The underdog is important to me. I’ve always felt like the underdog. Being the smallest and youngest child in the family, being the less dominant friend in a friend group, being 2nd or 3rd chair and not first in band, being less athletic than almost all of my peer counterparts, being a hard worker of a student but not naturally gifted or inclined to understanding difficult mathematical concepts, being a late bloomer and someone who never had the attention of the opposite sex…the list could go on.
I’ve always compensated for this feeling of being the underdog. Many people may not even be able to imagine me feelings this way, as I’ve compensated for these feelings by working harder, looking stronger, achieving more, and acting more and more confident. But, these things are just pretend.
I still feel like the underdog in many ways. I’m the youngest staff member at my job. Also the least experienced. I’m not great at logic and reasoning, and my ideas often fall short in intellectual conversation with the “real” intellectual adults. I seek excellence in meticulous ways for some things in life, but not as meticulous as others in other areas of life. I have no idea how to parallel park or navigate in my own city and have no chance in a new city. I get tired easily and seem to always be sleepy. I can’t handle too much social interaction, and quickly get fatigued spending extended amounts of time around other people (even the people I love!)
All of these things point to my weaknesses. Things that I fall short in. And, to be honest, it’s so easy to stay in this place of zooming in on all of the things that I can’t do, and that everyone else in the world can seemingly do better.
This is why being the underdog is important to me.
We must remember our weaknesses because they point to a need for value and worth found beyond what we can or cannot do. We must remember our weaknesses to stay humble, but we can’t stay in that place and dig into self-loathing or demoralization. We must take our feelings of being an underdog as the parts of us that make us empathetic, equal humans to the world around us.
And, this is why when I see the underdog in different contexts, I love them with a love I can’t explain. Part of it is because I see myself in them. Part of it is because…aren’t we all the underdog? We all have weaknesses and we all are incapable and unable to meet the demands of perfection that we expect from ourselves and that society ever so presently pressures us to believe that we need.
I see the underdog in my students who are strikingly smart but socially invisible. I see the underdog in the children running independently down the streets after school, probably going home to an empty house. I see the underdog in the untold stories of the physically and mentally disabled. I see the underdog in the seemingly perfect, powerful, and wealthy CEO of some important company, because when you pour your life into money, other things in your life have to give and often times it happens to a family that becomes broken by the chains of corporate greed.
I see the underdog in each of us, because I know that we all feel unworthy, inadequate, and meaningless at many points in our lives.
And, the underdog in each of us needs to stop and say “This image of perfection is pretend,” and we are all human.