Valentines Blog - Cultivating Self Love For Dancers.
We are coming into Valentine’s week — A holiday where the first things we think about are loved-up couples, dinner dates, giving gifts, and showing love and kindness towards others. I walked into a store earlier, and it was full of love heart balloons, flowers (I brought myself some, of course…cue Miley Cyrus “Flowers” please), chocolates, little trinkets, and cards to share with the special people in our lives.
Expressing love and kindness towards others is a beautiful thing, but equally important is showing love and kindness toward ourselves. This is what I plan to focus most of my energy on this Valentine’s week.
This may not be the scientific definition of self-love, but to me, as someone on a journey toward it and actively practicing it, self-love is an overall acceptance of myself; it’s an appreciation for all parts of myself. Being an understanding, forgiving, compassionate friend to myself no matter what is going on in life. Ultimately, treating myself in the same way that I treat others is all part of the process.
Is this easy? Have I always treated myself with love and kindness? Nope! Do I still struggle with this self-love stuff from time to time? Absolutely!
As a former competitive and professional dancer and now a proud “forever student” and educator, I’ve heard all the negative self-talk in the world — between my own two ears and amongst thousands of other dancers. We can be pretty hard on ourselves! Perfectionism, unhelpful self-talk, and self-criticism are rife in the dance world. When consumed by unhelpful, judgmental thoughts and limiting beliefs, it can be very difficult to treat ourselves with the love and kindness that we so deserve.
We know that berating ourselves when we make mistakes or fall short of our goals doesn’t do us any good and won’t make us any better at dance; it’s simply unproductive and exhausting. Yet, for many, this self-deprecating mindset is the norm for them, and it’s really not very loving at all. It can be hard to break out of those habitual inner thoughts and train your brain to speak differently to you.
It’s during tough times that it can be the most challenging to offer ourselves love and kindness, which is strange because when a loved one or close friend is struggling, we tend to respond with care.
The good news is that we can practice, just like we practice dance, technique, and getting physically strong.
As you begin to practice positive self-talk, you might start to find yourself celebrating yourself more often, paying more attention to your strengths, and taking time to listen to yourself and your own needs. You might begin to worry less about external validation and ultimately enjoy life and dance a whole lot more.
If that sounds good to you, then read on as I share a couple of the main things I’ve learned and adopted in my journey towards a more loving, respectful relationship with myself so far.
While I love a good self-care activity (a bubble bath, a face mask, and a green smoothie), I’ve come to realize that none of that makes a great deal of difference to my well-being if my thoughts and beliefs about myself are not very nice.
Cultivating self-love for me starts with Awareness. Being mindful of my self-talk.
It’s not about trying to fight the inner critic and pushing it away; it’s about sitting with it and developing a different relationship with that voice. I’ve learned to accept and even appreciate the fact that the mind is just doing its job by thinking! That’s its one and only constant job. And sometimes the thoughts are a little unhelpful, so I’ll pause, breathe, and say, “Okay, I hear you. You’re trying to keep me safe, but you’re not helpful at this time.”
Yes, I quite literally talk to it. When I do this, I find that I am not those thoughts. I am not that inner voice. I can observe it and choose not to get swept up in that narrative. It gets easier to let go as I remind myself that these are just thoughts, not facts.
So the next time that inner critic shows up, try to sit with it, befriend it even. That’s the hard part — that pause before we allow it to run wild and affect our behaviors and actions in an unhelpful way. Then, see if you can replace it with a kinder, more compassionate voice. That leads me to the topic of compassion towards yourself.
I’m a huge fan of the work of Dr. Kristin Neff. She is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research. Google her and look into her work; she’s just wonderful. But in essence, Kristin Neff asks us to imagine how we would interact with a friend who is struggling. What would we say to them? Imagine saying, “You suck at dancing,” “You still can’t get that Reel step,” or “Your turnout is awful.” I can’t imagine having a single friend if we spoke to them that way. It’s actually funny to think about saying that to someone else because we never would!
Neff invites us to think about how we speak to ourselves compared to how we would talk to a friend. The difference can be quite shocking!
So the next time you’re having a tough time, ask yourself, how can I comfort myself in this moment? What would I say to my best friend if they were in my position?
Finally, I highly recommend using mindfulness and meditation techniques to cultivate love and kindness towards yourself, especially if it is something you struggle with. Mindfulness, simply put, is a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. It can help us learn how to quiet our inner chatter.
Mindfulness often embodies several attitudes, which I share in my Beginners Guide to Mindfulness Meditation eBook. You can click the link below to download.
We also have some lovely guided mindfulness meditations in the Academy’s on-demand library for you if you’d like to create a bit of internal space surrounding your thoughts this week.
Take care of yourselves, lovely dancers. Embrace your unique self, and make sure to show yourselves love this week and beyond.
With love & gratitude,
Chloey :)Beginners Guide to Mindfulness Meditation eBook: https://chloeyturner.com/get-a-free-e-book-here/