Cheerleaders don’t always wear uniforms

I recently posted on social media about a dream I’m pursuing. The outpouring of support I received was overwhelming, nearly knocking the wheels of my computer chair right out from under me.

Since that day, I’ve reflected on how it felt to receive encouragement, and I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s the type of person I want to be. The type of person who cheers people on as they reach for their goals. The type of person who is there to come alongside friends when life gets tough. It’s brave to risk failure and take that leap, and I want to be the first to see and acknowledge that in others.

This mentality reminds me of my first 5K race nearly two years ago now. I signed up for the race to prove to myself I could persevere. My only goal was not to stop. I wanted to prove to myself I could do hard things and not give up.

As I recall, the best feeling that morning happened as I neared the finish line, tired and out of breath, every fiber of my being wishing I was doing anything but running at that particular moment.

That’s when I heard them. The cheers. “Finish strong.” “You’ve got this.” “Way to go.” Countless faces lined the path, complete strangers standing on either side of the finish line to cheer for me. They didn’t have to do that. Goodness, they didn’t even know me.

I’ll never know their names or be able to thank them for what they taught me that day. But that lesson has made a lasting impact: make it a priority to cheer people on to the finish line. Life is tough, and your words of encouragement may be just what someone needs to stick it out and run.

I’m striving to be that person for people, supporting others and encouraging them to pursue their dreams and persevere when life gets tough. It doesn’t take much effort to call out someone when they’re being brave and doing something beautifully terrifying and amazing all at once. Yet our words can have a lasting impact.

So often, we tend to compare ourselves to other people, hesitant to offer praise for fear that it will minimize our own efforts at success. There’s a quote that says, “Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours shine brighter.” And that’s so true.

We need not be threatened by others’ successes, instead, cheering them as we would our own. I believe God has uniquely designed each one of us for a specific purpose. There’s a place for all of us.

Life is hard, and we all need more positive voices in our lives. It’s my goal to be a cheerleader, the kind without pom poms or megaphones. Because let’s be real here, I couldn’t do a back handspring if my life depended on it.

But what I can do is see and call out the bravery in others, encouraging them to finish the race.