Tuck your butt under, lift your chin, put your shoulders down, relax your face and be graceful are just a few thoughts going through a dancer’s mind at anytime. When we aren’t performing, we are thinking about the last piece we just finished and how it can be better next time or what we did wrong that needs to be corrected. This mentality is extremely hard to turn off. The critic that lives in every dancer’s mind that propels us to be greater, try harder and do better is sometimes the same little voice that tells us we are too fat, too old, or not talented enough.
I’ve been dancing since I was two years old and because of my extensive training, critiquing myself in all facets of my life is second nature. As I have learned more about why I think and act this way I have started on a mission to learn how to turn off the perfectionist inside and learn to live in the moment, accepting myself and everything in that moment without judgement. This is by far, the hardest thing I have ever done. Sometimes I laugh because I catch myself, criticizing myself for not accepting the moment as well as I should have and the whole method falls apart.
After my parents split up, I decided I should see a therapist because my thought life was causing me emotional disturbance and distress that was keeping me from sleeping. I was lucky enough to see a therapist through my university for free and I learned a few things that really helped me let go of the reoccurring thoughts I was having a hard time letting go of. The most interesting thing I learned in counseling was how to distance myself from those thoughts and how to be visualize them in order to release them. Now, when I find myself having what my therapist called, “sticky thoughts” I resort to this technique. The first thing you must do is imagine yourself sitting by a small brook, leaning up against a large maple tree right next to the flowing water. Imagine the tree has beautiful golden brown leaves that slowly fall, one by one and drift into the river below. As a leaf hits the water, you image a single thought you’ve had on that leaf. Then visualize the leaf falling into the water and watching that leaf slowly float away down the stream until it is out of sight. This process is repeated until you can let go of those thoughts, and for me, I used it as a technique to quiet my mind and fall asleep.
Now you are reading this, feeling one of two ways: the first, identifying the same tendencies in yourself and appreciating my honesty, or the second, finding this mindset totally foreign and scary that I experience such a thought life. I wanted to write about my struggle with perfectionism and sticky thoughts because I find that sharing my experience is not only helpful to my own journey but maybe I could reach one other person who has had the same struggle. I hope that you found this blog helpful in accepting yourself and that my technique to distance yourself from your thoughts was useful.
Please feel free to comment & share below if it suits you and thanks for listening.