Dancers have great poker faces. We spend our lives training to make our difficult, demanding, often excruciating work look easy. We are encouraged to push our pain down and put on a happy face. We are taught to appear unaffected by our efforts and exertion. We are almost embarrassed to show that we are actually working hard. I often forget this when I am training my Bulletproof Ballerinas...until I see them almost collapse from the effort! They try so hard to hold their composure in the face of exhaustion that it can be difficult to tell when they are being challenged. All because we are so well practiced at trying to appear as the ethereal, dainty, lithe ballerina floating across the stage as if she just flew fresh out of fairyland.
But, I don’t need to tell you that what we do is f*cking HARD! And, we above all know that we can’t get anywhere in our art without hard work. Yet, much of our labor comes from attempting to cover up this hard work so that things appear effortless on the surface. True, this is a necessary part of our job…and part of what makes our art so magical to the rest of the world. But, what happens when this practice of putting up a façade bleeds over into normal everyday life? You risk denying yourself an essential part of your growth process, which can actually make your pain and struggle worse in the long run.
Of course, we all want things to glide along smoothly with no bumps or dips in the road. And, man does it feel amazing when you can cruise along this way…with everything in your life aligned in an effortless flow where you think, yes, I’ve finally figured things out! But inevitably, things (whether mental, emotional, or physical) will start to shift again and fall out of line, leaving you feeling out of control, inferior, less than. What happens then? You fight it. You assume something is wrong with you. You waste your energy longing to get back to that place where everything was “all right” and in order.
But, this is actually not what you want – you don’t want to go back “there.” No, you want to move forward. You want to recognize these difficult, challenging moments as growing pains. They are a part of the process of shedding your old skin and creating a better version of your self.
The key is to not resist the things that challenge you. I fall into this trap all the time. When I go through days, weeks, even months where health, time, money, self-esteem, relationships, creativity aren’t in their optimal state, I waste so much energy fighting it. I walk around with the constant feeling that there’s something wrong with me, which only adds to the distress and draws out the pain. But, these struggles are normal. Not only are they normal, but they are necessary. They are what make you stronger. As dancers, we are so brainwashed into thinking we are failing if we struggle. Not the case. You want the struggle. There's beauty in the grit.
That’s part of what is so beneficial about having a tool like the Bulletproof Ballerina workout. It gives you physical challenges to overcome that you can use as a framework to apply to the rest of your life. You learn that even though things are hard, if you push through the difficult stuff, it will make you stronger. It forces you to put aside all the other unimportant bullsh*t and just focus on the task at hand. It lets you practice getting comfortable with the struggle and trusting that you will make it through to the other side.
There's a freedom in letting yourself be raw and primal...in not worrying about being pretty or composed. There's strength and power in this pure survival mode...in finding out what you are made of. It's a purifying, empowering way of training that forces you to shed your masks and narrow your focus on just you, your body, and what you need in that moment.
Give yourself permission to embrace the struggle. To breathe hard. To grunt. To sweat. To admit you are tired! To squeeze out iron will. To wrestle with the grit. Just remember, whether it is the physical burn in your muscles or the emotional burn of a broken soul, there’s beauty in the grit. And, there’s a stronger you on the other side.