As many share their highlights of 2021, I’ll share some of my personal challenges & lessons learned from this year. Perhaps some might resonate with some of you.
I thought this year would bring clarity as to where on this lovely Earth I wish to settle, however, I still have no idea. Some days I feel free, lucky & excited by this – as many of my posts have shown – but other days a little scared with a sense of unease.
The lesson/reminder: Surrender & trust. Leap & the net will appear. When it’s meant to happen, I will figure it out, but also, maybe it’s ok to be a bit of a nomad!
I’ve often looked back at old photos of myself in the height of my Riverdance career. Currently, I am 20 pounds heavier. I am by no means over weight &, in general, A LOT happier & healthier. That doesn’t mean I don’t long for the time when I could eat whatever I wanted, had two hour shows every night, traveled & didn’t have to worry too much about staying lean! It’s a lot harder now.
The lesson: Being 20 pounds lighter & having a six pack didn’t bring happiness! I must continue to remind myself of this.
I have popped onto Instagram far too often & compared myself, my work, my love life (or lack thereof), amongst other things, to others, & not once has it made me feel good. I’ve wasted a lot of time. I could have been studying a little more, working on my book, focusing on myself, strumming the guitar I said I’d challenge myself to learn, but, instead, at times, I found myself here just scrolling away.
The lesson & actions that can be taken here are self-evident!
I am aware when old conditioned narratives and habits pop up (which in itself is great–awareness is huge!), but it takes a lot of work & skill to be able let go of attachments from the past. I meditate often & practice yoga both on & off of the matt, but I am also a human being & by no means enlightened. I am still very much working on all of those chakras being aligned.
It will be a continuous practice for the rest of my life! A practice the whole world would benefit from.
The lesson: Continue to create space to observe & be curious when dipping into old habits, & when the inner critic creeps in, take time to observe it, manage it with compassion and kindness.. I ask myself “What would be the most helpful thing for me right now” and “what do I need.”
I try to speak to myself as I would a child or a friend when the critic shows up. Again, it takes consistent practice.
At times, I can be reactive & exacerbate a tough moment into something much worse. I remind myself that everything is impermanent & this too shall pass!
Sometimes this year, as I reached for my anti depressant in the morning, I’d judge myself. I’d tell myself I shouldn’t need medication, a pill . Then I’d remember how hard I’ve fought for better mental health & would feel a sense of pride and gratitude. I mean, I’m still here, I’m alive, I’m well, & for the most part, I’m content .
The lesson/reminder: I am not weak, broken or crazy for taking medication. Not everyone will understand & that is ok!
Far too often, I feel & think that I’m not doing enough. I know this comes from comparison—really that’s what most of us are doing when aimlessly scrolling social media.
The lesson: Stay in my own lane! It doesn’t matter how others are doing it. There’s only one me.
Overall, as each year passes, the relationship I have with myself does get much better &, therefore, I’m getting better at showing up for others too, which is wonderful because I feel the best version of me when of service to others; for this I’m so grateful. I find life a whole lot better when I accept & embrace the challenges life throws at me, when I don’t judge myself for every tiny blip—like my relationship with technology, for example. I’ve almost thrown my laptop many times!
I hope you can begin this year with peace & not worry if every goal you had set for 2021 wasn’t reached or if you’re not in the place you hoped to be. It’s been a tough couple years for most, just getting through it is huge! Cut yourself some slack. May we remind ourselves that we cannot change the past. We can choose to let go & move forward with a little more awareness from the lessons we have learned & with new actions.
Concluding with a gentle reminder that the relationship you have with yourself is the foundation of wellness, keep that with you this year!
Have a beautiful New Year all! x
- Positive vibes only.
- Stay positive.
- Don’t worry, be happy.
- Get out of your head.
- Just go for a walk.
- Stay motivated.
- It could be worse.
- What do you have to worry about?
- Just be grateful.
- Just do “this,” just do “that…”
- Well, that happened to me too.
- Look on the bright side.
- Everything happens for a reason.
