There's this thing called the Underdog Effect. It's all this psychology around why we have a cultural fondness for underdogs. It points to the recognition of our own struggles within another person. To the perceived vulnerability of other people and our ability to emotionally connect to it. I totally get it! I have been cheering on the underdogs for my entire life, tears in my eyes as they put their all into their work - sometimes crossing the finish line, sometimes not.
But here's the thing. We're all actually underdogs - at various points in our lives and for various reasons. And while cheering on an underdog might give us certain psychological benefits, I think the far more important question is this:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN EVERYDAY UNDERDOG?
As a woman, I have been underestimated in various ways my whole life. Seen as this cute, kind, approachable girl. In business, that has meant that people think I'm not smart. That I'm weak, incapable or ineffective.
I was a PR girl for a long time, which meant that I caught all kinds of judgements from people on what I do and their perceived unimportance of it. And while I had many hard days in PR, one of the worst was when a female boss gave a promotion to a new, male colleague of mine. I was really upset by this - I had been working hard for years with stellar results and she gave the promotion to a new, random guy with no track record of success and no client relationships.
I REMEMBER SITTING IN HER OFFICE, DIGGING MY NAILS INTO MY PALMS SO THAT THE PAIN WOULD KEEP ME FROM CRYING IN FRONT OF HER.
With a cold, dismissive and obviously annoyed tone, she told me that it didn't matter what kind of results I got, or the fact that my clients adored me. She said the only thing that mattered was what she thought of me. With my palms bleeding at this point, I nodded my head and left.
A year later, after she stepped down from her leadership role to be a stay-at-home mom, I was ranked the #2 young PR professional in the nation by PR WEEK magazine. It took a little time, but I learned that her opinion of me didn't matter at all. In fact, she has had no impact on my life beyond teaching me this very valuable lesson:
OTHER PEOPLE DO NOT DICTATE YOUR VALUE OR IMPACT.
Photo Credit: Diao Darius
Since then, I've worked to reclaim my underdog status. I like flying under their radar because they underestimate me. While other people are busy in their own silo, judging other people and using the need for power as an excuse to hurt others, I'm free to change the world without them noticing. I can go about my work without their attention.
I CHOOSE TO SEE MY UNDERDOG STATUS AS A SUPERPOWER
There's magic in being an everyday underdog. Our under-the-radar accomplishments are worth celebrating. You are worth celebrating. And don't let any anyone tell you otherwise.