On forgiveness

Have you forgiven yourself recently? Don’t look surprised at the question, nor your answer. As women, and as dancers, we rarely give ourselves a break. We sometimes will take some time out, some “me time”, but that’s not the same as forgiving yourself for not being “enough”.

What is forgiving?

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

It doesn’t generate good feelings towards the person or group but it does provide an avenue for letting go of negative feelings from your system.

That seems pretty reasonable, right? So why would I be asking if you’ve forgiven yourself? What could have you done that means you’re holding resentment for yourself?

Media and our bodies

As dancers, we have a history behind us. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been dancing 5 minutes or 15 years, you are still subject to the views that exist and previously shaped how our bodies should look as dancers.

Ballet dancers were skinny and tall, no hips, bums or (for the women) boobs. Ballroom dancers were known for having strong shoulders but still being lithe and belly dancers, all boobs and hips – what more did you expect?

Even if we step aside from dance, we are still all subject to the media gaze and perceptions. Fat of any kind is viewed as unhealthy, and women should be taller with skinny, strong non muscularly defined legs (muscles are “masculine”), a small bum, a small flat waist shapely hips in comparison to her waist and amble breasts. She should never have wrinkles, grey hair or in any way seem old until she is actually “old” (whatever age that happens at) and when she reaches this miraculous age, she will be considered too old to do anything and needs to act her “age”, sit down and be quiet.

Men don’t get out of this picture much better than women either. They need to be muscular everywhere. Strong arms, back, chest, legs. He should look like he could have been a twin to the sculptures done by Michelangelo. Oh and he needs to be tall. After all, how would us withering females ever reach things up high or open those pesky jars if we don’t have a tall strong man around?

Perfection is the enemy

We’ve talked before about perfection being the enemy of done and here, perfection is the antagonist of your brain. We hold a lot of resentment for how we look, move and what we do due to pressures put upon us by others.

We feel the need to live up to the “perfect” vision of ourselves as dictated to us by society. To be the perfect parent, partner, sibling, friend, dancer… it’s a lot to live up to.

Sometimes we need to let all of that go.

When did you last look at what you were doing and say “I’m doing ok and this is enough.“? Have you ever thought “It wasn’t everything I wanted to do but I’m happy with what I got done today.“? Or “It’s not perfect, but it’s a thing and I’m ok with that.“?

Not recently? That’s ok. Here’s where the forgiveness comes in. It’s ok. You are enough as you are and you can be enough with only what you’ve done. You don’t need to live up to anyone elses expectations, not even your own (just in case you’ve reached beyond your own limits).

I always reference the micro-practice as being the most important part of my dance practice. Because it’s small and I can fit it in anywhere and I don’t have to feel bad about not practicing. It’s my way of giving myself permission to do less. Permission to rest and to be at peace with that.

You don’t need to love yourself

One last note before you finish reading this blog entry. Forgiving yourself has nothing to do with loving yourself – although the two are related.

Forgiving yourself is more of about accepting yourself for who you are and where you are right now. You are “perfect” as you are and we appreciate you.