So, after a particularly down day at the studio, I decided to bail on group and party and came home to wallow in my failure. As I was driving home, there were storm clouds brewing to the north but it was bright and sunny where I was. Something about that resonated with me. The universe is always sending you messages – you just have to be aware of them.
It felt like the sky was the two sides of my personality. I’ve developed a much brighter outlook on life than I used to have and I try my best to be the optimist because it just feels better. The sunny side. But there are times when I allow my fears and my doubts to build up to huge storm clouds and I become as dark and unforgiving as the approaching storm. I’ve called it the dark side before and the pull is strong.
And, if you’ve read this for any length of time, you know this is not a new thing and that every now and then, I talk about trying to keep the storms inside. Trying to find ways to stay in the sunny place. Trying not to let my doubts and perfectionism get the best. But I seem to have to get all the way into the storm before I realize what I’m doing. I talk to myself like you wouldn’t talk about your worst enemy. It is self-destructive but addictive at the same time.
So I was hunting around on the internet. OK, I’ll just fess up to searching “why am I so hard on myself”. One of the links was a site with one of the little quizzes that are so popular. This one was “are you too hard on yourself”. Here’s what I got.
You are quick to assume blame — a bit too quick. You blame yourself too much, too often. You feel guilty about things in advance of doing them and indebted to people before they have even helped you out. As Rousseau said, ‘shame is the knowledge that we have done wrong’. You know how easy it is to hurt others. In fact, if others notice how sensitive you are, it leaves you open to being manipulated. You are obsessed with atonement, forgiveness and making amends. You have a tendency to overanalyse things and torment yourself, asking why you did this, or didn’t do that, etc. Where you’re concerned, guilt (pain caused by something we have done) transforms itself too often into shame (pain caused by who we are). This is why you have a tendency to do yourself down and have low self-esteem. You don’t see yourself as making mistakes, but as having serious faults. There are, however, certain benefits to this way of acting: people warm to you because you are always ready to help them out. And you are one of those indispensable people who makes the wheels go round. But your sense of moral propriety, although essential for society to function, is quite extreme and it causes as many difficulties for you as it does for other people. Why torture yourself unnecessarily? You’re not helping them by getting stressed about things. If you are going to move forward, you need to realise that although guilt can be a useful catalyst for change, you shouldn’t punish yourself or let it get you down. Instead of worrying, think about why you feel the way you do, without beating yourself up. Don’t ask, ‘What am I guilty of?’ but ‘What can I do to put things right?’ or ‘How could I prevent this happening if I found myself in this situation again?’. Rather than focusing on judgements, focus on finding solutions.
Guess we can take that as a “yes”.
A couple of days ago, The Girl with the Tree Tattoo posted this. I read it again tonight. Our issues are not the same but the struggle is similar. It makes me wonder why certain people are so loaded with self-confidence that it turns into arrogance and they can’t ever admit or believe they’ve done something wrong. And some of us seem to get almost no self-confidence and we go through these periods of questioning everything we do and magnifying every mistake as not a mistake but a sign of failure. Seems like we could used a little more even distribution, don’t you think. Could you do a self-confidence transfer?
So let my flash briefly back to the end of the lesson. We had the floor to ourselves and were working on the Two-Step and she had added some new material that night. I had been struggling with both that and the Argentine Tango all night and I was seriously beating myself up for not getting them. The gap between the dancer I wanted to be and the dancer I felt I was was the Grand Canyon.
Well, the studio is starting to fill with people who are coming to group class and there is a couple that I’m friends with. The guy screams out “looking good” while we are in the middle and then he’s jumping up at the end to tell me that we did great. I can tell you that it didn’t feel great. I was focusing on my botched transitions and other mistakes. Then, he asks me how long it took to finish that routine and I sort of mumbled something and he took it to be 3 months but Kid T jumps in and says we’ve only been working on it for a month.
Alright, so let’s pivot to glass half full territory here. Even with some familiarity with the steps, getting a new routine down in a month and dancing it to music (including parts I just learned that night) and getting through it is pretty darn good. Yes, it will continue to get better and we will smooth out the rough spots and we will take it to the next Showcase and it will be great. I CAN DO THIS!
Now, why is that so hard? The Girl’s last paragraph really spoke to me as well. So I’m copying it right here.
I’m also giving up on the expectation that I’ll get this right the first time. It isn’t the first time that I’ve intended to make a huge mindset switch and fell back into old habits. Just like in my dancing, each attempt will make the next one a little more successful.
Its a learning process like everything else. You have to retrain yourself to reframe things as positives. You have to be able to recognize when you are starting to spiral and course correct. It is a skill and it takes time to master. It may take several attempts and there will be set backs along the way. But, as they say, every journey starts with a single step. And, each attempt may make the next one easier.
Oh, and here was the Girl’s closing line.
What about you? Anything you need to give up?
Yep, but it was too much to put in a reply so I did this post.
And, given the title of the post, you had to know this was coming.