One of my clients recently asked me:
"Do you ever feel like people are judging you in your ballet? You know, like they are sizing you up, criticizing your technique, frowning at how fat you look, sneering and whispering under their breath, 'What is she doing here, and who does she think she is?'"
"Only all the freakin’ time."
I used to be pretty much crippled by this on a daily basis. This fear of people judging me would spread to more than just my ballet. It often was difficult to leave my house and face the world, let alone perform in an art where I had to present myself on a stage in front of an audience. In fact, this is one of the main reasons I developed my Anti-Bunhead Fitness and Bulletproof Ballerina system, to find a way to manage this mindset that was keeping me in agony and strangling my art. I figured if I was struggling with these nasty voices in my head, there’s a good chance other dancers were too.
So, how do you block out these thoughts – the voices that make you feel ashamed to take class, like you don’t have a right to dance the role you were cast in, like you’re not good enough to be in the dance world?
You actually don’t block them out. That would be like trying to ignore a big purple elephant in the room. What you have to do is understand them and break them down so they no longer have control over you.
So, let’s manage those mental demons, shall we? Here’s the breakdown:
- First of all, you most likely aren’t the center of everyone’s attention. As a dancer, you are taught to be so critical and concerned about your every move…but, you aren’t that important (sorry not sorry!). No one else is on the edge of their seat waiting to see what you do next. No one else is looking for your screw-ups and flaws (or if they are, they have bigger issues to work through than you!). Everyone else is most likely focusing on themselves, worrying about what you are thinking of them. So, take a deep breath. The world doesn’t revolve around you, and that’s a good thing😉
- Second, if people are noticing you...it's most likely because they think you are a badass. They noticed something special you have that they want. So, they are observing you to figure out how you do your thang.
- Third, let’s analyze what these mental demons are actually trying to do – protect you. Believe it or not, these hurtful, critical fears running through your head are meant to keep you safe. Your demons sling these thoughts at you in hopes that you will shrink down, hide, dull your shine. The only way you can’t get hurt by other people is if they don’t see you in the first place. So, these thoughts are designed to keep you out of “dangerous” situations where you could be hurt. But, even though these demons aren’t intending to be malicious, they are absolutely detrimental to you as a dancer who makes a career off of being seen, making herself vulnerable, and opening her soul to the audience.
- Fourth, let's pretend for a moment that your worst-case scenario is true and you are being judged harshly by everyone in the room. Your initial reaction: EEEEEEEK….panic…shame…oh, the horror... But, then, upon deeper reflection: No, wait…actually… So what? What harm does that actually cause you? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. You are untouchable by their thoughts - it's your own thoughts that harm you. Even if everyone thinks you are the worst dancer in the world, that bears no weight on you. You still are in control of your life. You still have power over your body. You still will wake up in the morning and get a chance to try again. You still create your own story. Things actually aren’t that bad.
Don't give away your power to these strangers. Don’t let them determine what you have a right to do and what you don’t. Don’t limit your life because you are worried about being judged. The regret of neglecting to follow your dreams just because you were afraid of other people’s opinions will be a lot more painful than facing these fears now. You decide how you live your life. The choice is yours – hide in the darkness and stay “safe” or f*ck the haters and brave the wilderness.
Photo credit: Rachel Neville Photography