Do you rely on smoke & mirrors to feel "confident" in the studio and on the streets?

Or, are you the real deal...raw, vulnerable, authentic, exposed in your art?

You know the dancer I'm talking about. The one who struts into the studio with her nose up in the air, decked out in the latest fashionable gear. The one who is too cool to make eye contact with anyone. The one who is too busy studying herself in the mirror to engage in the room around her. The one who is too concerned about putting up her I'm-better-than-you front to appreciate the music, the artistry, or the dancing itself.

Out on the streets, she walks around with a permanent scowl on her face with the pretense of superiority. Her sick mindset plays the tune of: I'm so hardcore and disciplined. Look how much happiness I sacrifice for my art. I can endure extreme deprivation in order to dedicate myself to my ballet. Therefore, I must be a good dancer. It's almost as if smiling and having fun will cancel out all her hard work. She feeds on the self-denial. She gets off on being miserable. It's part of her self-made identity.

Working hard and being passionately dedicated to something is one thing. But, what she doesn't realize is that it's easy to sacrifice too much to the point where it actually detracts from her art. She sacrifices parts of herself that are essential to her art - joy, amusement, exhilaration, passion, love, and pleasure. When she stops living fully and denies these key experiences, her creative well dries up. And then, there is nothing left to put into her art.

I chuckle to myself now when I see this dancer...because I've been there. I used to put on this mask and exhibit these characteristics. I used to deny myself pleasures and exist in this tightly-wound, disciplined, obsessive lifestyle. I thought that's what it meant to be a dancer...to be a bunhead. I thought that's what it would take to get people to notice me. I thought that's what would make me feel "good enough."

But, that's just the game we think we have to play. It's what our mental demons trick us into thinking we must do in order to be worthy. In actuality, when you really stop to think about it...it's all just smoke and mirrors. You can still be dedicated to something without sacrificing your happiness for it. You have no idea how much life and artistic juice you are missing out on by holding yourself so tight and depriving yourself of so much pleasure.

We're not talking about throwing caution to the wind and abandoning any sense of control or discipline here. We are talking about a Bad Girl Ballerina who can enjoy these simple pleasures and use them to impact her art:

Giggle like a little girl

Indulge in decadent foods

Laugh at your mistakes

Explore something unknown

Joke around with friends

Fail at something fun

Smile at a stranger

Love without bounds

You don't need smoke and mirrors to define your art. Open yourself up to pleasure, vulnerability, passion, self-discovery, self-love. Let that fuel your art. That's where real art comes from...not the mask you feel you have to put on in order to be "good enough." Are you willing to take off your mask? Are you willing to let yourself be seen? Are you willing to let your passions come through your dancing? There's more to you than smoke and mirrors...I promise.

Photo credit: Pia Moore

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