It all started when…
I could say this all started when I pranced around ballet class for the first time at 6 years old, but let me tell you about what made things really start to click. I had been “living the dream”. FINALLY dancing in a professional company after spending a majority of my life striving for it. Striving to be good enough to earn the life I believed I needed to lead in order to be happy.
When a knee injury that had been weaving in and out of my life since the age of 14 could no longer be ignored, I found myself sitting in Swan Lake rehearsals, watching my beautiful, able-bodied peers dance the ballet that I was supposed to be dancing alongside them. (Who’s been there!? 🙋♀️)
As I sat on the sidelines, I watched one dancer I particularly admired dance so beautifully with an amount of power I literally could not imagine feeling in my pain-filled body. I was in awe of her - already in a lucid day dream about a time in the future when I would be able to fly through the air like that.
However, the moment that followed would change my life forever…
As she trotted off following her final grand jeté, she immediately exclaimed to herself, “Well that sucked.”
The thing is, we’ve all heard it or said it a million times... Heck, I’d even said that about my own performance more times than I’d like to admit! But that time was different.
I could not believe that someone so beautiful in my eyes could be so convinced that they represented the exact opposite.
In that moment, I heard this powerful voice in my head say, “There will always be something.” I immediately understood that no matter who you are, no matter what you achieve, or what kind of day you’re having, the temptation to get sucked up into a vortex of negative thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that lead your life down the same path will always be there!
So my question immediately became, “What can we do about this?”
During my time on the side lines, hardly able to walk, I suddenly became so filled with purpose. I saw myself not as weak, not as useless, but as a person blessed with the opportunity to observe the value, potential, and the unique gifts in others that they themselves were chronically unable to see.
I became obsessed with bringing to light the qualities I saw in my peers that REALLY mattered.
As I would share these observations, I would see these dancers who were once grappled with destructive thought patterns inflate with a sense of life and light that I had never seen in them before. They knew they were worth something that did not need to be proved by their performance. They knew that they could work hard because the love the practice, not because they hate themselves. They knew that they have the power to choose which voices in their heads get the mic and which don’t.
Suddenly, I became a magnet for the dancers who were tired of listening to the “I’m not good enough” or “maybe when I’m skinny enough I’ll be happy” messages playing on repeat in their head. I loved these conversations, though I would often chuckle to my injured self thinking, “Wait, aren’t I the one who needs the help here?”.
to when I made the bold decision to step away from dancing professionally, this experience I just shared with you had a lot to do with shaping the answer to the question,
“What do I do next?”.
You see, the frustrations I had (and very much still have) with the ballet world are what propel me to give every one of my working days to helping dancers who find their lives and wellbeing spinning out of control. I care about each one of you fellow dancers too much to watch you…
Absorb the message from your training that you will never be good enough or that working hard must be synonymous with self hatred.
Slide into a dependency on approval and accolades for your sense of satisfaction.
Work in pain and stress to the point of injury, and then feel completely worthless as you force your body to heal.
Stay in dance long after your passion has left because you have NO FREAKIN’ IDEA what else you’re good at or what other path in life can give you a feeling of purpose and belonging.
Use the most precious years of your career or training, hiding in the back behind your insecurities instead of enjoying every second.