I’ve been wondering about successful people who like to call themselves underdogs. Is this some sort of psychological trick they pull on themselves to encourage further success or do they lay claim to being underdogs as public relations fiction?
In my opinion, I don’t think billionaires can legitimately claim to be underdogs. Perhaps they were underdogs in the past as in a rags to riches career journey. After they’re CEOs, they’re not underdogs, they’re overlords.
I understand the idea of underdogs in sports. The less glamorous challenger attempts to defeat the high and mighty champion. Broadcast play-by-play announcers are in love with the underdogs metaphor. This gives them something to talk about during lulls in the action or time-outs.
When we think about someone being an underdog, she or he is some sort of unpretentious, middling type of person. The underdog is not the best, nor the worst. The underdog is a lower ranked person struggling to become the best. Rocky Balboa is a legendary underdog. Carlos Baldomir also comes to mind. We are familiar with fairytale underdogs like Cinderella. The neglected and abused little sister who wins the heart of the prince.
I think it’s wise to be honest about how we understand our positions in society. Am I the top dog or am I somewhere in the middle ranks. The top dog aims to preserve her status while the underdog aims to move up in rank. Knowing the differences is helpful when planning strategies. Top dogs have advantages and access to opportunities that underdogs don’t have. The king of the hill has a more auspicious viewpoint. The wise top dog acts from positions of strength and dominance. The unwise top dog struts about with arrogance and boastfulness.
Meantime, an underdog who is struggling to improve, has a different viewpoint and might be open to using unorthodox methods to challenge the top dog. Underdogs can approach the challenge in ways that otherwise seem unthinkable. An underdog can surprise the status quo in ways the top dog cannot. The successful underdog knows that it is unwise to show his cards too early in the game.
There is also the matter of when an underdog begins a fight but the top dog wins. The observers may root for the champion because the underdog’s challenge is too cocky or disrespectful. The underdog is put back in his place, because the top dog is the player who honestly deserves to win. Also, while most of us love the underdog, the champion’s fans are ecstatic about the win.
Yet there is still the commonality of people liking the underdogs and many people who self-identify as underdogs. Regardless of success, there are people who believe that they are lower echelon players. Perhaps they have some sort of persecution complex. The most insidious form of persecution complex is that of the dominant group claiming to be oppressed by underdog or minority submissive groups. We might witness such a scenario and see through the faux-underdog’s dishonesty. To be in a position of authority or other privileged position disqualifies one for underdog status. The underprivileged and struggling group is the underdog.
There is also the danger of always identifying as an underdog. Such an attitude has the chance of fostering resentment. This is probably most true for people who take pride in being the underdog. Being attached to being the underdog can mean being attached to that chip on your shoulder.
There is still the public love of the underdogs. They get behind the underdog and turn him into the hero. Then they hate the hero and find another underdog to challenge him. That underdog takes on the hero and wins, then the former hero becomes the underdog again. This happens frequently in sports, but if we look at life in general, this phenomenon happens in the real world, too.
Personally, I prefer not to identify as the top dog nor the underdog. Being myself as a contender in the game of life suits me well.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes children’s book writer and librarian, Laura Amy Schlitz. “Folklore has a moral center to it. Folklore is always, always, always on the side of the underdog, and children have a natural instinct towards justice. They feel indignation at needless cruelty and wistfulness about acts of mercy and kindness.”