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 donâ€™t even remember what happened when I was on stage. I wasn't entirely sure that I was â€œon beamâ€ with my choreography. All I knew was that I couldn't wait to do it all over again!
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 â€œreasonsâ€ donâ€™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 youâ€™re worried that people will judge you
o putting off coming to your first class because you donâ€™t have any dance experience
o thinking youâ€™re not yet a good enough dancer to take higher level coaching
o feeling that youâ€™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 â€˜safe circleâ€™
If you find yourself defining your goals with the phrase: â€œIâ€™ll do it when I've learned more/got more confidence/am a better dancerâ€, or: â€œIâ€™ll definitely do it next time round but Iâ€™m not quite ready yetâ€, â€œIâ€™ll do it when Iâ€™m more qualifiedâ€, â€œIâ€™ll get more serious about it once I have more time,â€ t
hen 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 â€œreasonâ€ for waiting goes away, youâ€™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, Iâ€™m not judging those of us that donâ€™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, www.helenbellydance.com
, 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?
Another 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 studentsâ€™ 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. Iâ€™ll openly fess up that there are plenty of gaps in my knowledge. I've said plenty of times that Iâ€™m not a dance and culture historian, but it took me a long time to realise that I donâ€™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 â€˜sendâ€™ 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 â€“ or so we think - might open us up to criticism, and thatâ€™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 â€œpermissionâ€ or â€œapprovalâ€ 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 â€“ 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 â€œreasonsâ€. So, what can you do? First, fess up to the idea that these â€œreasonsâ€ are not â€œreasonsâ€ 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.