It took me a long time to learn that my sense of self is not derived from anything outside of that which is already within me. I learned in my early 20’s that my identity is not derived exclusively from what career I chose, the company I keep, the failures I’ve experienced or the successes I’ve achieved. I’ve learned that others’ opinions, judgements or validations (whether personal or professional) do not define me nor do I need to seek them.
There comes a point where you have to decide whether or not you want to peel off the labels and definitions others have placed upon you. The benefits of choosing to stand in your own truth & power are limitless. Choosing to no longer carry around others’ ideas of who you are or their opinions of your life choices is liberating to say the least. These include the infamous ideologies of a life in the performing arts. The concepts of “suffering for your art” and the “starving artist” are definitely not exhaustive examples.
The power of the mind truly is infinite. When you change your internal perspective, your outside circumstances have no choice but to bend to that, too. This is not to say that real change does not come with time, commitment and a hell of a lot of hard work. But if you cannot set yourself a vision of a rich and fulfilled lifestyle doing what you feel passionate about, then you will forever be blind to the opportunities that could get you there.
A life in the performing arts does not have to be all sacrifice and compromise. You can be a performer and live an abundant life. You can make a career out of your art and thrive. If only you believe it and stop subscribing to this lack mentality. My journey in my career since the beginning of this year has been proof of that for me. The moment I decided to change my internal beliefs, the more opportunities seemed to drop into my lap.
Self-belief and self-awareness are key here. While others’ acknowledgement and validation is great, I find many performers seek it from a place of need. I have been no exception to this. We all have this innate tendency to “prove ourselves”. While gaining experience, expanding our art and receiving feedback are all essential to our growth, they should not be a reflection or replacement for our sense of self. We must be a complete human being before we can be a complete artist. If you are not intimate with who you are, all your different aspects and all the different roles you play in your everyday life, then what story are you telling when you dance or perform? Art is and always has been a direct reflection of life. Who are you outside of your role as a performer? Who are you as a woman, man, brother, friend, lover, mother or teacher? Your sense of self is made up of all the roles, big and small, that you play in your interconnection with the world. And ultimately, it is defined by the relationship you have with yourself.
Embrace all of who you are and trust in what you have to offer. Success & achievement are very important to me. However, I no longer accept a sense of self based on my successes & achievements alone. I encourage you to do the same.