Those of you who are regular readers of the Champion Performance Topic of the Week know that I like to provide tips, ideas and thought starters that show people how they can harness their potential and achieve greater success by owning the power of effective communication and productive conflict. You know I am passionate about helping anyone who has a desire for something more than everyday mediocrity.
But lately people have started to ask me why. “Doc Robyn, why do you care? Why does it matter to you?” This is a topic I touch on briefly when I give presentations but I realized I have never shared it here with you, my dedicated readers. I could write pages answering those questions. But I would like to share just one story with you instead:
I was not a popular kid in high school. It was small school and had a large Latino population. As a tall, skinny, blonde I stuck out like a sore thumb. Add to that – I was an A student, often blamed for “ruining the curve”, more often than not I was the only girl on the track team and my Dad was the not so well liked music and economics teacher. As a defense mechanism I could be brash and cocky. I always told the truth; but not always in the nicest way. I had no female friends and only the guys on the fringes of other social groups would hang out with me. I don’t remember being upset about it. I just figured that was how it was and I was plenty tough enough to deal with it.
In the spring of my junior year letters were sent out to all of the female juniors and seniors with a GPA of 3.5 or better inviting us to enter the town beauty pageant. The year before the response had been so poor they hadn’t even held the pageant so the girl passing on the crown had held it for two years. She was popular and well liked. I thought it sounded fun and that maybe it would let me connect with my peer group. Little did I know how wrong I was.
I and four other girls entered. We attended sessions on manners, how to walk (I still attribute my ability to walk in high heels to that pageant), and how to speak clearly. We were models in a spring show for a local clothing store, and spent an entire day involved in interviews with the judges. I practiced with the other girls to make sure the talent part of their show was perfect. We worked together on the dance routine we were doing as the show opener. I didn’t really feel like they were my friends, but I didn’t think they hated me either.
The big night finally arrived. We danced and smiled, wore evening gowns and smiled, did our talent and smiled and answered the judges’ questions and smiled. By the end of the night my face hurt from smiling. But when the announcement was made that I had won I was happy to smile through it.
I went to bed that night thinking about how nice it was going to be at school on Monday morning. I had had fun, learned some new things and was going to get to represent the town for the next year. I expected to be congratulated and for people to be happy. I was in for a big surprise.
I arrived on campus the same way I always did; with my Dad, my brother, a foster kid who was living in our home and a girl (who had also been in the pageant) who we gave a ride to school every day.
By the time lunch rolled around, not only had I not been congratulated, I had been asked how I rigged the judging so I could win, told that my father had pressured the judges to chose me, informed that I was only picked because the judges felt so bad for me because I made a fool of myself and that I had been involved with the judges sexually to get the nod. I was so hurt and embarrassed. Not only had my involvement in the pageant not helped my standing with my peers, it had made me the butt of many of their cruel jokes.
On Wednesday when the local paper came out, the pageant was front page news. There were several pictures of the event, the runner up and of me. Those pictures started showing up around school, taped to the walls and stuck in my locker with the word “slut” written on them and an arrow pointing to me.
I am not telling you this story because I want you to feel sorry for me. That is not at all the case. Instead I am trying to make a point. I wish I had even one of the effective communication or productive conflict skills I have now. Not because I think I could have changed how the other students behaved or that I could have explained to them how hurtful they were being.
I wish I would have had the ability to explain to a counselor, teacher or my parents how crushed I was. Sure, I rode in parades and smiled, represented the town at events and smiled, when my picture was unveiled in the town hall, I smiled. But inside, I was very hurt and sad.
There are other stories in my past of me being on the receiving end of other people’s hurtful comments. Sometimes they were brought on by my own actions and sometimes people where just mean. I know what it is like to try to fit in and feel hated. If the skills I teach help one person take their power and express their hurt or help one parent, teacher or coach hear that hurt and know how make someone feel heard – I have made a difference. And that my friends, is why I do what I do.
Doc Robyn’s Stop The Drama! campaign can be found at www.StopTheDramaNow.com
Can you relate to this story? Please tell me in the comments!
Did you miss last weeks topic about a skill everyone could have but only a few use it to stand out? Are you using it? Read about it here.
Next week: Does Your Life Have a Theme Song?