It’s Not What You’re Called, It’s How You Show Up

More than once in the past week, the issue of labels has come up. Labels like “student” and “teacher”, or “amateur” and “professional.” Seeing as I’m making new efforts in 2018 to own who I am, I thought I’d prattle on about this for a bit.

I’ll be honest (aren’t I always?) – sometimes I get a complex about being a student and a pro-am competitor. Because ballroom dancing isn’t something I do for a career (yet) and I don’t have anyone to compete with except my teacher, this passion can be mistaken for just a hobby. Maybe it’s just in my head, but I sometimes feel like a pro-am competitor just isn’t taken as seriously as a competitive amateur or pro.

Coincidentally, another dancer I connected with on Instagram posted a similar struggle, but from the other side. She carries the title of pro because she’s a teacher, but she worries she doesn’t live up to her title because she still has so much to learn compared to others who are labeled as pro.

My branding coach gave me the perfect response to this dilemma. She was saying that she loved that she had three ballroom pros as clients, me plus two others. I corrected her, “I’m not a pro though.” She immediately replied, “yeah, but you show up like one.” She didn’t care what my title or label in the ballroom world was, she only saw my actions and my attitude. I had the dedication of a pro, the commitment of a pro, and the passion of a pro. I showed up like a pro dancer. In her eyes, that made me a pro and meant she would treat me as one as she worked with me.

To paraphrase a common idiom, actions speak louder than titles. Just because I compete as a student with my teacher doesn’t mean I’m any less of a competitor than any other dancer. Just because my Instagram friend is a newer teacher doesn’t make her less than other pros. What matters is how we show up in pursuit of our passion. We love what we do and we’re committed to always improving our craft.

Forgive me if I get a little preachy, but I want you to know that it doesn’t matter if you’re called a student, a teacher, an amateur or a professional. If you’re showing up as a dancer, then you’re a dancer! Your skill level is a temporary state and is always changing.

As long as you keep showing up.

Happy dancing!

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4 thoughts on “It’s Not What You’re Called, It’s How You Show Up

  1. Barbara Caridad Ferrer says:

    I’ve had the same discussion with people who hesitate to identify as writers. They feel as if they’re not published, then they don’t deserve to identify as such. I tell them that if they show up (by whatever standard that means) and commit to putting words down every day, then they’re a writer.

    I think our society in particular has devalued creative pursuits to such a degree that it puts people on the defensive which is a shame. We do AMAZING things—it may not be brain surgery, but it could be as equally important in saving a life.

    Liked by 1 person

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