The thing about dance is that you’re never “there.” You can ALWAYS improve, which is what keeps it interesting and keeps you in class and rehearsals for your whole life. Sometimes though, it can wreak serious havoc on your psyche, and keep you from ever moving forward.
I realized recently just how limiting my beliefs were about my abilities. I saw a post on Facebook looking for a female dancer between 4’ 10” and 5’ 5” to join some Italian Salsa dancer teaching in a school in Italy and touring the world on weekends to perform. My first thought, “Dream job.” My second thought, “There’s no way. I’m not good enough.”
I called up one of my good friends, a fellow dancer whose opinion I respect (he’s a former professional ballroom champ), to ask him if he thought I had a chance. This was the same friend who helped me prep an audition piece for “So You Think You Can Dance,” the same friend who has taken stunning dance photos of me for my portfolio, and the same friend who has spent hours of his time helping my dance partner and I improve our technique. Long story short—he’s a very good friend.
Of course, he said I should go for it.
“But, I don’t know. I just… I really don’t think I’m good enough. My technique isn’t good enough. I don’t have enough experience. I really don’t think I can teach like that.”
I had a litany of all the reasons why I wasn’t capable, why I wasn’t strong enough, why I wasn’t skilled enough, why I was not a good candidate for this gig; which then derailed into why I wasn’t good enough to be teaching certain styles here in Charleston and why I wasn’t good enough to even consider myself a professional dancer.
I couldn’t see him through the phone, but I imagined that his eyes were huge.
“Wow Georgia. I had no idea you thought that way.”
Yeah, most people don’t.
Even though all the objective evidence points to the fact that I have extensive training in multiple dance styles, have been teaching dance for almost six years, and have been paid multiple times to perform and choreograph, I still have this fear deep down that someone is going to call my bluff.
“You’re not really a professional dancer. You’re just playing at it.”
That is my biggest fear, the one that I rarely voice out loud, because I’m not always confident in myself as a dancer.
So, I sent in my audition materials to the guy in Italy. I never heard back, but taking that step was incredible for my self-confidence. I’ve been holding myself back—way back—regarding teaching classes and seeking out performance opportunities, because I really haven’t felt that good about myself. I realized I had to get my ego out of the way and approach my career from a different angle.
You know what? I can always improve. I am always improving. I’m not the same dancer I was a year ago, or two years ago. Maybe I’m not as bendy as I was when I was 16, but I have a greater emotional maturity that I can bring to my work.
I had to remind myself that (gasp!) it’s not all about me. By limiting myself, by not believing in myself and my abilities, I’m not able to be of service to the dance community, or even the community at large.
Holding myself back was keeping me from helping other people move forward.
If I wasn’t willing to get out of my comfort zone and start offering more classes and being more visible, then there could be dozens of people who never take the first step to start dancing. And that is a real tragedy.
Also… dance is supposed to be fun. It’s self-expression. Therapy. A creative outlet. Social hour. It’s everything good in this world and, stuck in my head as I was, I wasn’t enjoying it. I wasn’t having fun. Remembering how much FUN this whole life is has changed my perspective. I went out social dancing last weekend for the first time in about a month and I am still riding high from how much fun I had. I’m loving rehearsals that I’m in right now, loving choreographing new pieces for my upcoming Spirits and Salsa event, loving working on a couple’s first dance, loving blasting music in my living room and having a dance party with my roommate and her dog.
My challenge to you, dear reader, is if this story resonated with you, GO FOR whatever you’ve talked yourself out of. Whether it’s taking a dance class for the first time, sending in that manuscript for your novel, applying for a new job, cutting your hair in a different style…whatever it is—go for it! You got this.