External vs. Internal Validation as a Dancer

A few weeks ago, I posted a video of myself dancing to “Animals” by Martin Garrix. I thought it was one of the best things I’ve posted in a while. It wasn’t perfect, but I felt really good about sharing it. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I should post it… until I actually posted it.

It received mixed reviews. Some people thought it was good, others hesitated to comment, saying I looked “scary” (which was the whole point). These comments got my overthinking gears turning: was it too much? Do people think I’m compensating for my lack of hip hop/urban dance skills with facial expressions? Am I compensating for my lack of hip hop/urban dance skills with facial expressions?

And the scariest question of all:

Am I a bad dancer?

I used to hold back for fear of not doing a move “right”. It made my movements look awkward, but I was too scared to show everyone the dancer I wanted to be. I wanted to be over-the-top and confident in my movements. I always stopped myself, making up some excuse like I’m not good enough, or that’s not how I should be dancing, etc. etc.

As I grew older, I realized I wouldn’t improve if I held back. My movements would continue to look awkward and forced. Maybe that’s why I tend to lip-sync or make faces when I dance—I truly pour my heart and soul into everything. Now, I question if I don’t hold back enough (ironic, right?). Especially because of the last routine I uploaded. It showed another side of my dancing: the acting side, the side that can be creepy, mean, etc. I finally feel like I'm becoming the dancer I've always wanted to be, but my inner satisfaction didn't match with other people's reactions. I took the comments personally.

At the end of the day, the only person I’m supposed to compare myself to is myself.

Not everyone is going to like the way I dance, and not everyone is going to like what I choreograph. That's okay! It's hard not to get caught up in other people's comments, especially as a dancer, but it's important not to dwell on them.

I’m not going to stop dancing because not everyone likes how I dance. That’s ridiculous. Instead, I’m going to work on my technique, learn new urban/hip hop moves, and stretch every night. I don’t know where dance will take me, but all I know is that I don’t want to stop. Even after a long day of lessons back-to-back, I still dance in my room like I have all the energy in the world. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Transitioning from an external validation mental model to an internal one has been challenging, but I think it's a much better way to live. Especially as a dancer, artist, etc.

Just some food for thought.



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©2020 by Sasha Sway.