‘You’re not going to be pretty anymore, Mommy! Eww, don’t do it!’ Their response stung my heart. I knew I had to shave my head.’: Couple encourage others to ‘say yes to challenges’

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“Have you ever felt like there was more in you to do something bigger, but you didn’t know what, or how to even start? That was me all through growing up and getting into adulthood. However, coming from a very strict traditional Filipino family, I followed the path I was instructed to take. I don’t come from a wealthy family, but I do come from very hard-working parents. All through growing up, all that I would see them do was work tirelessly to provide for their family of six. They sacrificed so much to provide for us, and all I thought was school, good grades, and a decent job was going to get us the American Dream they sought for their children.

Courtesy of Leslie Gillissie

I couldn’t have been more wrong. I did everything I was told. After I graduated from college with my BA, I got a job with a mortgage broker company, which was far from my degree. I made decent money, so I stayed with it, especially since I also had massive amounts of student loans to payoff. I worked hard to earn a living, but I wasn’t saving much of my money. I wasn’t planning for my future, family, or retirement. I lived for the moment and only planned for the weekend.

Then I got married to the love of my life, Marc, and we began thinking about our goals and dreams together. But with no action. And unfortunately, a dream without a plan is just a wish. About a year into our marriage, we were expecting our first baby. I began to experience a different emotional state, and it was the first time I thought, ‘Am I doing enough?’ Especially to bring another human into this world. And truthfully, the answer was a big fat ‘NO.’ I still didn’t have an actual plan for my life, and to involve a family too was all kinds of scary. I really didn’t know where to begin.

Courtesy of Leslie Gillissie

If there’s anything that can awaken the greatness inside of you, let it be parenthood.  Another human being is depending on me for life, and not just to survive, but to actually really, really live well, and we would be their everyday teacher. But we were in such a bad financial position, and we were relying heavily on our Aunt Visa and Uncle MasterCard. Still, without proper planning, our whole financial health began to really spiral out of control, and the main thing we had to rely on was my husband’s corporate job, which he was pouring his blood, sweat, and tears into to try to climb that corporate ladder. I remember thinking, ‘Things will eventually get better. Marc will get a promotion and a pay increase, and our lives will magically just get better.’ [insert eye roll]

Have you ever done that? Just continue to pray and pray for a better life, expecting magic to just happen? When really all along, I should have been praying for the strength, courage, and energy to go after it harder and smarter. But at that point, I felt no sense of hope for getting ourselves out of the big deep hole we were in. Having our children was the biggest blessing, and every day, we loved them hard but we were both struggling inside. I’m pretty sure I was at some level of depression… I drank wine every night to help me sleep, I took diet pills because I hated my body after having children, and my husband and I began to seek marriage counseling because we were falling apart from so much stress. I cried myself to sleep every night and only woke up in the mornings to the high demands of our children. Then having to go through the days, repeating the same cycle over and over.

Courtesy of Leslie Gillissie

I realized if I wanted to be a better wife and better mother, I needed to just be a better me. I made a decision to make some changes and create discipline and good habits. Marc and I then made a bold decision to invest in ourselves and our future, and we started our own business with a very low-cost start-up, but with very high returns.  We realized our dreams of building our legacy for our children and paying our parents back tenfold would never happen if we continued to do what we had been doing.

We thought we were finally doing something right, and if we keep that up on the side in addition to what we were currently doing, then we’d be able to get ourselves out of the big hole. Then things took a turn for the worse. When we had baby number four in 2017, Marc took paternity leave as we adjusted to our family of six. On his first day back, he was told they no longer needed him and let him go after 15 years of working hard to climb that corporate ladder.

Courtesy of Leslie Gillissie

A couple of months later, my company downsized and I too lost my job. Many years of hard work wasted, insurance, and benefits all gone, job security was false. We lost our home and were a family of six left stripped because nothing in the traditional path taught us proper financial literacy. You wanna know what’s crazy though? And yes, I am getting somewhere with this story….  Though our world got flipped upside down after we were in a place where we thought things couldn’t get any worse, we were in a much better place mentally and emotionally because of what we’ve gained from our mentor and business building. We didn’t sit in this setback, because there was more of a reason than ever to make a difference and help so many others see a different light and create our own paths.

