As you know, I left my job and life as a professional dancer somewhat recently. More than a year has passed actually, but still I am struggling with a lot of emotions. Even though my body is in great shape (arguably better than sometimes when I was dancing), I am working through a lot of insecurity about what people think of me. I notice that my legs are less muscular than they once were, and I worry that it somehow makes me less valuable as a person. I defined myself as a dancer for so long that I am really struggling to accept myself without that title. It has little to do with the actual way I look, but I am dealing with some very real doubts and insecurities.
In addition to losing a large measure of self-confidence, I have lost a support network of other dancers. Often, they think I was either too lazy and gave up, or that I betrayed my dreams for money. Neither is true, and the reasons I stopped dancing are both painful and a source of joy. It was time for me to move on, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy decision. To be clear, I don’t regret my decision: in fact, I see it as an opportunity to explore the parts of myself, and my personality that were denied for too long. But I am very much alone in my journey, and have gone through both bright spots of sheer happiness and some tunnels of darkness.
I wrestle with the courage to look at myself in the mirror, and see the truth. I will never be the girl I was at 17, 18, or 22. Honestly, that’s really ok with me, but coming to terms with the new me is difficult. Living a positive, healthy life requires a certain amount of security in your identity. Right now, I’m still in the process of figuring out who I am without that familiar, narrow category. Living without a label is a scary feeling, like jumping off a cliff without really knowing if the water is deep enough. I can be whom ever I want, and that's a beautiful opportunity. I just have to decide before I hit the water and people discover I'm an imposter of false confidence.
When introducing myself to new people, I’m never sure if I should bring up my past or if that makes me guilty of living facing backward. I'm incredibly proud of what I've achieved, but I don't want to seem like I'm stuck in nostalgia. There is a wonderful world out there that I am determined to explore, but don't want to be judged before I have made a judgment on myself.
All of these feelings and thoughts are difficult for me to articulate, but I am working through them. I know I'll come out the other side a better, stronger me. It'll just take some time.
Admitting to my own feelings is emboldening, and it clears my head to see it all in black and white in front of me. Even though this is all very personal, life isn't all sunshine and daisies. There must be thousands of people who have gone through or are going through a similar transition. Maybe admitting to my feelings can help someone else, and if so my vulnerability will be worthwhile.
There's a lot to be said for keeping a positive outlook, but opening up time to time and showing that we're all human can start a dialogue for acceptance that's much bigger than my story. I want to be a driving force in starting a conversation that helps and encourages others. I'm putting my real life out here, not just the pretty parts.