There is nothing worse than a selfish dancer.
This is what I know, this is what I’ve taught, this is what I still believe...but for the last seven months I’ve come to realize the true nature of this beasty thing we call “selfishness.” That’s right I’m admitting it…
I’ve been selfish as fuck.
Yup, I even gave it some space on the page for the uncomfortable more dramatic effect. You’re welcome. So this “selfish thing” comes with the same optical illusion as dance, meaning it’s harder than it looks and soon feels better even though it is hard. It’s a process, a slowwww “get to know your own shit” process that I inadvertently would find myself pulling away from, resisting from all angles. But why? Because it’s rough to claim and examine our own mess we make...but I managed to push it up hill and it helped me. No...it-helped-me-help-myself.
I know the majority of you, if you continue to read this are quietly imposing your judgment and coiling up in your skin out of embarrassment by my choice of words and direct honesty. But it’s 2017; and it’s deeper than that. I don’t believe in sacrificing the truth over being polite, not my value. I’m not talking about the selfish, self-centered stigma that we have so easily come to point fingers at…I’m talking about the “self” that is you, the one we ignore. The one thing we move from first and take care of last. You.
I struggle with this, but how could I not? It goes against everything I’ve ever been shaped into, growing up in a room that always reflects the bigger picture...what else could I see? Whether this is articulated in a classroom or not, it becomes a well-rehearsed undertone in dance. Take care of the whole body, the group. Awareness of yourself yes, but others first and foremost for the audience aka “more others” that still aren’t you. Follow me?
Don’t get me wrong, this bizarre group dynamic is a huge character plus that bleeds into various outlets of our life outside of the studio. It’s a freakishly weird bonus if you think about it. Our care, mindfulness, and observant awareness of others and space is nothing short of a dancing wolf pack. They even made a movie about it. It’s a gift I would never trade in, and one I sometimes wish I could push on to others. Soooooo many others…including the ones that couldn’t keep up with that joke. But, unfortunately it’s not the only instinctive trait that has a crossover, oh yeah the “self”…and look it is last, yet again. Shocker.
We have selfish slack. We are expected on some level to take “care” of our self, but on our own time. Though we are not always conditioned on how to do so, just simply that we must. Dancers, is this just us? Or is this everyone? Are we the only ones with a ridiculous amount of “self-storage?" Since when did we start to resemble a storage unit? It’s too expensive to keep up with, physically and emotionally. We have so much self-awareness + zero self-care. Woof. I can’t, I won’t and I stopped putting everything and everyone else first. I don’t know about you,but the more I leave myself behind for the sake of the group, the more damage I do to the group and myself. Every group, safe to say all the groups.
I couldn’t un-see this expectation that I needed to answer everyone else before I answered myself. It felt like self-sabotage because it was! No pun intended. It’s exhausting and down right ridiculous. I'd had enough practice with attempting the external quick fix. (What’s the rush people?) The going through the motions and taking the only cultural “surfaced” advice that everyone gives and NO ONE should take. Meaning our current self-care concept consists of one desperate reach after another. It’s coping and surviving, not resolving and living. You want to cause some real effect? Be selfish for yourself…everything you need, you already have. Everything you need, you already are. You just need to take care of it. Care is the key and the lesson is the action in motion.
All external, no internal = all distraction, no solution.
It’s the same principles in dance; you can’t muscle through yourself for yourself. It only leaves you disconnected and hurt in the long run. You have to take care of the inside to affect the outside; it’s not just a way to move…it’s a way to live. It’s how we learn to stem our emotions through our movement, and connect to what we feel. We withdraw from all distraction to connect inward to feel it outward. That’s a lot of dance context yes, but no. It transfers over through everything. It’s how I chose myself; it is how I chose to do this…
I stopped working for 7 months, and instead of finding a new job, I quit the stable ones I had left. I took my entire savings and instead of spending it on a down payment for a house, I decided to see how long I could live off it and travel. I didn’t jump into a new relationship to escape the last one, but decided to work on the relationship I had with myself. I packed up everything I owned (which fits in my car) and drove across country with my Dad so I could live out of my suitcase and crash with friends, twice. I didn’t have a plan, just goals. I stopped spending money on materialistic crap and, bought things that gave me experience…most of which were dance related. I read as many books as I could fit in my backpack and could carry on a plane. I didn’t shy away from the self-help/personal growth section but pretty much lived in it. I replaced social media surfing with reading. I downgraded my phone plan from unlimited texting, and called people. I started this blog for myself, not to make it something of myself. I took care of my body, got massages, got Rolfing done (Google it), and practiced yoga vs. the superficial hair, nails, and tan. I figured out what was causing me anxiety, instead of numbing it. I let go of some friendships, reconnected with old ones, and made new ones. I traded retail therapy for actual therapy...and I’m proud to share it. I was lost at times, cried when I needed to (which was a lot), and let people think I was absolutely losing it. But, I wasn’t.
What I did was not the “selfish” millennial thing, what I did was make the “next best choice.” The more rewarding, but the most difficult choice. Even when we know what will benefit us, we don’t always choose what does. Because it’s hard as hell and full of pain, but the so-called “easy” way is the furthest thing from easy...it’s actually just the closest reach…it is painfully exhausting, and it’s forever. I didn’t and couldn’t settle for temporary happiness, it isn’t in me to. I stopped trying to out run myself, or pack myself away for the sake of the group and turned around and faced myself. I got to know my own shit, rolled around in it, and learned from it. What I realized was I have my shit together; I just don’t keep it in a pretty little box like everyone else. I know what’s in mine and I know how to take care of it. I gave myself the space, time, and energy to grow. In other words, I know my own pain, and I no longer have to mask it or run from it, or better yet fear it. It is called self-care, self-compassion and it is empathy.
Know your own pain, and be as selfish as you need to be, even if that includes a four-letter word. Whatever that looks like to you...do it. You might not think you’ll be able to afford it, but you can’t afford to live without it. In other words, what is your “self” worth to you?