Certainly, most people don’t intend any harm with these kinds of comments and suggestions, but they very much smack of gaslighting in their absence of genuine empathy. They invalidate, minimize and oversimplify the harsh realities of real, human experience, whether directed outwardly to others or inwardly to oneself. It’s the emotional equivalent of watching someone badly fracture their leg and saying, “Eh… just walk it off!” If this pandemic has taught us anything, it might be that invisible/unseen threats – germs, viruses and, yes, emotional experiences and states – shouldn’t be discredited, downplayed, minimized and/or oversimplified. Emotional & psychological injury, pain and trauma are every bit as real, serious and severe as a visibly broken leg. Toxic positivity is apathetic, forced, insincere and can lead people to further anxiety, isolation, pain and unease. Sometimes, it can take everything in someone’s power to express how they feel. Often, we simply need a compassionate and PASSIVE ear to which to vent without all the excessive “positivity,” solutions and suggestions.
Toxic positivity seems to be something of a pandemic, especially during an actual, deadly pandemic in which social media and its insidious, obligatory ideal to “live your best life” (or, to pretend to) is our main, if not ONLY connection to others. Social media fosters the projection of a constantly, disingenuously and unnaturally happy, high-achieving, productive, successful facade. Nobody is all of these things all of the time, nor should they feel compelled to pretend to be. The human experience is BOTH the yin AND the yang. How could one know happiness without sadness, let alone the very human nuance of bittersweet-ness?
I recently had a conversation with a dancer who opened up about the negative emotions she was feeling, yet her Instagram told a very different story. If you’re posting to social media frequently, look at your last few posts. Are they authentic or are you projecting a disingenuous image of your life and self to mask anxiety, discontent, pain, etc? Are you looking for a dopamine rush from “Likes” & “reactions,“ even unwittingly, perhaps? It’s important to bear in mind that “Likes” & ❤️-reactions are NOT the currency of a fulfilling, genuine life! We all deal with stress and various emotions differently. If you haven’t kept up the “positive vibes,” kept smiling, redecorated the house, started a thriving business, got your front splits, done a handstand, counted calories and gotten ripped abs in this last year, that’s OKAY!
– I have put on a little more weight than I would have liked.
– I look at my phone too much and also compare myself to others.
– I make mistakes most days.
– I spend far too long finding a filter for an image or video to post and I overthink EVERY word I say online.
– I am an expert procrastinator.
– My monkey mind likes to worry about the future more often than not.
– I struggle with loneliness at times.
– I am desperately trying to grow my business. I am certainly not thriving financially, however, many people tell me that I am “smashing it” during lockdown. I have my doubts as to the accuracy of such statements, but, like you, I am simply doing my best. I AM a Human Being!
I am, however, not embarrassed by any of that and now able to sit with all emotions (the good, the “bad” and the ugly ones) and not pretend that I have my shit together at all times! To pretend, to suppress —this is just unnecessarily exhausting. I wore the “positive” mask for far too long. Putting on “positive vibes only” will ultimately lead to more distress. Trust me, it’ll catch up with you!
My continuing journey and fascination with eastern philosophy, yoga and meditation has taught me far more than the physical postures involved. It’s being aware of my thoughts and feelings—mindfully sitting with them. Being able to accept all parts of myself is literally liberating. I truly believe that we can all find more peace and ease when we connect with ALL parts of ourselves—managing every part of you with compassion, even the dark parts that we try so desperately to hide. The very foundation of wellness is the relationship that you have with yourself.
I encourage you to be authentic, mindful and okay with vulnerability, and to not need to constantly portray yourself as ecstatically happy and 100% all of the time, whether in person or online. We humans ALL have our up-days and down-days, just like waves have both crests and troughs; respectively, both states are essential and intrinsic parts of human-ing & wave-ing.
I find the occasional digital detox to better assist in achieving mindfulness by shutting out all of the distractions and “noise” of social media. I highly recommend it!
If you have dedicated your life to competitive and/or professional dance, then what happens when your career ends? If you’re no longer a dancer, who are you?
Many dancers begin their career as toddlers and go on to compete for several years, putting in copious hours of vigorous training a week. In addition to school and social lives, entire weekends are often dominated by competitions. Some may then have the opportunity to tour the world as a professional.
Dancers often personally sacrifice so much in order to pursue their dreams. We leave our families for extended periods of time and miss out on cherished events and time with loved ones. Some of us leave school for a once in a lifetime opportunity to tour. Some of us give up relationships.
