I used to have a certain cockiness about me, that I knew I had, wouldn’t admit to having, yet couldn’t wait for others to notice. It’s strange, because in one sense I’ve spent a life being insecure. I was terribly preoccupied with my looks, worried constantly how my body might look as I slink away from a crowd. I was terrified of not being fussed over. I don’t know exactly where it comes from. I’ve blamed it on different things over the years: having beautiful friends, hearing my father talk about how blonde women are unattractive, always being in front of people cheering or dancing, my formative years, adolescence. The truth is, I’m 27 years old now, and it doesn’t matter where it came from anymore. This isn’t really about overcoming that either. This is about the other flaw I developed to over compensate for my fragile ego. I decided to never screw up and to use my wit to flaunt it. I didn’t know what a monster I was about to raise from little monsterhood deep inside of me.
I became good at not screwing up. I had to be the best at whatever I did, if for nothing else to remain in the limelight. It was warm in that light, and I liked it there. In that light, for a moment, inadequacy doesn’t matter. When I was a young cheerleader I demanded the spotlight, always dancing right up front, focused on none other than stealing the show. I had to make the best grades, just to hear my grandparents praise me in front of the whole family. I discovered I was witty, and had to use it to charm anyone I could. I hadn’t found anyone who could rival me either. My secret cockiness was born. The monster was here, and I thought he would slay my short-comings. I would simply refuse to have short-comings. I found solace in this cocoon I’d made.
I must admit though, I did have pure dumb luck on top of the things I’d conjured myself. I could be in a room of a thousand people and win a drawing. I’d play my husband and his buddies in poker, throwing a flush down every time. I’d flash a sultry wink at them, and sweep their chips into my corner with a devilish grin. I’d then say something innocent, and bring up the fact I’m short to temper the sting, while still stirring the charm. I’d have the button on my phone cued to start playing a Bob Seger song I swear he’d written about me in prophesy, forcing everyone to quietly absorb the lyrics, “you always won every time you placed a bet. Still damn good, no one’s gotten to you yet.” I’d giggle, watching the others contemplate whether to smack me or love me. Things like this was how I coped with the world. It felt good at times, but bad more often.
After a random bout of panic attacks knocked me rather cruelly off that horse I’d been riding so pridefully, I needed a change. I needed a goal to feel good again, and I needed a real one. I realized that a man who only does what he is good at by nature, only beats others by default. I wanted to do something hard, that would take guts, and maybe give me some real confidence for once.
I decided to go back to my dancer roots, but do something crazy with it. I would audition to be an NFL cheerleader. This level of competition and intensity would be foreign to me, and I would treat it like a doomed bull at a Texas rodeo. Part of me was scared, but part of me, that cocky part,thought somehow it wouldn’t be possible for me to screw it up. I wasn’t a screw-up.
I trained for months, getting in the best shape of my life. I spent my days dancing, running, spray-tanning, bleaching my teeth, and eating things that look like they should be growing under pontoon boats. My audition dance was perfected, and I’d spent hours working on dance technique. Having come from a cheerleading and hip/hop background, my turns (pirouettes and such) needed work. I overcame my frustration with this, and nailed them in warm-ups. Now I just had to prance out in front of the judges, in an outfit I would normally only sport at the beach, and shine, shine, shine.
I had no idea what I had gotten into. I looked around at a room packed full of incredible dancers, with bodies that would make Megan Fox question herself. Judges were famous choreographers, fresh from Hollywood. The audition platform was featured on huge screens everywhere, and they were herding us in like cattle on Speed. That insecure little girl that I thought that monster had conquered was still alive. I felt like I’d found a ghost that had been living in me for years. I was terrified.
When I got to the audition area I knew I had to bring it…but, for the first time in my life I couldn’t. I was shaking so hard I couldn’t get my registration paperwork unfolded. When I took my mark, and the music started I could feel my convulsing body limiting my motions. I knew I wasn’t executing the moves like I should have. Then it was time for the pirouette I’d been dreading. I knew I had to focus on this because it was my weak point. I went for it, and came out of my turn early, with a bit of a stumble. I’d blown it.
After getting cut, I knew what it was like to not make a team. In an instant I knew what it was like to work towards something for months, then crack under pressure. I knew what it was like to fail after giving all I had. The strange part, was I was still proud. I used to looked at people who were proud of themselves “just for trying” like they were morons. However, I was wrong. I learned so much about guts, blood, sweat, and tears, while training for that. I learned about having to fight, and not necessarily winning that fight. Sometimes we have to give all we have for disappointment. The bull threw me off his back, but I truly wouldn’t have missed that right for anything. The greatest lesson, was probably the humility. I accepted it of myself. I realized that the whole time, this process was so personal, and more about facing parts of me I’ve muted…and realizing she isn’t half bad. Blowing that turn in my routine was a gift I never thought I wanted. It ended up being my turn…for the better.