As my partner so perfectly said “perfectionism is the birthplace of Shame”. I had never been able to put it so eloquently, or acknowledge it quite so frankly, but he was right.
Last night I went to a beginner dance class in a genre I’m not really familiar with. My body was feeling stiff and sore so I didn't want to push it too hard. Before I entered the class I told myself, “tonight is a self love night. Go and do the class for you, no pressure or expectations, just enjoy.” A simple task right?
Wrong. Fast forward one hour and I was more stressed than I was when I walked in. The whole was a huge battle. As soon as I started stretching the voice of shame made its appearance. And it was relentless.
“Why do you keep doing beginners classes?”
“Are you the oldest person in this class?”
“Wow, for someone with a lot of dance training you don’t make this look very good.”
“Be careful, your knee might pop out!”
The shaming voice was on fire, stronger than it had been in a long time. Then came the second voice, the voice of light and reason.
“Pull your energy back into your centre.’”
“Give yourself a break.”
“Enjoy the movement.”
“Come back to this moment”.
In the past I would not have even identified the first voice as a “shaming voice”, it would have just been my normal internal dialogue, and it would have been replicated in the outward dialogue of my teachers and fellow classmates. Self sabotage, guilt, shame, and blame were the tools I had been trained with my entire life. The idea was: Shame yourself into being better until you become better. On the outside it may look like this works. It may look like this approach has produced a huge number of freakishly talented dancers. But the truth is, if that is your approach, you never know if you are better, because with each time you dance, you actually feel worse! Your goal edges further and further away, and you become harder on yourself with each milestone that passes. The journey becomes thoroughly miserable, and the goal? Unattainable. Perfection is unattainable. Isn't it?
Well since my last blog on this topic I have come full circle. I now believe that perfection IS attainable. Why? Because I felt it today.
Today after teaching souldance to my seniors group, I came home and did a freestyle in my garden. The wind was HOT. I felt immediately sweaty. The ground was uneven and the air was sticky. I closed my eyes and set my intention to “dance the spiral”, which had been the theme of today's class. I wanted to feel spiral shapes in my body. I wanted to unlock any stuck energy lurking in the curves of my body, and I wanted to feel that flow. That PERFECT flow that can only arise when you love yourself. When you put aside all expectations, all ideas of what something should or shouldn't look or feel like. When you allow yourself to be fully present in your body. When you feel all the creaky sore bits and dance anyway, trusting that the energy of the dance will release the tension. I allowed myself to smile, to look up, to look out, to look in. I thought of everything and nothing and I had a perfect dance. It may not look technically perfect, or musically perfect, but to me it was as perfect as can be.
This process of blaming ourselves in the dance studio and in life is so common. I know it is not just me. I see it in the eyes of my students as they look to the floor, look to the side or laugh in embarrassment. I see it in the false facades of competence or arrogance. I see it all around me, and I see it in myself. When we dance from this place of shame we are no longer having an embodied experience, we are dancing with our minds.
Imagine for one moment if you left your mind at the door of the studio and you enter only with your body. You allowed yourself to be so wrapped up in the process of learning and expressing, you don’t even have time to think, “I can’t do it” or, “I look stupid” or, “everyone is better than me”. Imagine if you became the dance?
So often I feel myself holding myself back. Not only am I afraid to be bad. I am equally as afraid to be good. I do not want to draw attention, to be too much , to seem arrogant, to make others feel insecure. As is so common in life we are afraid of our own light and limitless potential.
Imagine how it would be to not only stop shaming ourselves but to let ourselves express our true selves, our authentic shining nature? And to truly let ourselves be seen, to witness our own beauty and to allow others to see it too?
This is a soul dance. The process of unlocking your own unique code, your soul language of the body, and allowing it to be danced through every cell of your being. This is the process of becoming, of embracing and accepting all that you are.
My wish for you is that the next time you dance, if only for a moment, you feel how truly perfect you are.
Souldance & Kizomba classes available in Sydney & via skype with Genevieve