In my early 20s, I moved to LA to be an actor and my mom used to drive out to visit me.

We’d go out on the town to do touristy things that I was usually too cool for, such as visiting the concrete footprints of Grauman’s Theater, eating fancy dinners at the Roosevelt hotel, and buying cheesy trinkets at the overpriced Hollywood shops. I still have a plastic “World’s Best Daughter” Academy Award she presented to me one night.

I received that best daughter award the same year I drove home for Mother’s Day only to get so drunk the night before I never made it to my mom’s house. Events like this weren’t uncommon—though I loved my mom more than words, my stumbling actions were rarely that of the “world’s best daughter.”

Nevertheless . . . this trinket was symbolic of her idealized belief in me.

Call it wishful thinking or delusion, but my mom had this unwavering vision of my goodness.

To the world, I may have been a self-centered 20-something, but to my mother, I was talented, capable, and destined for whatever my heart desired.

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I remember her worrying during one of her visits about what she’d wear to the actual Academy Awards when I was nominated.

“I’ll need to lose weight by then,” she said, genuinely concerned I’d be nominated before she felt presentable. “Matt Damon and Ben Affleck brought their moms, ya know.”

I grimaced at her idea that I could ever do anything more than background work . . . after all, I spent more time at the local dive bar than going on auditions.

But in some small way, having a person who believed grandly in my limitless capability pushed me along—she was likely the reason I had the guts to come to LA at all even though I didn’t end up staying.

I rubbed elbows with my acting dreams, but I also rubbed elbows with Vicodin–and the latter took over my life before the Oscars came knocking.

Though my story eventually took a hopeful turn, my mom died soon after I got sober. That unwavering belief in my goodness and capability died right along with her . . . or so I thought.

The truth, however, is that after the tremendous weight of my grief and guilt began to settle, I realized I could still feel my mom’s unwavering faith pushing me along.

Though I couldn’t see her celebrating my tiniest victories or believing in my deepest held dreams, somehow there she still was, a voice in my head.

When I went back to college, “You are so smart, Melissa.”

When I had a tough breakup, “You are so valuable, Melissa.”

When I started to publish my writing, opened my business, became a mother, “You can do anything you put your mind to, Melissa.”

I began to find that just because my mom was dead didn’t mean the power of her faith in me was gone too.

It’s been almost eight years since I heard her words out loud, but I hear them crystal clear in my mind as I type this.

They’re still part of what propels me to my higher self when I forget who that is.

After all, my mom always knew. She may have dreamed that higher self into being while I was insecure and drunk.

And though I know I lucked out with a great parent, many of us are lucky enough to have (or have had) someone who will tend to the fire of our dreams even when we have no faith ourselvesthat person who saw so much more in us than we could ever see alone.

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Maybe it was a parent, a teacher, or a coach who breathed life into your possibility.

Maybe it was a neighbor or a friendsomeone who knew you were capable, strong, and talented even when you didn’t know it yourself.

Whether they’re still in your life, alive or dead, as familiar as family or someone you knew only briefly . . . 

They can still tend to your belief fire if you let them.

Conjure your person when you need them most and imagine what they might say to you. Witness them. Thank them. And then go forth knowing they saw something in you that’s still thereregardless of how buried it may feel.

Their faith in you was never wasted even if they’re not around to have it today. Borrow their belief in you and let it feed your inner fire.

Take it from methe infinitely capable, formerly drunk, sometimes still wracked with insecurity . . . world’s best daughter.

You truly are as wonderful as they once imagined.

Melissa Pennel

Melissa Pennel is a writer, mother, and life coach living in Northern California. She's the author of the books “Questions You’ll Wish You Asked: A Keepsake Journal for Mothers and Daughters” and the newly released version for mothers and sons; both stem from the grief of losing her mother before asking important questions. Stay in touch with Melissa by subscribing to her blog at, following her on Instagram (@followingfire) or by following her podcast "Follow Your Fire: Purpose, Confidence and Truth to Untame Your Life."