Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024




Under the Radar

We all knew them in our school days: the girls who didn’t stand out in a crowd or call attention to themselves. The ones who preferred not to be in the limelight. Those who spent most of their waking hours under the radar.

In the Six-Day-War, Israel succeeded in surprising her sworn enemies and decimating most of Egypt’s air force on the ground by dint of one simple strategy: flying under the radar. Skimming barely above the surface of earth or sea, the Israeli planes were able to completely elude notice by those whom they didn’t want to notice them.

Some people live that way: unremarked and often overlooked.

Many don’t exactly choose this way of life. Rather, it seems to choose them. Insecure, judging themselves as somehow inferior to those around them, they feel unequal to the task of competing, or perhaps even successfully interacting, with those others. In high school, where a quick wit, an easy laugh and a confident manner smooth the way toward popularity and social acceptance, those who lack such assets are often relegated to the quieter, less demanding fringes.

The same thing may happen when, young and untested, a person enters the work force. In an environment where others are more experienced and more capable than you are, it feels safer to keep your head down until you get your bearings. To stay under the radar.

What a surprise, then, to see so many young shrinking violets blossom into poised and confident adults!  Encountering old schoolmates years later, you’d hardly recognize them as the ones who hovered at the outer edges of the teenaged society you once shared. Running into a former colleague whom you knew as an anxious beginner, you may be astounded by the change. The same young people who were once content to live in the shadows have finally grown into themselves.

That growth, however unexpected from your point of view, was not a sudden thing. It was slow and it was gradual, though no less beautiful for taking its time. What lies behind this seemingly magical transformation?

Actually, there’s no magic involved at all. It’s just life, and friendship, and surrounding yourself with people who like and accept you. Finding a social circle that validates who you are can go a long way toward boosting your self-confidence. Even more validating is finding a life partner who thinks the world of you. Being cherished by someone you respect and care for is the best antidote for feelings of insecurity or inferiority.

And if that’s true, how much more so is becoming a parent to little beings who view you as the center of their universe? If you felt unlovable when you were younger, never fear. The unconditional love that small children shower on their mothers acts as an enormous self-esteem enhancer. Maybe the best one in existence!

Personal relationships aside, some people find their voice in the workplace. Discovering some hitherto unsuspected talent and using it to accomplish great things can put the former fringe-lurker radiantly on the radar. Even a modest job far from the public eye can serve as ego-booster, giving the hitherto retiring individual the courage to speak up and to stand out.


Playing by the Rules

There’s another factor that comes into play as we grow out of adolescence and into the real world. High school life is subject to a set of rules that obviously cease to apply after graduation. The rules have to do with how one dresses and talks and jokes. It revolves around charisma and fashion and a sense of humor. The question of who you sit next to on the bus on a school trip, or your role in the school production, looms over-large. Those who learn the rules and know how to play the game are the winners. The others remain… under the radar.

Once you step out of those protected school doors, you leave that small, sheltered world for a much broader one in which anything can happen and usually does. You start experiencing the big things in life. Things like marriage and birth and failure and hope and grief and true connection. When that happens, qualities that you once thought all-important begin to shrink in perspective.

Other, more mature values creep in to replace the old system that once kept you hanging timidly about at the sidelines. You learn hard life lessons and build spiritual muscles. By virtue of your position, you find yourself thrust into the limelight as you build a new family or a new enterprise. You discover things you never knew before.

Like the fact that depth of commitment takes the prize over superficial popularity. And that character trumps charisma any day.


By Choice

We’ve talked about those who, through insecurity, shyness or timidity, find themselves tiptoeing under the radar of life. But not everyone is a victim of an inferiority complex. Some stay under the radar by choice.

Call them discreet or call them secretive: there are individuals who simply like to keep to themselves. They have no problem speaking up when necessary, or opening up when they want to. But their general approach to life is to keep their heads down and their business close to their vests. Staying under the radar is a way of life they embrace. It suits them and makes them feel comfortable and secure.

And why not? Discretion is definitely a virtue, and never more so than in our see-all and tell-all society. Those who crave the spotlight may decry a quiet existence away from the laser beam of other people’s notice. But if you stop and think about it, another name for such discretion might be tzniyus.

It’s a given in our modern-day world that to be seen is to be successful. But maybe we’re playing a little too much by other people’s rules. Maybe we can use a little correction in the way we define “success.”

In a day and age when far too many people spend far too much time frantically waving their arms to attract the world’s attention, a little bit of living under the radar actually sounds… rather refreshing!









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