Perfection Holding You Back?

This month Helen, the founder of Santa Maria Bellydance Academy,  is sprinkling some of her knowledge on Zameena to help us overcome perfection paralysis. 

In addition to her bellydance academy, Helen Santa Maria runs a popular  bi-monthly newsletter where she gives a video tutorial and answers dancers' questions. When she touched on the subject of being too scared to upload your dance videos, it struck a chord and I invited Helen to write a guest article for Zameena about this subject and more!  I hope it helps you too. Here it is - Enjoy!!
How to get over perfection paralysis
By Helen Santa Maria
I still remember taking a giant leap of faith and applying for my first student solo. It felt like a moment of madness and I felt so sick with nerves in the run up to the show, I don’t even remember what happened when I was on stage. I wasn't entirely sure that I was “on beam” with my choreography. All I knew was that I couldn't wait to do it all over again!

DISPLAY IMAGESThis sums up how, I believe, many of us dancers feel about our bellydance goals: contradictory.  Contradictory in the sense that we have goals that we want to achieve and a vision of how we’d love to see ourselves as a dancer. 
Yet the steps that we need to take, in order to realise our dreams, often fill us with fear and anxiety.

For all the bellydancers who undertake something new there are probably twice as many who have good intentions to do so, yet for a whole load of “reasons” don’t do it. Maybe some of these examples resonate with you?

o   wanting to perfect the class routine before committing to the group performance
o   believing that you aren't ready to apply for a solo slot at an event because you’re worried that people will judge you 
o   putting off coming to your first class because you don’t have any dance experience
o   thinking you’re not yet a good enough dancer to take higher level coaching
o   feeling that you’re not prepared or experienced enough to take a bellydance exam
o   putting off launching a website
o   not sharing videos of your performances online
o   not having a Facebook page
o   avoiding promoting yourself outside of your ‘safe circle’

If you find yourself defining your goals with the phrase: “I’ll do it when I've learned more/got more confidence/am a better dancer”, or: “I’ll definitely do it next time round but I’m not quite ready yet”, “I’ll do it when I’m more qualified”, “I’ll get more serious about it once I have more time,” then you could be suffering from perfection paralysis. Whether you are a student or professional bellydancer, too many of us let perfection paralysis hold us back from being the kind of dancer we want to be and sharing our talent with those who will appreciate and benefit from it.

Like so many things in life, in bellydancing we rarely feel 100% ready and prepared to undertake something new, we can always do with just a bit more time. The thing is, once your “reason” for waiting goes away, you’ll find another to put in its place.  Your goal will somehow get bumped down the list of priorities and never get properly addressed.

Now, I’m not judging those of us that don’t feel ready for our next step (whatever it might be) but it is interesting that we create self-imposed restrictions on ourselves. They are self-imposed because nobody else sees them except you. I know this because when I spent years putting off launching my website,, somebody who could see what was happening bought my domain name as a gift for me and insisted that I take a leap way out of my comfort zone and put myself out there online. Through being forced to dig deep and find my courage to get myself out there I realised that my fears were totally baseless and all in my own head. Nothing horrible happened; people took me seriously and were very grateful that they were able to find out about my performances and classes! It makes me wonder: how many other fledgling professional dancers are holding off on launching their website? 

Make sure you are DISPLAYING OUR BEAUTIFUL IMAGES IN YOUR ZAMEENA NEWSLETTERAnother example from my own professional bellydance life is from only a couple of years ago when I felt that I wanted to start writing bellydance articles. I knew I wanted to do it and I had some ideas of what I wanted to write about (thanks to my students’ questions and anxieties that kept cropping up). But I held off doing it for months and months because I had the silly idea that I had to learn absolutely everything about bellydance in order for anybody to take me seriously. I’ll openly fess up that there are plenty of gaps in my knowledge. I've said plenty of times that I’m not a dance and culture historian, but it took me a long time to realise that I don’t need to try to be one. Instead I write about the things I do know plenty about.

So last year I took a leap of faith and began my Santa Maria Bellydance Academy Ezine. I had a whole ton of fears about readers unsubscribing after the first article or not seeing any value in my articles. I almost didn't send the first issue and hovered over the ‘send’ button for about 3 days before I got the courage to click! Thank goodness I did.
We are compelled to want to be absolutely perfect in order to get rid of our fear of too much attention because bringing on attention – or so we think - might open us up to criticism, and that’s scary. This then means that we just stop and stay within our comfort zone. We don't share videos of our performance, don't apply for the professional showcase or don't enter a competition etc. But what would happen if you ignored that fear, got out of paralysis and took action on those things? Nothing terrible! Think of it this way: the kind of dancer/teacher/performer you dream of being is very likely on the other side of those fears.

