Who knew a jazz split would teach me my greatest lesson about self confidence?

The other day I was walking the dog with my niece when I started cheering. And I don’t mean “Rah Rah!” I mean “Feehan Shamrocks at their best. We’ll put you to the test.” My niece looked as me like I’d lost it. I told her that when I was in high school I really wanted to be a cheerleader. I loved the uniform, the ponytails, and the idea of spending my autumn at football games and rallies. My mom had been a cheerleader, my friends were cheerleaders, and I wanted to be a cheerleader.

I didn’t have a lot of time to get ready. I wasn’t built like a typical cheerleader. These were potential hurdles. But the greatest hurdle was I couldn’t do a split.

Part of the audition was to do a cheer that ended in a split. I couldn’t do it. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. I had two weeks to prepare for try outs, and every day for those two weeks I’d practice the cheer we had to do for auditions. And I practiced for at least two hours, well. I didn’t do it in front of the TV or in my bedroom. Instead I went out to the backyard where I could be completely focused. I practiced the jumps, the claps, and the words. Eventually I knew that cheer cold. I memorized the hand motions, the intonation, the movements and the exact moment when it was time to do the split. But I couldn’t do the split.

When I realized that split would never happen in time, I asked my mom (the cheerleader) what to do. She told me to try a jazz split. That’s a move where you put one leg sort of bent behind you and fake a split. Sounded good to me! I practiced those jazz splits like crazy. When the day came for the audition, I felt ready. I felt confident in myself, my preparation, my voice and my moves. But I didn’t make the team.

As I told my niece this story, she looked at me sadly.

“Did you cry?”

I’m sure I cried. But that’s not what I remember. What I remember was feeling self confidence. I had confidence in myself and my preparation. I had confidence in the work I’d done to be the best I could be. And that’s what I remember.

Since then I’ve known the power of self confidence. I’ve used it to become a trial lawyer, an author, a TV anchor and analyst and a coach. I’ve used it to lose 100 pounds and to learn to do a real split. And I’ve realized the value of earning my self confidence with practice, preparation, and focus. You’re not always going to get everything you try for. But you can always get more confidence from trying.

Self confidence is knowing you’ve done all you can. You’ve given your all with focus, preparation, and the right tools. When you’re truly confident in yourself, the wins and the losses won’t touch you. You take more chances and, yes, earn more wins. You know yourself and you don’t take much personally. Self confident women ask for what they want and get it. They advocate for themselves. And then they do it again and again.

That cheerleading try out taught me to try. And it gave me self confidence. Since that day I’ve gone for what I want, and most of the time I get it. But as long as I’ve done all I can with focus, elegance and preparation, the wins or losses don’t have the same power over me. They just can’t touch me in the same way. Because I have confidence in me–and that has made all the difference.


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2 thoughts on “Jazz Splits and Self Confidence

  1. What a great story. The best part is that you didn’t look at not making the team as a failure. Not that we don’t need some upsets or letdowns – they help us grow, but I love that you were so pleased with how much you practiced for the audition that not making the team didn’t crush you. I also love that your story put Julie Andrews song – I Have Confidence – from the Sound of Music in my head. It’s one of my all time favorite movies. I cry every single time I watch.

    Thanks for your words of wisdom and for sharing a personal story with us.

    1. Ah thank you! I’ve always believed that my best self is the result of my “worst” experiences. The jazz split was minor! But it definitely taught me a lot. 🙂

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