What I’m Learning About Life from American Idol

I love the inspirational messages

My heart skipped a beat last night when Katy Perry said to Wade Cota, “…we may have found you, but tonight you found you.” Chills. Serious Chills.

This moment happened in the final minute of the two-hour broadcast, but I was in awe from the top. As contestant after contestant took the stage, all I kept thinking was, “They are fearless in their pursuit of their dream.” These young Americans from all parts of the country have music in their souls and they want to share their gifts with the world. They are not afraid to perform in front of millions and risk making a mistake – choosing the wrong song, not hitting a note, not engaging with the audience – en route to becoming the next American Idol.

What makes it even more awe-inspiring for me is that they are all so young. Two contestants are just 16 years old! 16! And one of those teenagers, Alyssa Raghu, came back to audition this year after being eliminated from the competition last year. That’s a lot of confidence, resilience and determination in one young woman.

Sure, there are a few contestants in their mid-to-late 20s, but since I’m going to be 53 this year, I’m considering them young. And admire them so much because in my mid-to-late 20s I was focused on living up to other people’s expectations, trying so hard to be perfect. On the outside I feigned confidence, on the inside I was petrified of making mistakes.

Perfectionism got the best of me

My need to be perfect goes back a long way. I hesitated raising my hand in class for fear I would ask a stupid question or give the wrong answer. As a professional, I worried about speaking up in meetings because I didn’t want to propose an idea no one liked (even if I believed the idea was a good one). Before getting married at the age of 35 (two months shy of 36), I believed I wasn’t pretty enough or skinny enough (translation: not perfect) to find someone to love me.

I really can’t fathom being as young as these contestants are and have the indomitable spirit they possess, to not only go in front of superstars like Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, but also millions on television and social media, in pursuit of a dream. And while so much of the program is about music, being the next American Idol is about so much more.

It is about being you – finding out who you are deep down in your soul and sharing that with the world, just as Wade Cota did last night.

Of course, this revelation is not just for American Idol contestants. It is something I am taking to heart, because even in my early 50s, I appreciate reminders to be strong on my journey to be me, at my best. Beyond that, it is essential to remember that it doesn’t matter what anyone else says (or thinks). I need to do what’s in my heart, and be unapologetically me, each and every day.

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