An Unexpected Opportunity

I was on my high school cheerleading squad for four years: freshman, sophomore, and two varsity squads, during my junior and senior years.  Unlike others, my reasons for being a cheerleader weren’t because I was interested in wearing miniskirts, waving pom-poms, and freezing during football season. My true love was sports, especially basketball.  As a six foot beanpole, athletics came easily to me.

In fact, I only joined the cheerleading team because a classmate mockingly said I couldn’t make it.  All she saw were my surface abilities; the ones I chose to reveal during my time in school. Like this classmate, everyone knew I was a tomboy and that I could hold my own running and playing ball with the boys. What she didn’t know was that I had been in dancing school since age six and a member of a major drill team as well as a tumbling team. I never disclosed that side of my life to my classmates.

Rising To The Challenge

I remember it like yesterday. I was actually going to the tryouts to support my friend Vickie who wanted to be on the freshman cheer squad. I had helped her with her routine and gave her some pointers on how to make herself stand out. Out of fifty or more girls only eight would be chosen. As we walked in the gym one of the girls looked our way and began to laugh. I walked right up to her and asked in an offended tone, “Are you laughing at me?”  She looked sheepishly toward the floor then covered her mouth and said, “It’s just that it is really funny to think of you as a cheerleader T.” Are you seriously going to try out? You would never make it.” As much I wanted to shout at her and tell her about the million abilities I had, I decided instead to do something stronger. Loving to be underestimated, I decided to forget talking and move straight into showing.

Silently Determined

Never saying another word, I approached the sign up table.  The looks of unbelief on everyone’s faces tripled my resolution. What had begun as a declaration of intent turned into sheer determination. I had to become a cheerleader now. Vickie raced behind me taking two steps for every one step I made in order to match the long strides I was taking. She whispered in a frightened voice, “What are you doing?” I ignored her. I was totally silent until the judges called me forward. I announced in a confident voice that my name was Justina Robinson before turning fierce eyes toward the mocker and declaring, “And I will be your next freshman squad captain.”

The silence was so thick it could be cut with a knife.

Seizing The Moment

I began my routine with a round off and a quick five back flip series, landing perfectly. Without pause, I immediately executed three of the five jumps they had asked to see, even though freshman were required to do just one. Completely unrehearsed, I choreographed my routine on spot and when I finished, the whole gym and judging table were on their feet clapping and yelling their approval.  Vickie’s eyes were wide as saucers. “I had no idea you can do that,” she said in disbelief.  My response was simple, “I had no reason to show you.”

Sometimes You Have To Prove It

What that high school experience taught me has followed me throughout my life.  Our abilities are often judged by how people perceive us. Their perceptions, for the most part, are fashioned by what we choose to disclose about ourselves. Unless we have the courage to show them all of who we are, we run into problems with our own confidence, especially if we allow their perceptions to define our own worth.

Imagine how astonished others would be to know that the brains and muscles we display in running one area of our life were actually a fraction of our abilities. Instead of perceiving us according to our role as a co-worker, business associate or professional college, finding out there was more than meets the eye could open their eyes to other parts of ourselves that have just as much, if not more value.

Sometimes you need to make the move and prove to others that there is more within you than they can see. If you can find that reason, like I did with cheerleading in high school, you’ll discover a deeper level of confidence than you may have previously shown. While true confidence is enjoyed most when it’s from within and not dependent on others, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seize the opportunity to showcase the real you; in all of your wonderful facets.


And don’t forget that life is most enjoyable when there is heart, beauty, and true confidence.


*This post first appeared on Jennings Wire where Justina is a contributing blogger.