It was then we experienced the true impact of what hope and faith can do to any individual or family who once felt so completely helpless. We began sharing our story and spreading our crusade of helping more people. We’ve helped people create a blueprint and build their legacy. We’ve helped a lot of families have peace of mind. Through it all, we also witnessed too many families left unprotected. We’ve witnessed people battle cancer and other life occurrences without any preparation. We’ve witnessed families lose loved ones and desperately need GoFundMe accounts. We’ve witnessed many family breakups from financial stress, which we came very close to before.

Courtesy of Leslie Gillissie

Through building our business, we learned so much about the importance of accountability and integrity. Towards the end of 2019, we set a goal to hit a certain milestone in our business within a year, which I declared, ‘I will shave my head if we failed.’ Welp… we failed. And we’ll graciously accept our failures and learn from them. Of course, I was hesitant to shave my freakin’ head. I knew I made that promise and I had to keep my word…. regardless, I was afraid to.

The following month of October 2020 was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I lost my grandmother to breast cancer and my aunt, along with many friends who battled the awful illness. During that same time, my cousin got diagnosed with breast cancer. A wise man once told me there are no coincidences, just confirmation. 99% of me was convinced I was going to shave my head… but yes, I was still fearful. As a woman, I always felt my hair made me feel pretty, and I was able to use it to hide my insecurities. I was afraid to completely shave my head and was most certainly not looking forward to the awkward growth stages. But then I shared my idea with my two daughters, 9 and 10 years old. I told them I was going to shave my head in support of their aunt, my cousin. Their response shocked me and stung straight into my heart. ‘You’re not going to be pretty anymore, Mommy!’ ‘Eww, don’t do it, you’ll look like a boy!’ Without hesitation, at that very same moment, I heard those words out of my innocent little girls’ mouths was the moment I knew I had to shave my head.

Courtesy of Leslie Gillissie

From the moment we found out we were first pregnant many years ago, I first thought, ‘Am I doing enough?’ And here we are today, after early years of motherhood where I thought I was instilling enough core values into our children, I realized unless we normalize the abnormal, mainstream society will always display what is ‘supposed to be normal,’ which includes the traditional path, keeping up with the Jones, having a job for the ‘secure’ paycheck, what females and males should look like, etc. I refuse to raise our girls to think they have to look a certain way, that hair is what will make them beautiful, and to be afraid to do something different. I got my hair completely shaved off in front of our children.

Our 9-year-old got so inspired that the next day, she got her hair chopped off super short. Our boys thought it was the coolest thing to see their mommy with a mohawk, then have the same head as daddy. Our children realized I was the same mommy, and our girls witnessed more confidence and courage in me. About a week later, after my hair started growing out, Marc shaved it again for me. We enjoyed being bald together haha.

Courtesy of Leslie Gillissie

The experience has been eye-opening for me. We had people cheer me on and support my cause and courage, but I also had people stare at me with sympathy or confusion. ‘Why the heck would you do that? I can’t even look at you!’ Though it may have been meant as a joke, it was still very shocking to hear from an adult. I had some people joke disgracefully about my sexual preference. Again, it may have been meant as a joke, but was still very shocking to hear. But here’s why it was so important for me to do this for myself and for my girls: because we’re always going to go through life with negativity. That’s inevitable. Mental toughness and positivity will always win. I encourage anyone to say ‘yes’ to anything that will challenge them, and better themselves and their situation.

Why I share this with you… Never judge people.  Not all people sick with cancer want your sympathy – let’s learn to empathize instead.  Let’s support, encourage, love, and pray for all cancer warriors, and all others who may be openly or secretly battling something. Embrace our uniqueness and let’s get inspired by our differences. Normalize the non-traditional and all things people are so afraid to be different about. Be the change this world needs.

Children will do as we do, not as we say.  They are always watching us and we, as parents, are their biggest teachers of life. Never lose hope and faith. I’m here to help anybody, any family, any individual gain control and ownership of their lives. People don’t typically plan to fail. They just fail to plan.

This is us today. We don’t have it all together, and we still have many dreams and goals to accomplish; however, we know our path to what our American Dream looks like to us, and we know how to pay back our parents while also building a lasting legacy for our children. We do all this with congruency in our faith, family, finance, fitness, fun, (f)ilanthrophy, and freedom. We are here to pay it forward, because every family deserves to win, and everyone deserves to have someone on their side to encourage them to keep pushing to be better, to never give up, to give hope, and to broaden the culture of positivity, love, kindness, integrity, mindfulness, ambition, and servant leadership.”

Courtesy of Leslie Gillissie

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by  Leslie Gillissie from Southern California. You can hear more about her story on InstagramSubmit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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