You know that Type A personality we pride ourselves on being as dancers? Well, it gets in the way sometimes. Sure, it serves a purpose to keep us motivated to achieve goals. But, it also can be a thing we use to beat ourselves up with. Perhaps worst of all, it can be the very thing that keeps us from reaching our goals.
I recently had a client tell me, "You don’t seem Type A at all. You seem really chill.” Truth is, I am EXTREMELY Type A. I’ve just learned to manage it (or, am in the process of learning to manage it!) through the years to stop needlessly bludgeoning myself with it. I use the positive aspects of it to make it work for me, instead of subjecting myself to it.
However much you value the ability to crush it and slay in life with your hardcore drive to be better, do more, win big, there’s a point at which this Type A personality becomes destructive versus productive. The key to managing this is recognizing where that line is and then using your mental tools to tone down the strict, anxiety-producing, always-demanding mental demons that run that Type A program in your head.
Let me give you an example:
Sometimes when I am really pushing things forward, over-committing myself, setting too many expectations and goals for my professional life, I end up getting really burned out, grumpy, and bratty. I stop feeling like I want to give my gift to the world…and start feeling forced to. The quality of my work drops and so does my self-esteem. That’s when the demons really get nasty, putting on even more pressure to accomplish things and be better. If I keep running this Type A program, pushing myself to drive harder no matter what, I eventually crash and burn one way or another.
I used to see this as a character flaw, a sign of weakness that I couldn’t hold myself together and manage my emotions. But, now I see this as a sign, as another data point in this life-long experiment with my body and mind. It’s a sign that I’m exhausted and proof that I’m not nourishing myself properly. And, this is not necessarily nourishment on a physical level concerning food and nutrients, but on an emotional level. What I need is not more accomplishments to make me feel good enough…it’s nourishment through pleasure and enjoyment to show myself that I’m already good enough.
While my demons scream even louder to keep pushing, I thank them for trying to motivate me but recognize that this hard-driving effort is not what I need right now. I will be much more productive if I give my body and mind a break to engage in activities that bring me pleasure.
We often don’t think of pleasure as being something we need. Apparently, for some of us, needing pleasure as a means to be happy and fulfilled in life isn’t a strong enough motivator to make us seek it. So, you have to reframe it in your head. Think of pleasure as something necessary for you to improve as an artist. Just as you need the right nutritional nourishment to keep your body performing at its peak state, you need emotional nourishment to refill your pleasure receptors and keep you primed to give your all in your art. Especially for us artists, pleasure is absolutely essential to bring inspiration and fuel our artistry.
It can be hard to justify taking a break when you are struggling to get ahead in your goals. But, these breaks will allow you to get further and make a bigger impact in the long-run. Think about it - you can’t give your all when you are depleted and drained…there will be nothing to give. Being good to yourself, stopping to take a break from the usual grind, and enjoying feel-good activities or foods are not signs of weakness. These types of self-care actions are necessary indulgences. So, when your demons try to make you feel guilty for “slacking off,” simply remind them your hardcore mindset is not what you need right now to be productive. You need pleasure.
I know you are working so hard to get to your peak performance state, but sometimes your peak performance state requires pleasure - not more discipline, tasks, and drills. Make a list of all the things you find pleasurable, the things that really fill you up and make you excited to give back to the world (some of mine are below). Then, the next time you recognize those Type A demons doing more harm than good, you have a plan of action to set you on a new course for nourishment through pleasure.
Nourishment Through Pleasure:
Read a book (for fun, not education!)
Watch a movie
Bake cookies...and then eat them!
Put on music and dance around like a maniac
Build a jigsaw puzzle
Cook a new healthy recipe
Take a bath
Give yourself a pedicure
Get a massage
Walk in nature
What would you add to this list?