The world of dance can be harsh on a young girl, already at a sensitive age where judgement is shot fast and frequent from all angles. Faultfinding pierces like arrows from peers at school, 24/7 on social media, shifting relationships at home and work, and at the dance studio. It can be very difficult to figure out how to differentiate constructive criticism from
mean spirited judgement. The lines can feel fuzzy. After a day of filtering out the noise of haters, showing up at the studio only to have more correction focused on you can feel like too much to bear.
For dancer, Natasha Cushman, it almost stole her passion for her art completely. Natasha confides, "I took what everybody said to heart and started to believe I wasn’t ever going to be good enough. I started to isolate myself from others and stopped caring about going to dance." Natasha was lucky. She had a sympathetic listener in her mother. After talking through her feelings she realized a shift in perspective was necessary if she was going to salvage her love of dance.
Natasha says, "I finally realized that I dance for myself and for not others." She began by deciding whose opinion was motivated by jealousy or insecurity and decided to fight back
with compassion and kindness. "I learned that the harshest people around me were usually more insecure then I was." By meeting their words with a compliment, being quick to encourage and cheer on their accomplishments, or offer to lend a hand, she was able to learn to keep her heart open but still find a was to shield it from words that once hurt.
Opening her heart back up to people also gave her to strength to hear helpful criticism for what it was meant to be. She realized she was surrounded by teachers, parents, and even fellow dancers whose words are intended to help her grow and find her highest potential, not cut her down. She still struggles from time to time with feeling good enough but, as she shared with us, "I’ve grown so much from learning to be more laid back and just loving myself for who I am."
Learning to accept herself has allowed her to be more receptive to to praise, more quick to offer her own praise, and more likely to recognize what is constructive criticism verses what is unnecessary judgment. And best of all, she has learned to love the demanding precision of ballet again!
Follow Natasha Cushman @tdancer411
Photography courtesy of Blue Dot @bluedphoto
Learn more about Natasha's studio, Cornerstone Academy @cornerstone_academy
Artistic Director, Rebekah VonRathonyi