Perfection paralysis shows up in all sorts of ways. Without even realising it, you may be waiting for “permission” or “approval” before you put yourself out there. Perhaps you're collecting as many qualifications, endorsements and accreditations as you can to build your confidence and ensure that people will take you seriously. Of course, the information and skills you learn gaining qualifications will be of great value and help you to progress as a dancer. This is all good. But qualifications can sometimes have the lure of being something to hide behind and help defend you from criticism. I believe that qualifications are most valuable if you have already moved past the fear of being judged or feeling that you're not good enough – kind of like the icing on the cake.

Self-sabotaging and paralysing thoughts do serve a purpose: they help us feel safe and in control. The main problem with perfection paralysis though is that it disguises itself as a bunch of perfectly valid “reasons”. So, what can you do?  First, fess up to the idea that these “reasons” are not “reasons” but self-imposed limits that are making you feel safe and stopping you from achieving something you really want to do.  Then think about precisely what your fears are and realise that they come only from you and your own thoughts, not from any external reality.
Next, focus on the result that you want and where you want to be – really visualise it clearly - not on where you are now. Then it’s a matter of taking it one step at a time towards what you want. For example, if you are a student and your goal is to perform a solo then you need to choose the song and start choreographing. Even just deciding on the song can get you going; in fact you probably already know which song you want to dance to! Maybe you have already had a go at choreographing it but you think it’s not ‘ready yet’. The truth is, it will never be ready if you don’t take the next opportunity to apply to perform in a showcase or hafla and give yourself a deadline. It’s only by committing to your goal in this way that you’ll move forward and be pulled towards it and get out of perfection paralysis and procrastination.

Think of it this way, the worst that can happen is that your new undertaking – whatever it is – may not go as well as you’d hoped. But the chances are that it will go much better than you think, and if it doesn’t then you’ve just shortened your learning curve and given yourself the ultimate short-cut on how to make it go well the next time!

One thing I've learned since becoming a professional bellydancer, back in 2005, is that it’s ok to be YOU. You can’t possibly be every kind of dancer nor be an expert in all aspects of bellydance. Be ok with the fact that you’re on a journey with lots still to learn, but that doesn't mean you can’t put yourself out there and share what you have now.

I’ll be bold and say that overcoming perfection paralysis will have a MASSIVE effect on your ability to move forward and achieve your goalsTake a moment to imagine what it will be like for you once you’ve achieved your goal. Really picture it and sink into the feeling. How will you feel different to the way you do now? What kind of satisfaction, fulfilment and sense of achievement will you have? This is what you’re putting off if you allow yourself to stay in the cycle of perfection paralysis - and life is too short for that!
We loved this article and would like to say a big THANK YOU to Helen and take this opportunity to send her BEST WISHES for the coming birth of her baby!
We highly recommend her newsletter/Ezine:
For more great articles like this!
Wear a belly dance belt/scarf whilst practising.  WHY? Because:
  • When you tie your belt around your hips it gives a straight line.  This way, when looking in the mirror, your belt will indicate titling in your hips and help you identify how you are moving your hips and if it's how you intended
  • A beaded/coin belt adds weight to your hips which helps build muscle and hence more strength to control and add power to your moves
  • Through the jingle or movement it helps you identify if you are isolating properly - if you are doing a shoulder shimmy but you can hear your coins/beads jingling or see your belt moving then you know you need to keep practising 
  • THEY LOOK FANTASTIC - and let's admit it, they make us feel like BELLY DANCERS :D  
Bellydance Trophies' Results
This is probably the happiest announcement I have ever made in Zameena. I am very happy to say that after 9 months of competition (not to mention last year as well when uni travel meant I couldn't compete in the semi finals) I was lucky enough to be announced (and crowned)  the winner of Bellydance Trophies alongside the lovely Serenay and Roxane, in 2nd and 3rd place. I would like to take this opportunity to say a BIG THANK YOU  to everyone who helped me along the way! 

The whole experience of Bellydance Trophies has been such a journey of discovery and learning - I really recommend any dancers thinking of competing to DO IT! Take advice from the article above and push yourself.  You will never feel completely ready to do it - I didn't! Keep an eye on the website for when they are enrolling competitors for next year.

I am also taking advice from Helen's article and posting the videos of my solo performances at the final, though hesitant and scared :S 

I hope you enjoy them both - they are both completely different styles and I feel they complement each other nicely..... 
My Choreographed Modern Saidi
My Improvisation To Band
Workshops & Events Coming Up

Yes, Zara's Zouk is coming to WALES!!  
To the Cardigan Belly Dance Festival!!  
August 10th - 11th
We'll be there with lots of sparkly goodies at fantastic prices! 
There's a great show on Saturday evening!  
Lots of fun workshops on Sunday - including Shaabi from Zara! 

So  Check it  out!!   ...... Hope to see you there!

Finally Zara's Zouk and Zameena would like to wish a Happy Eid to all of our lovely readers:
happy eid
Hope you enjoyed reading, 
Love and shimmies, 
Zara & Sandra

P.S If you liked the ezine/newsletter please share and tell you friends:
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