The little girl was frozen with fright. She was trying to will herself to take a lead of faith. She was staring at the massive inflatable blob floating on the pond. Her family was cheering “JUMP JUMP JUMP!”
At the summer camp where I lifeguard every year, we have an activity called “The Blob.” Floating on the water is a giant inflatable tube. Kids jump onto the blob from a ten-foot-high platform. After landing they crawl precariously to the end of the blob trying not to slip off the side and sit down. The next person jumps. When they land, their weight catapults the person sitting at the end of the blob into the pond. It is a lot of fun but sometimes people chicken out. One day there was almost no one at the pond and a little girl was trying to gain enough courage to jump. Because no one else was in line and I had nothing to do, I asked the little girl “If I jump first, will you launch me?” Usually, the added influence of a lifeguard will help a kid jump. She told me that she would try if I jumped first, so I jumped. I was so confident because I had been using the blob all summer and had not had any problems. Unfortunately, that instance was the one time that I failed. I landed very ungracefully and faster than it takes to write this I slipped off the side into the green pond water.
That was an awkward moment. After all, I had just been reassuring the little girl that she would be fine and that she shouldn’t worry. I looked around to discover that all the other lifeguards were trying not to laugh. One yelled “Nice job!” What was I going to do? Sometimes confidence seems impossible but when you remember that others are unconfident too, they like to fallow leaders, and they secretly admire people who can “pull anything off” than it is easier to maintain confidence.
Most people who laugh at others secretly feel very unconfident in themselves. They may be fearful that their new glasses make them look like a geek or be afraid that their sense of humor isn’t funny. Whatever it is most people have at least a few vulnerable points and are afraid to stand out in a bad way. To hide their own feelings of self-inferiority some people will criticize others. They deeply want to be valued appreciated and respected. Unfortunately, when people don’t have feelings of confidence, they capitalize on other’s mistakes. They just want to fit in.
In the 60’s anyone who was cool had smooth beehive shaped hair. In the 70’s anyone who was cool had an afro and clown pants. In the 80’s anyone who was cool had a mullet, or six-inch tall plasticky firm bangs. There have always been absurd trends. Where do trends start? Someone who is popular does something and they pull it off, so everyone tries it on for size. In the late 2000-2010’s Bieber Fever swept the land. Justin Bieber did a ridiculous hairstyle and all the boys started copying him. You know the look, side swept hair held in place by hair jell. Some guys looked great in it but mostly it looked ridiculous. That is how all trends are, someone who looks cool a certain way starts a trend and everyone copies. People will fallow a confident leader of a cliff because they don’t want to look weird. People desperately want to fallow a strong leader.
Standing out can be scary but all leaders stand out. The truth is that, as Eleanor Roosevelt put it “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” If a bully tries to make a person feel inferior, and that person ignores them, then the bully will feel silly. In fact, people will admire anyone who fearlessly stands out. They will think to themselves, she cannot be intimidated. I wish I had that kind of confidence. Confidence has power.
As I fell into the pond water and face my laughing lifeguard friends, I confidently smiled as I climbed dripping out of the water. I acted as if nothing had happened and asked the little girl if she was going to jump. She never did jump, and I felt awkward as she walked by me, but I remembered that I had been trying to do the right thing and that it didn’t matter what other people said about me. Later in the day when no one else was around the other lifeguards laughed at my mistake and I laughed with them. I was able to stop my awkward feelings by ignoring them and moving on with confidence. The people around me respected me for it. A confident person will always lead others because everyone deals with insecurity, everyone wants a leader, and everyone admires a confident person.