Be Awesome, Do Amazing

One of my dear friends invited me to Seattle to speak to a girls-empowerment event called “Because You’re Amazing.” I said, friend, you ARE amazing, and I would love to come visit. To which Susan said something like, well, you are amazing. I’ll spare readers the rest of the gushy love-fest.

A couple days before the event as I was working on my remarks, I ended up at a cousin’s wedding where I witnessed a loud, entertaining back-n-forth between two of my female cousins, one who was 11 years old the other 30-something. Their “conversation” consisted entirely of the sentence “I am awesome” and lots of arm-waving gestures. No irony, no kidding around. Unbridled confidence and joy and “well-duh.” The whole scene struck me as amazing and beautiful and empowering and inspiring.

Of course, it also got me thinking about the difference between “awesome” and “amazing.”Minion and text that says don't judge me I was born to be awesome not perfect.

Here’s what I found in a dictionary:

amazing: (adj) causing great surprise or wonder; astonishing

awesome: (adj) extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great apprehension or admiration

The synonym list under awesome includes the word amazing. The words stunning, staggering and breathtaking appear in the synonym lists for both words.

Clearly, amazing and awesome have similar meanings. The subtle difference in connotation comes from the element of surprise.

As in “I didn’t think that could happen; it’s amazing,” or perhaps, “I didn’t think you could do that; you’re amazing.”

Does that mean, then, that there is a connotation, an assumption of…..something other than success or awesome that comes with calling someone amazing?! Suddenly, in my gut, I found a tremendous ambivalence about labeling myself amazing. I have an amazing story about being an elite athlete but it’s not amazing because have a funny arm – it’s amazing because of all the OTHER STUFF THAT HAPPENED while I was being an elite athlete.

So where can we use the word “amazing” without also handing out a back-handed compliment?

There ARE great stories of underdogs winning against all odds. There are also things that are objectively complicated and down-right HARD (say, being a single-mom to three elementary-schoolers while opening your own bakery), and so pursuing those things maybe seems “amazing” to someone who isn’t motivated to tackle that particular challenge.

As I came around to what was the ONE thing I wanted to impart on this audience of teen girls and their mothers I went with this:

You are inherently awesome. You just are. Don’t let anyone chip away at your awesome. Because awesome is what will make it possible for you to accomplish amazing things.

Be awesome. Do amazing.

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