Even though cheerleading isn’t very big in Germany, I grew up having an opinion: I associated it with girls in skimpy outfits, judged on their looks alone and totally devoted and with brainless adoration for whatever sports team they supported. Not exactly a role model I was aspiring to (yes, you may judge me on my cliché thinking!).
Not least because I wasn’t into sports, I never thought about what it would be like to be on the other side, i.e. being “cheerleaded” on. Moreover, I grew up with a strong will to be independent and not wanting to need anyone (something – amongst other things – I wrote about in my article published on Tiny Buddha). Beliefs like ‘Only if something is hard work, it’s worth something’ and ‘Asking for help is a weakness’ were formed early on and significantly impacted my way of thinking way into adulthood; no doubt in many positive ways but also in some less positive ways.
This changed in my late 20s. I don’t remember how this came about but I got the idea into my head that I wanted to work with a mentor. I still remember how nervous I was when I reached out to somebody I had loosely been in touch with via work and who I greatly admired for his wisdom, kindness and caring nature. I worried that he might not even remember me or that he’d think the idea ludicrous or would simply be too busy to meet up.
I waited two weeks for an answer and during that time felt embarrassed and ashamed. That’s what can happen when you put yourself out there. Vulnerability comes at a certain risk. When he did reply, he apologized for the late reply and explained that he had been on jury service and thus busy. Note to self: don’t jump to conclusions and things might well be very different from the scenarios you create in your mind ...
Being mentored by him was an amazing experience and it marked the start of major transformations for me. Looking back I of course had been mentored before but in more subtle ways and with considerably less awareness on my side. My various beliefs mentioned above were of course also blocking me from seeing and appreciating the value of a mentor. To this day, I recall many of the lessons I learned back then and it’s also at the root of me wanting to give something back, too. It turned me into a huge advocate of cheerleading! (Don't get me wrong, mentoring is of course more than cheerleading. But that aspect is what I associate most with the first meeting I had with my mentor.)
We don’t NEED cheerleaders (nor do we NEED coaches). But feeling supported and cheered on feels good, doesn’t it? Other people believing in us can strengthen our belief in ourselves and when we believe in ourselves, so much more becomes possible (we all know about the power of our mindset!). Cheerleading creates connection between people. It feeds our inherent need for relatedness. Yes, in an ideal world our self-confidence comes from within ourselves. But most of us are also familiar with feelings of self-doubt. We are human after all. At times we can be scarily self-sabotaging! Don’t let there be shame in reaching out and receiving the love and support from others. We don’t need to go it all alone. We can, sure! But why not make it easier and also more fun for ourselves? Surely that’s a smart move and not a weak or lazy one, don’t you think?
I invite you to be conscious, purposeful and generous with supporting others, even if it might not always be reciprocated. Also watch and listen out for it: it might come from surprising sources and take on unexpected forms. Gratefully accept and appreciate the support that does come your way.