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I Challenge You as an Artist...

We are afraid to tell our story; our true story complete with all the darkness and pain. No one wants to step out of line and share the struggle she feels day after day in trying to be "good enough." No one wants to break the rules; break from the norm.

And so we pull away. We disengage. We numb. We hide our SELVES. And, we pretend that these mental demons don't exist. We put on a mask and spend so much energy trying to be what we think the world wants us to be that we forget who we are and what really matters to us in life.

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But, my guess is that we all feel it. We are just afraid to talk about it. Afraid to talk about how little we feel. How stressful and demoralizing the struggle is to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be heard. How much we yearn to be recognized for our unique gifts. How we are stifled in our art because we feel constant pressure to live up to one narrow standard, one ideal ballet image. How worthless we feel if the teacher didn't notice us in class. How disgusted we get if we make one mistake in a performance. And how no matter what we do, we never feel good enough.

It's easier to stay quiet because that's what all the other good little Bunheads do. And so, none of these issues are ever dealt with. We just put our heads down and keep suffering in silence. We pretend these feelings don't exist. But just because no one talks about them doesn't mean they aren't real. In fact, by ignoring them, all this pain, all these negative emotions just become even bigger demons. And these demons can become so monstrous that they threaten to take over your life. They eat up your joy, your self-confidence, your passion, your happiness, and eventually your love for ballet itself. Ballet transforms from being an art, a creative expression for your a cold quest to prove your worthiness. Gone is all the artistry, the joy, the passion. All that remains is this incessant need to prove yourself in a game that you cannot win.

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And so, I challenge you to break the rules. Stop playing the game everyone else is playing. Shine a light on these demons. Start calling them out, noticing them for what they are. Talk about them. Journal about them. By bringing them out into the open, you can start to address them...and start to heal. You've been so strong and struggling alone far too long. But it's time to use all the resources possible to take your life back from these demons.

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We're not done there. I also challenge you to notice the unique art around you. The next performance you see or class you take, don't seek out the "best" dancers and just watch them. Notice the girl in the corner struggling to keep the tears from overflowing as she berates herself for messing up the combination. Find the unique gifts that she brings to the stage. Appreciate her art, her worthiness. Show her that you care just by noticing her.

And, the next time you find yourself battling it out with your demons, questioning your own worth as you list off all your flaws, wondering why you are even dancing when you can't possibly hope to compare to the likes of Sylvie Guillem, remember this: I see you. I see your uniqueness. I see your beauty. I see your creativity. I see your talents that only you can bring to this art. And I thank you for sharing your SELF with the world.

Show me I'm not the only one dealing with these demons. Email me. Leave your comments below. Let's start to squash these monsters.