Today’s Ask the Girl episode was inspired by a conversation I had with the creator of freeballroomlessons.com. He specializes in teaching social-level ballroom dancing, but used to dance competitively. We were talking about how expensive ballroom competitions are, especially for a pro-am student like myself, and about the emotional rollercoasters that competing in ballroom puts me on.
He wondered, with all of the financial and emotional stress involved in competition, why do I do it?
It wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question. I don’t hide the struggles that I go through because of ballroom. I think they’re just as important as the positive effects. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people sometimes wonder why I put myself through it if it isn’t all good.
The answer is easy and hard to explain at the same time. I explained part of it in Ask the Girl Episode 2 – When is Enough, Enough? I have found that I am simply not satisfied by anything less than the challenge of competition. The stakes are set high. Despite the multiple anxiety attacks I had in the weeks leading up to each competition I’ve entered, I love the fact that everything matters when you dance at competition – your steps, your technique, your styling.
I’ve gone through a lot of changes thanks to ballroom. I’ve grown as a person and discovered inner strengths I never knew existed. Those changes only occurred because I pushed myself. I took on the greater challenges like performances and competition. Overcoming the obstacles associated with those events triggered personal growth.
I remember, during my first six months of taking ballroom lessons, a teacher at the studio asked me how I was doing with my dancing. I told him that it was going well, but it was getting hard! He smiled and told me that it didn’t have to be, I could stick to the basics and just social dance.
His comments really stuck with me. He was absolutely right; I could choose to make it easy on myself. Dancing on a social level was fun and healthy; I didn’t have to advance beyond that. I didn’t have to, but after having that pointed out to me, I knew I definitely wanted to.
As a human being, I want to keep growing. Growth means pushing past where you are now, beyond your comfort zone. Growth is uncomfortable and sometimes even painful! But the rewards are abundant. It’s just like when you exercise to get more physically fit. Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain muscle, increase stamina or something else entirely, you won’t see results if you stick to what feels easy. “No pain, no gain,” right?
This topic reminds me of the article I wrote about getting my tree tattoo done. Whenever I talk to someone new about it, they inevitably ask “did it hurt?”
Yes, it hurt. But it was worth it.
Yes, competing in ballroom gives me anxiety. It has brought many fears to the surface and caused me to doubt myself over and over again. But it is worth it. Along with the demons of anxiety, fear and doubt, ballroom has given me the strength and confidence to face those demons and overcome them. I think everyone who has tried ballroom understands how addicting it can be. There is another addiction besides the dancing though. The more I learn about myself, the more I want to know. Every challenge overcome makes me excited for the next one. The drive that ballroom has given me is addicting.
The drive to improve and grow, to face obstacles and overcome them, to take the harder path, not everyone has it. Some people choose to make it easier for themselves. And that’s fine. But when you find that thing in life that sparks your inner passion fire, I don’t think you’ll be satisfied with taking the easy path. Once you experience how awesome it feels to successfully push past obstacles, you won’t want to make it easier. You won’t be afraid to feel fear or doubt or anxiety because you’ll know you can still succeed.
And when people ask you if it’s so hard, why do you do it, you’ll smile and respond “why wouldn’t I?”
Leave your questions or topics for the Ask the Girl series in the comments below, or contact me directly!
4 thoughts on “Ask the Girl Episode 5 – Why Do I Do This to Myself?”
When writing, authors put their characters through trials and tribulations so that they change over the course of the story — it’s called character development. I’ve found that the same holds true for real people. When we push ourselves, it’s amazing how much we grow. 🙂
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Well said! The story would be boring if the characters never changed. 🙂
While I understand what you’re saying, I think you’re grossly oversimplify things by claiming social dancing is the easy way out. I have a foot in both the competitive and social world, so I agree that there’s nothing like a competition to make me focus on technique. In my area, however, a lot of the social dancers are also competitive. The level of dance on the floor is always impressive–just doing basics won’t cut it for long, and having no technique means you’ll quickly find yourself without a lot partners. Some of the best dancers I know are purely social, and when I ask them why they don’t compete, the answer is they don’t feel the need to have external motivation/validation. They push themselves because they have an internal drive to get better, plain and simple. I take classes with a nationally known judge once a month, and he frequently mentions that social dancing is the absolute hardest form of dance there is. Not only do you have to adjust and adapt to your partner, you have to have crazy floorcraft skills. Not easy when not everyone is doing the same dance style at the same level at the same time!
On the flip side, I question the motives of some competitive dancers. Spending years working on your routines and never moving up a level simply because you want to win? Is it truly ‘dancing’ if all you can do is dance (albeit beautifully!) a choreographed routine, but nothing else? And I have a friend who is fantastic and wins frequently, but claims it means nothing if there’s less than 3 other couples in her heat–without a chance of not placing and when everyone dancing will receive a ribbon, a victory doesn’t mean very much. She was once so embarrassed to dance uncontested she wouldn’t even tell me about it!
Again, competitive dancing has made me a much better dancer, but then again, so has social dancing. It’s great that competitive dancing has sparked such a passion in you, but as with all things in life, you get what you put into it 🙂
I have to admit, I have developed excellent follow skills because of my time at social dances, not in private lessons! I definitely have to use that skill at competition too; I have yet to dance a routine with my teacher exactly as we practiced it. He always had to change it based on traffic on the comp floor. I think you nailed it on the head though – it’s whatever sparks that internal drive! I also have a friend who loves just learning to dance and then taking those skills to parties. She doesn’t care for competition or to learn specific choreography for a showcase routine. I have definitely had some enjoyable “challenges” at social dances, but usually with a teacher. You made another good point too – social dancing has its own unique challenges compared to competing, mainly the unknown partner and no planned routine. Unless you’re in a jack and jill comp! I guess it feels “easier” to me because you’re not expected to dance “full out” at a social. Especially when I dance Smooth, it’s just not as fun for me if my partner and I are not really stretching through the moves. Because when we do, I get to feel like I’m flying across the floor! Unless it’s tango, then we’re stalking. 😉