The happiest people I know are not only cheering for themselves, but for everyone around them.
I grew up with a passion for sports. I never took a dance class and band wasn’t my thing (sheet music makes me sweaty), but as soon as I could be on a team, I was all in. I loved the community and working towards a common goal. I loved the competition. I loved knowing practice made me a better player. As I got older, this love only got more intense and while people around me tried to figure out where they fit in, I just knew I was an athlete.
I also knew I was NOT a cheerleader. I’m sure I could be quoted as saying this, likely in a snotty tone that only a teenage girl can pull off. My mom was a cheerleader, but only because girls didn’t play sports in her generation. Ok, I could cut her a little slack. But the cheerleaders I knew wore short skirts, had fluffy hair (with bows, GASP), and were way too peppy for my teen angst. I kept my distance.
Why then now, do I aim to be the biggest cheerleader I know? Because, looking back those cheer squads had something I didn’t fully understand. They were not only encouraging a team but also creating, experiencing, and sharing joy. Have you ever seen a cranky looking cheerleader? I don’t think so. I, on the other hand, spent four years of high school beating myself up so hard after every sporting event that I never once cheered for myself. Sure, I cheered on my team, but the joy I had found in sports earlier in my youth had become just another way to try and live up to a self-induced perfectionistic unattainable ideal.
That followed me into college, marriage, parenting, and nursing. I never stopped to celebrate myself, I did not cheer myself on along the way, and I didn’t make the time to encourage others as often as I should have. I went through the motions and often felt disappointed by myself and frustrated by others.
Since then, I have taken disappointed and frustrated out of my vocabulary. I refuse to focus on two states of mind that only leave me … disappointed and frustrated. Instead, I choose (ironically) to cheer. Not with a short skirt or bows in my hair, but I am peppy and I know now how to spread joy and let it into my own life.
I celebrate even the little wins in my life, every day in fact. I jot down three achievements each day – some are business related, some may pertain to my health, some are parenting wins. Most are small and maybe unnoticeable by others, but they remind me small things add up and I am doing a good job.
And I cheer, loudly in fact, for the people around me to win and win big. I tell them they are amazing, I point out the things I notice that make them special, I draw attention to their accomplishments, I say thank you for inspiring me. We don’t do this enough. Instead we internalize why we didn’t do something, earn something, make a certain amount of money, weigh what they weigh. Stop that. Stop comparing and start cheering. Guess what happens when we do? They cheer for us too. We perpetuate joy. More things happen that we can celebrate. Everyone wins.
Whether you were/are an athlete, a bookworm, a band geek, a part of the debate team, or however you categorized yourself back in the day, show up TODAY as a cheerleader. We are all doing our best, and having a little team spirit to support yourself and the people around you brings joy all around.