for a large majority of my life, i was a dancer. you know that cheesy quote you see everywhere that says “eat, sleep, breathe, dance”? that was me. like, 24/7. that was my life. i was obsessed and i loved it and it made me feel alive and fulfilled and everything else. for many years, i felt most at home on a big old stage, dancing my heart out in front of an audience and most comfortable alone in a dark studio late at night, improv-ing to everything from radiohead to mozart. i spent hours and hours and hours in the dance studio, from the time i was a little girl until moments before i graduated from the juilliard school with my bachelor of fine arts degree in dance. dancing was my life. i truly would only eat, sleep, breathe, and dance.
it was also incredibly brutal. a dance studio with mirrors on every wall, repeating steps and choreography countless times in a row striving towards perfecting it, combined with the unfortunate reality that some teachers vocalize critique in rather hurtful ways doesn’t necessarily do much for your confidence at times. and so sometimes, when i wasn’t feeling my strongest, there would be these voices within my own head that would show up. they weren’t kind. they weren’t encouraging. and they have taken years to quiet, even after i’ve moved on from my time inside a dance studio.
while often times others might be the ones to first plant voices of doubt in our heads saying we aren’t good enough, smart enough, thin enough, we’re too sensitive, not sensitive enough, i mean the list is never ending…, why do we allow them any space in our valuable real estate of a mind to linger? constructive criticism is one thing, but inside and outside of the dance studio in my life, i’ve had my share of hurtful comments thrown my way that i’ve given much more thought to than i ever should have.
josh shared a story with me the other day about elephants. how when baby elephants are captured, the capturer uses a simple small rope. as the elephant grows and becomes an adult, the capturer never switches out the rope for something stronger, even though the elephant is fully capable of breaking through that small rope now without any problem and becoming free. there is no need to change the rope out because the elephant believes he cannot break it, and so he never tries.
i hate admitting it, but there have been things said to me in my upbringing and years in the studio that i have believed to be true about myself, because someone with more power at the time over me said them. and so i took them to heart. and i let them fester inside of me. sometimes, for years. and unfortunately, those comments paved a path in my own mind for my own thoughts along similar lines to start being believed by me. and while sticking up for yourself takes guts, sticking up for yourself from yourself sometimes takes more guts.
while i loved how i felt being on a stage dancing my heart out, it has been more gratifying at times over the last decade, to look in the mirror at myself and love the woman i see, rather than pick her apart. being hard on yourself comes with being human. but being kind to yourself comes with a lot of self-care and self-love.
it’s worth it.
now that i am a mother, i want to make sure my sons and daughters know and trust their self-worth from an early age. i can’t shelter them from the comments of others, but hopefully if they know how to love themselves, their inner dialogue about themselves will always be a little more kind and forgiving. one of the best ways i can do that is to show them that i love my own self. my flaws, my changing body from child birth and aging. my growth as a woman, a wife, a mama, a friend. love yourself and yourself will love you back. i just wish i could have told that to my twelve-year-old self, my sixteen-year-old self. even my twenty-one-year-old self. it’s okay though, because i’m telling it to my thirty-two-year-old self. and while quieting that inner voice of negativity surely won’t always be smooth sailing in the years to come, i know i’m more than that voice, through practice i’ve learned how to soften that voice, and with time i’m confident that voice will be gone forever.
thank you to olay for sponsoring this blog post.