Finding Your Cheerleader(s)

cheerleadersAccording to Jimmy Fallon, this website I just googled, and a random girl I heard singing it on a beach boardwalk, Omi’s song, “Cheerleader” is kind-of-sort-of-maybe one of(?) the songs of this summer. I was surprised when I first heard it. Although the lyrics aren’t exactly inspired, it’s kind of a sweet song (no “blurred lines” or “up all night to get lucky” here). If you haven’t heard it, the song is basically an ode to his girlfriend (his “cheerleader”) and how she’s always there for him.

Even before I heard the song, I’d been thinking about how I do a lot of my own cheerleading in the summer. Since I’m a teacher, summer means I get to make and follow my own plans. This year, it’s been a lot of traveling (both meaningful and socially obligatory), cleaning, hosting, writing, and working in my classroom. Having the freedom to define my summers can be really wonderful. But it can also bring me a lot of anxiety to not have a set schedule and to be in ever-shifting contexts–all in a season that is physically difficult for me.

In those anxious moments, I find myself saying things like:

  • “You’re ok. You’re ok. You’re ok.”
  • “Just get to (time/place/stopping point) and don’t worry about what comes after that.”
  • “Hey, you’re doing your best. You did accomplish ______ and _____ today, and that’s a pretty big deal.”
  • “Ok, so you don’t feel like you can handle (task) right now. What can you handle right now?”
  • “You can always stop for a latte if things get rough.” (Funny, but true.)

Actually, I guess those statements are more like coaching than cheerleading. But I like thinking of it as cheerleading, because to me cheerleading has the feeling of being unfailingly, enthusiastically supportive. Plus, maybe the idea of me being a cheerleader amuses me. While I think of myself as loyal and supportive, I’m not typically one for exuberant public demonstration.

Running long distances has given me a lot of practice with developing what psychology types would probably call “positive self-talk.” If you are talking to yourself disparagingly or letting anxiety take hold, you just can’t get through 10, 15, 20+ miles (or just running 3!). I have to remind myself of what I know I am able to do, being realistic about how my body is feeling and the running conditions… and sometimes, motivating myself with the promise of a meal or a nap after the run. Running has been a straightforward, tangible expression of coping when I don’t feel my best.

Although we all have to be our own cheerleaders sometimes–some of us more than others–the good news is that we don’t always have to be (thankfully not, because that would be exhausting!). Sometimes, the cheerleaders take the form of a friend, a family member, a significant other, a coworker. Sometimes, it’s someone you hardly know.

Honestly, what I say to myself probably imitates phrases that my own cheerleaders have said to me. If I have learned anything from being in counseling these past years (and I have learned a LOT), it’s ways to be reasonable with myself. A lot of what I say to myself, my counselor has probably once said to me. But I am grateful to be able to say that he is not my only source of encouragement. I have many friends and mentors who give me words that not only help me through in the moment, but give me resources to fall back on when there’s no one else around.

Hopefully, others will be able to say the same of me.


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