Have you ever wondered what makes someone cool? If you haven’t, you’ve either always been cool (not likely) or you’re a knob (said with love) because I don’t know what child/teen hasn’t wondered about this (or maybe that’s a sign none of the kids I hung out with growing up were cool; again, said with love… and expected because if they’re hanging out with me they couldn’t have been that cool). Now that I’m old, being cool isn’t much of a concern (I have more important things to worry about like heart attacks; being old is great), but when I was growing up that was a big thing I was worried about. I remember this scene from The Simpsons demonstrating my confusion really well https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX4u4J6m5Pg. It’s funny, now that I’m old and don’t care about being cool, I now think I have a better understanding of what cool means… or as it’s been called over the years: righteous, narly, tight, sick, dope, epic, Chad. That last word is my favourite synonym for cool… although I’m not sure it ever really caught on that well.
Working with young people for over twenty years (I said I was old) I have found there are three categories of cool, one of which isn’t so much cool as it is the illusion of cool.
- The Oblivious
- The Judger
- The Confident
As the name of the first category suggests, The Oblivious cool person has no idea they’re seen as cool because they’re insecure. This category can include people who spend hours getting good at something like magic tricks or homework. These skills can impress others, but the insecurity that drove the person to be so good sticks around to prevent them from realizing how cool they actually look to others. This category also includes how younger people can automatically assume the older person is cool because of their age and assumed experience. This is how a lot of not-so-cool guys end up getting very attractive younger girls to like them. If you’re a young guy and can’t get a girl your own age, try younger. I did that… or had to do that. When I was 21 I started dating an 18 year old who assumed I was cool because I was older. She couldn’t have been more wrong, but the illusion lasted long enough for her to be attached to me. On the plus side for her, being with an older guy helped her feel cooler too, so we both won… until she left me five years later. My suspicion is my wife paid off my ex-girlfriend to dump me, but I could be wrong.
The second category, The Judger, this is the person who is “too cool” to do anything. They’re constantly negative and putting everything down. Because they’re so rude, people will assume they’re confident and treat them like they’re cool. They are, in fact, a drain to those around them and should be seen as a downer rather than cool. This negative attitude, however, can be particularly tricky for kids to see past because of their fear of being judged. All they see is this person making fun of everything so they tip toe around the snob and try to earn their approval like it’s something special. Being judgemental may trick some people into thinking you’re cool for awhile, but in the long run, you miss out on doing fun things and enjoying life because you’re too scared and closed off from trying anything.
The Confident person is the healthiest category of cool. A truly cool person looks confident and is open to life. They’ll laugh at their own mistakes, goof around when it’s appropriate, and be respectful to those around them. When I was 18 I was asked to volunteer in a grade six class and it changed my life because for the first time I was able to look cool. The age factor helped, but even more was being put in a leadership role because it helped me step up and act the way I should: unafraid to say hi, quick to compliment, and always ready to share a laugh. Being in that class, my best self came out, which helped me look cool to the kids; this, in turn, helped me further act cool. Helping in a class became an addiction because it gave me value and confidence. In the long run, it helped me be less shy with people my own age, which had been a major hindrance to my emotional development.
The good news about this category is we can all be cool. We just need to act confident and act like we believe in ourselves. By acting we will hopefully soon start to believe it, which follows the fake it until you make it idea or as in Christianity we’re told to “clothe” ourselves in things like “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Col 3:12) Act confident and you might soon feel confident.
My wife was a combination of The Oblivious and The Confident. She was so insecure she never really grasped how hot and cool she was, but part of her was aware that guys were watching and girls would be jealous of her. Because of this, she became the queen of welcoming people. She was and still is brilliant at hugging everyone around her and making them feel welcomed. She was a tremendous blessing to the youth group I ran as no matter your age or gender, getting a hug from an enthusiastic, warm, and beautiful woman made you feel good. When she hugged people at church and youth group, the guys (including the seniors) had a happiness cross their face; it wasn’t sexual as much as it was seeing someone look like they felt respected. For that brief moment they felt good enough, which is a big deal for men. When my wife hugged girls younger than her or new to the group, they looked like they felt accepted. Her hugs are powerful and that’s largely because she’s cool.
This topic is important because as I noted with my wife, cool people need to embrace their power and use it to help those around them feel acceptance and self worth. I will actually go so far as to say cool people have a responsibility to help those around them. And if you’re not cool (like I was… and am), you now know how you can grow in coolness: act confident. After all, if you accept yourself, others are more likely to accept you as well. If they don’t accept you, it’s okay because you’re cool, so it don’t need their acceptance; that’s just a bonus.
This week may you start harnessing your inner coolness and use it to help others feel loved, which will, in turn, help you feel cooler.
Rev. ChadDavid, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people