Preface: This will have nothing to do with the sport of cheerleading, but rather the personality trait.

Illustration for article titled The Trouble with being a Cheerleader

The trouble with being the cheerleader in life is that, quite often, cheerleaders don't have others to cheer them on in return. You watch others struggle with bad days, go through great successes, and all the while you give them encouraging words. "I'm sorry, things will get better." "That's wonderful! I am so happy for you!" You are naturally inclined to be the voice of optimism in times of despair, even when those times of despair are your own. It's not that you want to, just that you need to, because no one else wants to spend their time focusing on the silver lining.

Overall, I am an incredibly positive person. When bad things happen, I usually shrug them off, because I just know brighter days will come along soon. I've often been described as bubbly, a description I agree with and take to heart. I take everything to heart, because I genuinely care an immense amount. I am constantly worried about hurting another person's feelings, even they have no reason to invest in me in return. I love fostering a sense of bonding, and want everyone to be friends.


As I was a child, the bus driver called me "Smiley". He said he had never seen a little kid enjoy the simple act of smiling so much. In high school my English teacher awarded me at a ceremony reserved for academics, for being "Salt of the Earth". On this certificate, it described me as kind, dependable, and always full of enthusiasm. I'm still met with those phrases any time I read an employee evaluation. It's just who I am. No need to put it on a certificate.

Being a cheerleader, I get a lot more out of being supportive than I do being supported. But sometimes, I just want to throw in the towel. The thing that no one seems to understand is that carrying this sunny disposition is exhausting. And when bad days hit, they often hit a lot harder and feel so much more personal. Unfortunately, it's really difficult to catch a falling cheerleader.


I recently went through a health and emotional crisis, one that nearly destroyed me from the inside out. And for the first time, I couldn't put my own positive spin on it. I faced adversity and couldn't fight through the tears by laughing it off. When I complained and didn't immediately follow with my own silver lining, it bothered those I talked to. When I described things as being terrible, people grimaced and struggled to find the words to help. Really, the only words I needed were acknowledgement. My behavior was called "out of character". I was scolded for my negative attitude, being told I can't receive help I needed if I don't want to help myself.

"But I'm tired of helping myself!" I wanted to shout. "I'm tired of being the one who does all of the work!"


What do you do when you're tired of your own optimism? Things get dark pretty quickly when you can't convince yourself that everything is going to be alright. Genuine disappointment is an incredibly bitter pill to swallow. I did what any optimist does, I sucked it up. I externalized the negative, trying hard to convince myself that this is just a tiny bump in the long road of life. I invalidated my own hurt feelings and negativity, because I just had to. And as soon as I did, the words started pouring out of others about how "strong" I was.

I'm not strong, I just don't know any other way to live without completely falling apart. Getting others to chime in with "Yeah, that sucks." wasn't going to happen. I felt like I just pretending things weren't awful, because I didn't like the way people looked at me when I was admitting bad things are bad.


I can now see why casual pessimism comes so easy. I can see why it's more comfortable for people to wallow in disappointment, so that a glimmer of hope feels that much sweeter. It's really difficult the other way around. No one wants to know that appearing so positive can feel so damaging.

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