and instead, took that class in college?” The room was silent. I’m serious. Crickets. That was not even a concept that many of them had ever considered. 

What are you thinking right now? Are you thinking “No way. People will think she’s not smart if she doesn’t take that class.” 

I asked another student, “what would happen if you didn’t actually make that ‘to do’ list that is causing you anxiety?” She looked back at me with horror. This young lady didn’t know how she could ever go through the day without that list. The problem is that she’s beating herself up for not accomplishing everything she set out to do that day. She’s feeling overwhelmed and like a failure. 

I bet y’all have been there. I know I have.

In college I was advised that I should never make a “to-do” list again because I was doing the same thing that this student was doing. It was one of the best decisions I ever made for myself. 

More on that in a later post.

See, sometimes young people just need permission from us to be a kid.

Don’t get me wrong. The option of taking AP classes is amazing! But they aren’t for everyone. 

Our job is to teach our children how to be successful adults. I don’t know too many successful adults who grew up thinking that they’ll never be all that they should be. That there’s no time for joy. That they should allow expectations of others determine their path. 

I’m betting that so many of us can take a step back and realize that there is some area of our children’s lives that could be a little lighter. I’m not suggesting that kids never have to learn mental toughness because I’m all for that. I believe that kids need to learn time management, and remember that I believe we can’t ever settle…that our best can always be better.

But the bottom line is this.

We have to make sure that our kids have the right amount of joy in their lives. We CAN’T allow them to give up the things that bring them a little bit of happiness to make more time for the things that cause them anxiety. We have to make sure that they know it’s okay to do something they love without feeling guilty – guilty because it’s taking time away from doing the things they think will please someone else. 

They need joy. They need quiet time. They need time with friends. The need to dance, play sports, study music, and find ways of expressing themselves without the pressure of perfection or the pressure of OUR “wants” for them. 

STOP Trying Your Best

Okay parents, I’m about to get real. 

PLEASE, For. The. Love, tell your kids to STOP trying their best. 

Yep. I said it, and I mean it!

Let’s look at the definition of “best” (according to Google, of course)

best: that which is the most excellent, outstanding, or desirable.

Did you catch that? the MOST excellent, outstanding or desirable. 

My own personal definition would be something like this: better than anything else; the top of the mountain; the highest wrung on the ladder; Shannon Denney (oh, ha! sorry. my child frequently reminds me how UN-funny I am).

In all seriousness, when we tell our kids to “try their best,” we give them permission to use that as a crutch or excuse to do exactly the opposite of “best.” Let me give you an example:

Susie’s mommy told her to go to dance class today and try her best. Susie went to class and repeated the same mistake that she’s made every week for the last several weeks. The teacher just doesn’t get it. When she corrects Susie, Susie fixes her mistake in the moment only to make it again the next week. The cycle repeats itself over and over. After seeing the repeated behavior, the teacher asks Susie why she’s not permanently correcting the issue. After all, the teacher has actually seen Susie do it correctly. Susie replies, (cue the whiney voice) “but I’m trying my best.” 

Now I don’t know about you, but THAT phrase is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I know what Susie’s really saying. She’s saying “I don’t want to put in the work.” She’s saying, “I don’t feel like it.” She’s saying, “you have to let me get away with this because I’m telling you this is my best. And maybe, just maybe I can get away with playing you like I do other adults in my life with one simple sentence.” 

WARNING: Hold on to your hats. It’s about to get tough for a minute…

My response to Susie will always be, “Okay. There will be no need for you to return to dance. Thank you for coming.” 

I’m kind of known for my dramatics. 

After a brief moment of silence, as the child, mouth open, gives me that wide-eyed, “Oh Crap” stare, I go on to explain that if THIS is their best (meaning the MOST excellent, MOST outstanding, MOST desirable thing that they are capable of), then they have reached the mountaintop. They have in fact reached THE highest wrung on the ladder. There is nothing more for them to learn or accomplish because what they’ve just told me is that THIS moment, THIS effort, THIS is all they’ve got. There is no room for improvement.

After my dramatics, I always finish with “your best can ALWAYS be better. Instead of saying ‘I’m trying my best,’ let’s say ‘I’ll keep trying to get better.’” 

Mic D-R-O-P!

Then they realize that their growth is 100% determined by their mindset and work ethic. This is the lesson we have to teach our children. See, it’s my job as their coach to teach my students how to push themselves. Not to allow kids to believe life is only perfection or failure with no in-between. It’s about the journey. It’s about the small steps that, when added together, help them climb the highest mountain. 

At my dance studio, I’m always saying that it’s about SO much more than dance. I will always push my students to be better tomorrow than they are today. I want to know that I’ve given them lessons to carry them through the rest of their lives. Sure, my students are going to learn how to be awesome dancers, but they’re going to learn how to be awesome people too.