There is very little that can compare to the feeling of being on stage every night, receiving standing ovations, being in the best shape of your life (and being able to guiltlessly eat an insane amount of calories), traveling to some of the most beautiful places in the world and meeting great friends from all different backgrounds who become your family. It truly is the Good Life!
But what happens when that comes to an end? For most of us, this occurs more or less around the age of 30, or, perhaps you were forced to retire due to an injury at an earlier or later age. Maybe you were ‘let go’ from a professional show. Ultimately, we all will have to face the difficult questions: What do you want to do now? What is your plan?
People would often ask, “Wow, how do you perform that many shows a week for that many months at a time?” They marvelled at the dedication and time that HAD to go into our training. Dancing athletes tend to be considered strong both physically and mentally, as we no doubt are, but, we’re also human beings. This stereotype can make it even harder to admit when we need some support.
If this is a worry and you feel you’re struggling then it’s very important to seek support. It’s ok and more than understandable to feel a bit lost. It’s an extreme lifestyle change and you’re likely to feel as if you’re starting over again. It can be overwhelming and very tough to adapt to ”normal life.”
I’ve dealt with this myself and have seen it in so many others. It can be a time that can make us vulnerable and susceptible to anxiety and depression. It’s a loss, and can, therefore, be a time of grief.
Sadly, I have been the witness of many a dancer being ‘let go’ by a touring show, taking the professional dancer by surprise. In fact many people don’t get the option to leave on their terms. The majority of people in show businesses must face the fact that one day their employer(s) will move on, whether you’re ready to or not and this can leave you questioning yourself. “What did I do wrong? Was I not good enough? Is it my height? Weight? Look? Or is it all of those things?” Unfortunately, I’ve seen this many times.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a psychologist or therapist, but as a former professional athlete with the experience, knowledge and wisdom I acquired on my journey, I feel more than qualifies me to give some advice:
It’s important not to have your ego & sense of identity solely based on your role as a dancer. It is essential to have other interests and plans in place.
It’s natural to want to give back to dance after having lived and breathed it for so long. Determine how you may do so, whether it’s teaching, choreography, strength and conditioning, etc. There are many ways to remain involved in an art form that you love and cherish. Giving back to the next generation can be extremely rewarding!
Ask for advice. A sports psychologist, occupational therapist, your family and friends, they’re all people that could help!
More and more, athletes in all kinds of sports are talking about their struggles after retiring. Please know that these feelings are normal. Let us collectively abolish any stigma related to the end of our beautiful, professional dancing careers and support everyone as best we can.
If your dream is a career in professional dance, as mine once was, it can be the most incredible experience of your life. Just be mindful that in this industry you’re on top one minute and the next you could find yourself without a contract. Drop all expectations, be present and thankful for the opportunities.
Ride the wave!
Chloey Turner ♥️
Some of the most stressful incidents in life and dance are those that are unexpected and uncontrollable. We have no control over the judges, start numbers, the results or another competitor’s performance. However, we can control our reactions. The way you handle a setback or disappointment today affects your level of confidence and resiliency in future competitions.
Here are a few tips I recommend to be able to overcome disappointments and build resilience:
Take time to reflect. It’s ok to be upset after a disappointment, but the quicker you can process it, the quicker you can get back to work.
Never allow a loss to define you or how you feel about yourself.
Look for the lesson—you should review the event and determine what you need to do to improve for future competitions.
Keep your expectations realistic and allow for change & the unexpected.
If you are genuinely interested in growing and improving as a competitor and performer, regardless of the outcome, try looking inward instead of outward. We have all been guilty of shifting blame onto external factors, typically when things don’t go our way. As we cannot control chance, in order to protect our mental health and wellbeing, focus solely and quite simply on ourselves. There is always room to improve and the more time and energy you spend looking outwards is time away from achieving your true potential.
After introspection, take action. You must commit to action. What will you do to perform better next time?
If you can begin to see your setbacks and times of adversity differently, in a more positive light and productive way, these times can teach you more significant lessons than any of your successes.
Try these journalling prompts:
- What happened? Write about your performance day
- What did I do well? acknowledge your efforts and all you did well.
- Where can I improve? Listen and ask for feedback. Watch yourself back if you can.
