Hey there, hope this week finds you well. Maybe we have all found a thin place, a new sense of self-worth, or perhaps we just thought a little bit more on what we each can do to change the world for the better. The past few weekends have been spent traveling and dancing. Which is the absolute best way to live life in my book. Who doesn’t love to escape reality for a small stretch of time and be in the world of rhinestones, cheering crowds, loads of friends and dancing the night away. I can’t speak for everyone out there but I know that for most girls it’s the best thing ever! I love when I get to escape “the real world” and live my other life of being a dance instructor and traveling the world over. Last year alone I visited three new cities and revisited eight. It’s so easy in the dance world to feel beautiful and above what the ideals of world tells us beauty is. At other times, we all find ourselves doing the exact opposite. I know I find myself wishing I looked more like this person or that person and the feeling of never measuring up or for myself, or being beautiful enough, simmers beneath the surface.
I’ve danced my whole life. Well almost my whole life. From the age of three my mom knew she had created a monster when she dragged me to my first dance class. Dancing was a way to speak without speaking. I didn’t have to use my words to show what I was feeling. I didn’t have to work for dancing to make sense it just happened. The first few years of my dance journey were spent dancing ballet, followed by jazz, and finally tap. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a life full of dancing.
My favorite dance was ballet from the get go. How I loved trying to be as graceful as my instructor. I wanted to be just like her. So ethereal and light on her feet. The first day that I saw a pair of pointe shoes I knew I needed to dance like that. I dreamed of being the beautiful Clara in the Nutcracker one day. As hard work would have I earned my first pair of pointe shoes at the young age of eleven. I had done it! What a feeling of being on top of the world. My teacher had trained me so well I had no problems standing en pointe. I gracefully floated my way across the studio. I felt so beautiful
As time passed, I quickly came to the realization that I was not quite what the ballet world wanted in the ways of the oh so thin girls with long lean limbs. Not to mention the dreams of dancing a pade’ deaux with a handsome cavalier, became less and less of a reality and more so a distant dream. The feeling of being beautiful had somehow been lost and I was left with the feeling of not being like all the other girls in class. How I wished I looked like them. Why was it, that no matter how hard I tried and watched what I ate and exercised, I could never get my body to look like theirs. I was placed in the back of the line for all routines through junior high and the beginning of high school. Beauty was not so easily found. Society told me what I was supposed to find beautiful. What was beauty and how could I find it, all the while it seemed hidden.
I remember coming home one day after a grueling dance class so frustrated and hating what I looked like. My mom stopped me and said look. YOU cannot change the way your body is made but you can change how you view yourself, how they view what you do and how you do what only you can do. No one can make you work hard. No one can do what you do because they are not you. The girls in class may all look like super models and have perfect blond hair and blue eyes. You are beautiful with your brown eyes, a sweet smile that can light up a room and laughter that can turn anyone’s day around. I can’t make you see your own beauty though, you have to find that for yourself. My mom in the sweetest way possible had given me the moxie to prove them wrong. From that moment on I was out to prove a point. I didn’t need someone’s approval to be awesome. Yes, the gorgeous girls at that moment could jump higher than me. They could turn faster and better than me. They had more stamina and could dance for hours more than I could. But I was going to be true to myself. With time and a lot of extra hours spent practicing on my own, I began to see improvement in everything I did. It didn’t matter that I was in the back row. I could dance it bigger and better. I quickly turned one turn into three and then four turns. I worked to jump higher and better. I remembered all of the choreography that could and finally earned a spot in the front row. The realization that I didn’t have to be super skinny, or blond, blue eyed, and model material came to be. I somehow had managed to dig deep and found that my strength and perhaps a good bit of stubbornness could take me further than I could have ever imagined.
Through sheer determination, stubbornness and the want to be better than what the world told me I could ever be. I worked so hard to be the best dancer I could be. I slowly began to see that no I was not what all the other girls looked like. That no matter how much I starved myself or how much I wished I was taller leaner and prettier I was most happily me. Not skinny, not blond or tall. But I could turn and I could dance. The moment I landed a quadruple pirouette and no else did was a turning point for me. I could be just as good as everyone else. I could be the most technically sound dancer in the studio. I knew I could make it in the highly competitive world of dance.
Throughout high school I danced on a competition team. We practiced hours upon end trying our very best to be the best of the best. I remember my first competition and being so full of trepidation. I, yet again, was unlike all the other girls dancing on stage. I didn’t exactly fit the mold of being perfect. My leg didn’t kick nearly high enough, I couldn’t do flips and please no cartwheels for me. I still can’t do a cartwheel. The lights came on as we waited on stage to dance our piece. The music came on and we began to dance. I suddenly forgot that I wasn’t like everyone else. All I could feel was the music and the thrill of dancing. The feeling of showing all of the people in the audience just how much I loved to dance was exhilarating. My turn sequence began and I nailed it! The crowd cheered loudly. The music faded and the auditorium filled with applause. I had done what I had set out to prove. Maybe not quite for everyone else as I had thought at first was so necessary. But in four short minutes I had discovered that it wasn’t just about looks and being beautiful, there was a beauty that was beyond skin deep and that I could do anything if I truly wanted to. I didn’t need another person’s approval to be accepted and known as a good dancer. I was responsible for myself and I could dance as me and not like everyone else. I had found THE confidence that I had been searching for. People could only take it away if I allowed them the power to do so. A power had been found.
Beauty is only skin deep. The beauty that lasts forever is found deep within. No one really finds it for you. It is a road that is walked by many. I don’t really know of anyone who was absolutely flawless as they grew up. I know that I being like the majority of people in this world went through my awkward stage. I still have awkward moments. I remember watching one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever known look at herself in the mirror and find every tiny flaw that she could find. I was floored. How could someone so beautiful find so much wrong with herself. I realized that she was no different than me. No matter how much we each worked to become that worlds idea of beautiful was, we both continued to fail, or so we thought. The battle of the beauty and the beast raged on, one minute seeing beauty and the other only seeing what was so imperfect and beastly. But it was in the imperfection that I found true beauty. I discovered that only I was responsible for finding beauty in myself. Becoming comfortable in my own skin was an uncomfortable yet a more than worthwhile journey of becoming a better me. I found that not everyone would love me as a non-average dancer. I could however continue to dance with all the love and passion that I had in me. That was something that could be forgotten at times but never truly lost. I could love me for me along with all of my rolls, freckles, scars, and my non dancer type body. To truly be me on stage and off stage I learned to see my flaws as strengths and my difference as a cutting edge. There was only one me and that was what really mattered. I had my health and a love for dancing that was beyond my own understanding.
So here is to all the rolls, scars, stretch marks, imperfectly perfect teeth and freckles galore. You find true beauty in yourself and when you do, no one can take it away. The world can be so loud sometimes, it has so much pull to be more than we realize. We all forget that we are unique individuals and no amount of makeup, tans, or perfectly coiffed hair can make you value and love yourself. What you may find terrible, others will find absolutely breathtaking. What you wish you could change, someone else wishes they had. Love always, laugh often, treasure who you are and never give up the chance to lift someone up. They might need it more than you know. Words can do so much, be it positive or negative. Remember that only you can find beauty in yourself. Here’s to a great week of finding beauty in all of the little things. One moment can be all the change that one person needed that day to push forward and continue to live life in the way that only they, can do best!