Today I wrote an Insta post on the importance of choosing authenticity over approval. It made me start to think about my own journey as a studio owner and the pressures that began to manifest as the studio began to achieve a certain level of success.
In the early years of the studio, the goal was just to build the reputation and at least rank within the Top 10 at any dance competition. As long as we were able to stand along side these studios who we aspired to be like- then we knew we were on the right track.
Eventually, the studio became that "big" studio, and that is when the entire game changed.
Once on top, there was a lot of pressure to stay there.
"The closer you get to excellence in your life, the more friends you'll lose.
People love you when you're average because it makes them comfortable. But when you pursue greatness it makes people uncomfortable.
Be prepared to lose some people on your journey.- Tony A Gaskins, Jr.
You often hear that it is lonely at the top...and I can contest that it is. I eventually started to recognize that I was becoming two different people. In my normal life, I was fun, free and happy. In my competition- dance teacher- studio owner world, I was guarded, stressed, unhappy, overworked, resentful and very untrusting of others.
This was no way to live or BE.
The culture of the dance competition world is not established to support communities.....OR maybe it is but we as studio owners (basically women) do not know fully how to handle success and competition. There is not a lot of trust amongst dance studio owners (unless you are in different states), but for many, the colleagues in our community are viewed as competitors.
It is a sad reality; I am not saying that this is the way it is for everyone, but for many studio owners, it is the case.
I began to wear a mask, showing up as who I "needed" to be for the approval of others and the acceptance of the convention directors and teachers. I was "playing the game" and playing the "role."
Even though it was securing our position at "the top", it was also creating a divide between who I was, how I viewed my colleagues, my friendships, and my ability to BE authentic in my daily life.
The need for approval soon overcame my need for authenticity.
"What would happen to our reputation if we made any shifts? I never would want to be that studio that was now is "slipping."
And I know the celebration that would be had if that one studio beat us...oh- they will never let us live it down.
That convention teacher said what about us? Damn, I can't' believe they said that. Okay, we must get back into the studio to fix that."
-These were the ramblings in my mind, and this is what kept me from authenticity.
I did not want to live the rest of my life as two different people. I wanted my workspace to be just as fun and free as my personal life. I wanted to have fun on my weekends at a dance competition and I wanted to look forward to seeing my fellow educators who I thought of as friends.
I also knew that if we were to expect our dancers to respect one another and see the greatness in others, no matter from what studio, I had to model that behavior.
I took a hard look at how I was negatively contributing to the dance world. I called some colleagues to apologize for my actions in an attempt to rebuild relationships and create a common ground for us to dance in.
I offered myself grace and forgiveness, committing to enter the competition space with more love, respect, and an open mind.
For those of you who are in your early years of studio life, I want to offer this.
Know your WHY and create your Core Values. Revisit these every season to make sure that you are evolving and growing towards your grander vision and mission.
The tornado of notoriety, recognition, trophies, scholarships, master teachers-can carry you into its world, dancing you farther and farther from where you have intended to be. It can pull you so far from our heart's mission, leaving you wondering.....
"How the hell did I get here and what is it all for?"
In the world of competition, it is so easy to slip into the need for approval and validation -and this is OK! At the core of us, we all yearn to be seen, heard, valued and LOVED.
Just be aware of when it is carrying YOU away from the truth of who you are. Try to choose Authenticity over Approval...and know that by doing so, you are positively impacting the lives of your students, creating stronger and more grounded dancers and humans.