- What action will I take going forward? This is important, because remember “If nothing changes, then nothing changes.”
– Chloey ♥️
My anxiety and fear hasn’t gone away completely. I’ve come to accept that it may never. I have also come to realise the following:
If you’re feeling vulnerable or fearful, it means you care. Personally, I’ve never done anything of value that I wasn’t terrified of doing.
Being brave doesn’t mean that you’re not scared and that you don’t have fears. Being brave is about being afraid and going for it anyway. I’ve come to embrace my vulnerability and am happy to share it.
Once you can finally let go of your fears and realise that judgment is unavoidable, you have great intentions and a kind heart—you can do wonderful things.
Why is it that we could have 99 people love us and one person that doesn’t and we focus on the one person and let it upset us? That one person can take away your power; don’t let them, ever! The only opinion of you that really matters is your own, truly. As the great Jim Carrey said, “When you truly don’t care what anyone thinks of you, you’ve reached a dangerous level of freedom.”
People will always judge. So be it. Let them. It concerns us not! We’re too busy daring greatly in our respective arenas.
I’ve been an Irish dancer for 25 years and like so many other dancers I grew up searching for the best ways to improve my physical fitness and technical ability, to be able to remain injury free and, ultimately, to become the best Irish dancing athlete I could be.
I discovered yoga just a few years ago. My ego used to trick me into believing that yoga wasn’t enough of a workout, “It’s too slow paced for me”, I’d say. I’d also write it off because I thought you had to be super flexible and be able to do handstands, etc. As for meditation – I quite honestly thought it was for monks wearing orange robes!
I can say, wholeheartedly, that by practicing yoga and meditation consistently over the last few years that it has changed my life in many, many wonderful ways. It was the piece of wellness that I had been missing. I’m now a certified yoga teacher and love every minute of educating dancers on the many benefits.
I was able to go into my twelfth year as a professional dancer with a stronger, more flexible body and a calmer, more peaceful mind – which allowed me to enjoy every performance, stress free and without any negative thought patterns.
Below, I’ve listed a few reasons why I encourage you to start practicing also:
• Meditation for Self – Awareness.
The purpose of yoga goes far beyond just the physical practice.
We have thousands of thoughts going on all day long as the mind swings back-and-forth from thinking about the past to the future. Yoga allows you to be present, to slow down and check in with yourself and to learn a little more about who you are. Through meditation you can shine some light on your thoughts and feelings, without judgement.
Personally, I am now able to be the witness of my thoughts and no longer identify with them, because of this I also no longer believe everything I tell myself. I’m able to look at my thoughts with love and kindness and then just let them go.
A tip is to see your mind as a blue sky and your thoughts like clouds – you can use meditation to watch those thoughts float on by.
This has taken practice, through daily meditation and has had the most profound effect on my mindset.
Many performers deal with mental and emotional stress, most of which generates from anxiety and nerves surrounding competitions and performances, whilst often finding school, practice, home study and other aspects of life a challenge to balance.
Proper breathing is often an overlooked component of training. By learning various ‘Pranayama’ (control of breath) techniques to slow your breath, you can decrease your demand for oxygen, allowing you to use less effort and energy to breathe.
Quite often when nerves and anxiety show up, our breath will be shallow and restricted – activating our bodys’ stress response, which can cause fatigue if not controlled & leave you feeling exhausted before you’ve even performed. Since the mind and body are connected your muscles will also become tense!
Studies have shown that breathing properly can decrease stress and muscle tension, calm your nerves, sharpen your focus, minimize negative thoughts and promote stamina.
• A Balance of Mobility/Flexibility, Strength and Stability
We all admire those dancers who have that gorgeous balance of effortless front clicks, each move executed with sharpness, speed and precision.
The various Yoga ‘asanas’ (body postures) will help to make your dancing look and feel more relaxed and effortless by improving both the range of motion around your joints and overall body strength, creating that perfect balance of flexibility, strength and control.
As you can see, yoga is not only beneficial to Irish dancers because of the physical challenges it presents, but also because it is a discipline of the mind. Personally, I always leave my yoga practice with a calmer, peaceful mind and a relaxed body with less tension.
As with anything, you’ll get the most benefit if you practice yoga consistently. Overtime, I promise you’ll reap the benefits!