One of my biggest pitfalls (and what my boyfriend continually gets frustrated with me about;) is falling into a negative, self-loathing state when I am in the process of working towards a goal I have set in place. My default “motivational” strategy (unfortunately, what I fall back on due to years of practice) is to beat myself down and tell myself “I’m not good enough.” My reasoning behind this strategy is that if I’m not happy with myself as I am…then I’ll be forced to change and become a better version of myself.
In reality, things play out a little differently, though. This type of negative mindset only serves to bring me further from my goals and who I really want to be. It drives the light out of me. It takes away my freedom and squashes my artistic expression. It deflates my self-confidence and never allows me to be satisfied with who I am. It keeps me in a constant state of anxiety, awaiting to become that idealized person I’ve dreamt up in my head. It bombards me with guilt for my mistakes and imperfections.
It takes me out of the moment, and in so doing, I lose my appreciation of and the opportunities in the moment itself. If you really think about it, the present moment is the only thing we actually have control over. We can’t do anything about our past. We can’t fix the future. We can only shape our lives in the moment we are living right now. So, by employing this negative mindset which places such emphasis on being worthless until you reach your goals, we are missing out on experiencing life in a very real way. We are deprived of all the opportunities to fill ourselves with the kind of positive energy that will actually play a key role in pushing us to our goals and becoming our best self.
This has important implications for our art, actually. Ballet is such a fleeting art; one in which we only have the present moment to express ourselves. We get one shot to touch the audience, one shot to open and connect, one shot to make an impact. When the music fades and the curtain closes, all that is left of our art is the lasting impression we made on the audience. There is no standing sculpture, no painting, no framed photograph (although, these days we may have a bit of captured evidence on Instagram and Facebook;) that will serve to help our art live on. We only have the actual moment we are performing to create our art. If we aren’t fully present in our bodies, we risk missing our opportunity to put our all into our art. If we are too worried about messing up that pirouette in the last sequence or nailing the difficult petit allegro at the end, we fail to fully immerse ourselves in the steps we are dancing right now. Half the ballet can go by without being aware of the gift you are giving and the gift you are getting by expressing your art.
So, how do we fix this situation of wanting to be better without hating who we are right now? How do we live fully in the moment while still being driven to create our best self?
First, it takes awareness to recognize that your negative mindset is really destructive to your ultimate goal of living a happy, fulfilling, productive life (I’m making an assumption that we all want this) as well as your specific goal. Then, make the simple distinction that this goal should be a source of empowerment. The fact that you already made the choice to be brave and push past your limits should fill you with a sense of worth and self-love. That act alone shows that you want more and that you care enough about yourself to get the most out of your life. Deep down you know you are capable of breaking through your self-imposed limits and deserve to challenge yourself and grow…so you can experience more, feel more, be more.
Then every moment you spend working towards this goal, with every lesson you learn, pain you feel, fear you encounter, instead of beating yourself up for not being “there” yet, tell yourself that you are growing. You’re not feeling the pain of a situation because you are a bad person or because you are not good enough. You’re feeling pain and discomfort because you are growing (remember growing pains as a kid?) and breaking out of your former, comfortable shell. It’s hard to stretch and push and improve. But just keeping the positive mindset that on the other side of the pain lies your transformation…a better version of your self…makes all the difference in staying present and loving who you are right now.
The fact that you want to challenge yourself to reach your full potential in this life means that somewhere deep inside you already know that you are worth it. Let that feeling fill you as you work towards your next level.
This is a small component of my Bad Girl Ballerina mindset. Sign up below to learn more and build an arsenal of positive mental tools to help you achieve your best self.
Have you ever struggled with emotions like this? Comment below or shoot me an email. I'd love to hear about your story.