Tightrope: This season the best gift is the gift of believing in yourself

— -- This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to gift giving. Buying gifts for our friends and loved ones take on significant meaning and requires time and attention. This week we will take a look at the most wonderful gift of all. What is most special and precious about this gift is that we give it to ourselves. It is the gift of believing in yourself.

When you believe in yourself, you can trust your instincts and feelings. It helps you to gain and sustain strength. Believing in yourself can take you and your business to a whole new level of fulfillment.

But, you have to be on the lookout for the folks who try to change who you are or attempt make you over into their image.

These are the times when the people who love us and want the best for us contribute to our lack of belief and trust in ourselves. An example can be seen in a conversation that I had with a friend about his young son:

From the time little Michael was born, his father, Henry, had visions of his son parading through life as a baseball star who would eventually find his way into the Hall of Fame. Michael, on the other hand, was interested in music and excelled in it. However, when Michael turned seven years old, Henry thought he would get things moving, and enrolled his son in the community Little League baseball team.

Michael wasn't the least bit interested in his father's choice, and his poor game showed it. Frustrated, Henry told me the story and said. "The boy has not one ounce of trust or belief in himself. I don't know where he gets it from." Henry said he had tried to get his son to follow the example of the other children who were better players. "Why can't you catch like little Leon," Henry would say to Michael, "If he can do it, so can you."

Little Michael spent most of his free time practicing pitching and catching with his father and still continued to fail miserably at baseball. In addition, he became irritable and difficult to handle at home. After the first semester in school, Michael's teachers said he wasn't applying himself and was failing.

Henry was upset as he related this story. Henry loved his son and wanted the best for him. I didn't want to offend Henry or question his parenting, so I told him a parable that I heard told by Howard Thurman the great 20th century theologian called, "The Animal School."

The animals got together and decided to do something great to meet the problems of the new world. They organized a school. In the school they adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make the school easy to run, all the animals had to take all the subjects. The duck was excellent in swimming, better, in fact than his instructor and made passing grades in flying, but he was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also dropped swimming in order to practice running. This he did until his feet were badly worn and he became only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in that school. Nobody worried about that except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class when his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down. He also developed charley horses from over exertion and got a C in climbing and a D in running.

The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely in the climbing class. Even though he beat all the others to the top of the tree by insisting on using his own way to get there. At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceedingly well and also run, climb, and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.

Henry listened to the parable and said that it was a cute story. He hadn't gotten it! Several months later we ran into each other again and he said that he hadn't been able to get the parable out of his mind and had therefore decided that Michael should not be forced to do anything. Finally, he got it!

To believe and trust in yourself, you have to be allowed to do some of the things that feel right to you even when those choices made by you are not validated by others.

This holiday season when making out your gift-giving list give the best gift to yourself – the gift of trust and belief in you and your abilities. You business and your life will be all the better for it.

Happy Holidays!

Gladys Edmunds' Entrepreneurial Tightrope column appears Wednesdays. Click here for an index of her columns. As a single, teen-age mom, Gladys made money doing laundry, cooking dinners for taxi drivers and selling fire extinguishers and Bibles door-to-door. Today, Edmunds is founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh and author of There's No Business Like Your Own Business, a six-step guide to success published by Viking. Her website is www.gladysedmunds.com. You can e-mail her at gladys@gladysedmunds.com.