Once More Into the Maelstrom

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I often wonder about people who seem to be fully confident in their talents and abilities. Is life easier for them without a vicious inner critic that surfaces from time to time to call everything you are doing into question? Do they even have an inner critic or have they just learned to block out the noise coming from it? In some ways, I don’t think it is all bad to have some level of self doubt because it can be a fire that pushes you from the inside just to prove that stupid inner critic wrong. But it is like walking a tight rope – one misstep and you plunge. If you’re lucky, you can hit the safety net and bounce back. If not ….

During my ballroom life, I’ve fallen off that tight rope more times than I can remember. I think that is in part because dance is so different from anything else I’ve ever done in my life. It isn’t supposed to be for me. It is the words of my Mom (who meant well) saying that she never thought I would be the child who ended up dancing. Years of programming defining what you are and what your aren’t leads to a whole bunch of doubt when you try to do what you aren’t.

It took me forever to get comfortable accepting compliments without first pointing out all the things I did wrong. I still struggle to watch myself on video because I tend to hyper focus on the bad and ignore the good. It still makes me uncomfortable to have other students go on about my dancing skills.

And the struggle to get back to where I was after the long layoff has given the inner critic time to speak up and the words have been hard to ignore. One of the best things about ballroom dance for me is just the feeling when you string a pattern together and it just fluidly moves from one step to the next to the next. Sometimes about two people working in tandem and creating something greater than either of them could on their own. Now, the things that came so easily just a few short months ago are locked somewhere inside and when I reach for them, they aren’t there.

Metaphor for my dance skills!

The good news is I can recognize some of the self defeating behavior. The bad news is I couldn’t really stop it last night. The doubt creeps in and then I start questioning everything and the worst part is not wanting to move forward because I’m sure I can’t do what they want.

Except that, of course, I could do what they wanted. I could see vague glimpses of the steps we were doing last night but after a try or two, some part of me remembered what I was supposed to do.

The other bit of good news is I managed to find my voice on the lesson and PJ and I had a nice talk afterwards to put together a more coherent plan with goals and timelines laid out. At the beginning of the lesson, it felt like I was never going to get back to where I was. Now, with some time to think, it certainly seems possible.

I got reminded of the Tango routine and the Rumba routine that we tossed together in a short period of time that included new choreography. Logically, if I’m capable of learning that, then relearning some of the older stuff I already know is not going to be a problem. As long as I don’t let the inner critic take control.

Funny thing was PJ said something about how the other students view me. Maybe from the outside I look exactly like that guy who is fully confident in their talents and abilities. They don’t see the storm clouds raging inside my head. If only they knew….

I’d say so!

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