Monday, September 26, 2011

Finding Your Identity: Breaking the Cheereotype

Reposted from FaithVillage - see original post here.
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” – Luke 6:37 NLT
In high school I was a cheerleader for all four years, spending long hours after school painting signs, selling raffle tickets, and choreographing half-time shows. I absolutely loved being down on the field, looking up in the stands, smiling and yelling with all my spirit. I wore the uniform and carried the pom poms. I led the pep rallies and danced at games.
For two years, I managed to juggle competitive cheerleading with my school commitments, but I decided to give it up for another sport I loved, which happened to be slightly different than cheerleading. In the spring of my freshman year, I tried out for softball, and it rocked my world.
“What is a cheerleader doing here?” one of the girls said as I walked into the locker room on the first day of try-outs. “Is this girl for real?” she laughed.
I swallowed my nerves, pulled up my knee-high, hot pink socks and grabbed my glove. It was going to be a long week.
Jumping FieldsI attended a 5A high school in Texas, a designation given to the largest schools in the state. It’s very rare for students to play more than one sport, if they play at all—much less a cheerleader who wants to play softball too. I found out later that the varsity softball coach had been talking to my club coach about moving me straight to the varsity team as a freshman, which didn’t settle well with the senior girls.
“She thinks she’s going to play with us on Varsity? Are they kidding?” the girls sneered.
Even the other cheerleaders thought I was crazy to go out for softball.
“So why are you trying out again?” They’d ask me at the end of practice, sitting in a circle, giggling about a boy as I prepared myself to morph into my tomboy alter ego.
“I love softball like I love cheerleading, y’all!” I’d say. “Plus, it’s bigger than just making the team now. I have to break these girls’ perceptions of us cheerleaders.”
After three nights of riding in my mom’s car when she picked me up, bawling about how I didn’t want to finish try-outs because the girls hated me, I made it to the locker room on the last day. Ripping out my leopard print bow (from cheer practice before), I threw on my cleats and prayed silently to God.
Lord, I’m not ready to be on varsity. I don’t want to give up, though. Please work this out for me. Give me peace and let me just kill ‘em with kindness.
At the end of the day, they announced who made varsity, and they didn’t call my name. A sigh of relief surged through my body, but not for long. I still wanted to be on the team. I held my breath. Finally, they came to me and asked me if I’d be okay with playing on JV.
Okay with it? I was thrilled! Even though I hadn’t gotten much interaction with the JV girls, I knew it would be a better fit for me.
Looking Past the CheereotypeI played softball through the year and into the next, making new friends and learning about myself through it all—what God was truly calling me to be. I wasn’t just a cheerleader or just a softball player. I was a friend, a learner, an encourager, a stumbler—a girl simply trying to follow Jesus.
High school is tough. There are real mean girls (and boys, too)! Finding your identity doesn’t have to depend on which sport you play or who your friends are. Self-discovery is a process, and it’s accompanied by confrontations that test your faith, determination and trust in God. When I reflect on this memory, it seems so trivial. I don’t know why everything is magnified in high school, but maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it makes you stronger, so that you can look back and know that if God can take you through that, He can carry you through anything.
So, tell your friends, tell your kids, tell your siblings: Don’t judge others. Just because they wear a uniform, play an instrument or study nonstop doesn’t mean that’s all they have to offer. To this day, I continue being a cheerleader at heart and play on a community softball team, hoping to bridge the gaps among stereotypes. My hope is that people will begin to look past the pom poms, glasses, acne, helmet or whatever else we seem to judge others by so that we can see the light inside each and every one of us.

1 comment:

  1. hmmm. Identity! if i get this, inherent in someone who is not born again is envy. i as a person dont get surprise at people. i just play my part as i ought. but i go with this, IF NO ONE WANTS TO ACCEPT ME, I HAVE THE GREATEST LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE OF ALL. that is JESUS.

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