Here’s a bold confession….I was a cheerleader in high school!
I never used to feel like that was a shameful confession but over the last few years I’ve allowed other people’s stereotypes of cheerleaders to creep into my head and find myself admitting it with hesitation. I definitely wasn’t the stereotypical teen movie villain cheerleader. I wasn’t a bully or the mean girl. I didn’t date a football player. I wasn’t a total ditz. I was blonde…..but it was fake (don’t tell 😉). I was also in band and choir.
At almost 40 I’ve allowed myself to continue to buy into the high school stereotypes and it’s sad because I know I wasn’t just a cheerleader.
I overheard a conversation at work today with two women talking about being ignored when they’re with their prettier/skinnier friends. The conversation began to steer into talking about high school and how this phenomenon began with the “head cheerleader” equating these women in their lives with girls they knew in high school.
It made me think about how we carry these stereotypes forward with us into adulthood even though people typically depart from their high school stereotypes. Some people follow the expected path but some go down a completely different road.
Most people change as they go into adulthood, some for the better, some for the worse. Jocks grow into nerds. Nerds grow into jocks. Burnouts become doctors. The Valedictorian becomes a burnout. Most of us can think of people from high school who went in a direction in their life that was completely unexpected.
Overhearing the conversation made me sad because I’d told one of the women I was a cheerleader in high school. As the conversation descended into hushed whispers at parts I became concerned they might place me into some preconceived category because of an activity I did 20 years ago…. 😕 I’m not going to lie, cheerleader is part of who I am but I always equate it with the more positive aspects I learned in all team sports.
Here are a few positive traits I learned:
Optimism: Some of my optimistic spirit comes from team sports. Cheering for a team that’s down 3 touchdowns going into the 4th quarter or playing on a team that’s down by half a dozen runs in the bottom of the 8th inning. Even though the rational part of your brain says “There’s no chance of winning” The optimistic part of the brain says “You never know what’s going to happen and it’s not over until it’s over”
Teamwork: You learn you can’t always do things alone, it’s not all about you, and what I think is one of the biggest lessons about teamwork is sometimes you have to do things you don’t like for the good of the team. Did I like playing center field? No but that was where I needed to play some days for the team.
Dedication: Even if you have a natural aptitude for something if you want to be great you have to put in the work even when you’re tired, sick, or sore you have to get out on the field. You have to practice and work hard. My squad began to do competitive cheerleading competitions which meant long practices and late nights but it was worth it because we made it to nationals.
I’ve carried these traits forward with me into my professional career without the clapping, yelling, pom-poms, and high kicks.
Some people might say just don’t talk about it if you think it’s an issue.
The point is it shouldn’t be an issue and if I’m in a conversation with someone about high school activities cheer leading was something I did for 4 years so I’m not going to omit it from the list because I’m worried about judgement. It’s one thing to deal with these stereotypes in high school but as adults I would hope we eventually reach a place where we move past the stereotypes and quit placing people in preconceived boxes.
I’m just going to go forward in my new job with my optimistic spirit working hard and doing what’s best for the team but I’ll leave the pom-poms at home….
I’ll end this with something to make you laugh because I found the picture when I was searching for the featured image. In my efforts to do anything for the team I even took on the role of mascot for a few games 😄