I know all the words to Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell and it’s down to my mother. Most of the time, I can’t remember where I put my car keys, but I can recall lyrics of way too many 70s hits, after she encouraged me to belt out song after song on long car journeys when I was kid.
I can thank Mum for this – and so much more. It’s only since she passed away, 14 months ago, that I’ve really reflected on what a pretty darned amazing job she did of bringing me up, and also for giving me something for which I am most grateful: confidence. Having the self-belief to sing Boney M.’s Greatest Hits on the M1 is just one example. There was no one in the car listening, of course, but one day there would be, and it’s down to Mum that I eventually found the courage to face an audience. From standing up, reading out my Mother’s Day poem in front of the whole primary school (all 120 of them), to performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at senior school to an audience of 800, Mum was there to give her support.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, we didn’t have Disney princesses doing it for themselves, but I did have my mum. I know that, without her, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today
She would tell me: “Imagine they’re all just sat there in nothing but their socks” – an interesting confidence-boost tip, and certainly not one I’ve ever had in any corporate presentation training, but, as far as lifehacks go, Mum, this one is pretty good.
The key to confidence is not allowing yourself to be intimidated by people or situations. And it takes a special person to be able to convince you of that – whatever their methods are.
Mum was a founding member of the “lipstick is your weapon” club. It was her armour and, with it, she felt she could conquer anything. “If you feel good about yourself, you’ll look better and be more confident,” I remember her telling me. “And always stand with your shoulders back, too.” Being tall, I was told to stand up straight a lot and she was right – by doing this, you exude confidence and others will believe in you more.
Unlike Mum, however, it wasn’t lipstick that worked for me – it was eyeliner. I was a true child of the 80s – an eyeliner queen; thick, black and lots of it, topped off with lashings of mascara and frosted lipstick (which didn’t count, as you could only see it from about 2in away).
Mum also believed that a “good pair of shoes” and bag could give you a boost like no other and this is a notion I’ve certainly taken and run with. It may be superficial armour in some people’s books, but whatever it takes. Mum taught me that courage can come from anywhere, and that courage is an important thing to have.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, we didn’t have Disney princesses doing it for themselves, but I did have my mum. I know that, without her, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today. And I know she’s looking down, smiling – with her slightly judgy face on, because she’ll think I’m wearing too much eye make-up and not enough lippie.