Story Time | My Experience With Self Worth
It's story time once again. This one is personal and it’s long, so be ready. Maybe grab some popcorn and water for a little snack as you read this.
I debated about writing this. Then after I wrote it I debated whether I should post it. The number of times I went back and forth was annoying and there were so many things that made me hesitant towards putting it all out there. Mainly, I was nervous what people would think and wondered if they'd see me differently or act differently towards me. Eventually, I came to the conclusion to post it (obviously since you’re reading this). I realized that while the story might suck and be kinda sad, the lessons I learned and continue to learn from this are important. So while the story takes up most of this page, it’s not what I want to focus on.
I want to start by saying that I’m going to be completely honest and am doing my best not to be dramatic by any means. With that in mind, this is not a happy story. In fact, it’s a story I am not fond of telling even though I’m frequently asked. Okay, well actually not frequently, because most people are too nervous to actually ask me. I don’t blame them. It’s a story that brings up a mix of emotions: a little sorrow, some frustration and a whole lotta tears.
I was a dancer. In studio, I felt eh. Not too shabby, but I didn’t think I was anything special. Then came high school and everything changed. I became confident in myself all around. I never felt questioned by my teammates, my coaches or by myself. I’ll admit, I thrived on my high school dance team; it was a good time. Plus I was pretty successful as a soloist and with my team. Hell, I had the best four years of high school dance team that I could ever ask for. Then came college.
I had it all planned out to go out of state, I was sure I wouldn’t be in Minnesota. But then I heard the University of Minnesota Dance Team had lots of spots open. I knew I had to tryout. That was the team to be on. I had always wanted to be on that team, what dancer didn’t? I couldn’t pass up the opportunity so I went to tryouts with zero expectations. I figured I had a nice 50/50 chance and that there was absolutely nothing to lose, because there wasn’t.
the main story
I made it and was a member of the University of Minnesota Dance Team for two whole years.
Those two years were awesome, but not perfect on an individual level. While I danced both jazz and pom my freshmen year, I had some emotional shit going on that kinda messed with me. I always did my best to leave it at the door, but there were definitely times when it effected my mental and emotional state. My sophomore year I was an alternate for jazz, but danced pom. Not gonna lie, it was hard to be on the side and I wanted so badly to dance with my teammates, but I still kept at it. I did my best to be a reliable teammate, no matter where I was placed. I worked my butt off.
By the end of my sophomore year, I felt pretty solid about myself. I had hit everything I needed to at Nationals and was eager for the year ahead. I couldn’t wait to be an upperclassmen on the team and to hopefully get the opportunity to be in both dances. At the end of the year we have a little meeting with the coaches to recap and discuss the year to come. …yea my meeting sucked.
I always knew I wasn’t the best on the team. I was not a star who got solos, was in feature groups or got lifted. I was placed in the back corner the majority of the time but I truly mean it when I say I was okay with it because every spot matters and I was always just grateful to be on the team as it was. I figured, if the team looks the best with me back here, then so be it. I just did my best and worked as hard as I could to better myself.
Anyways, my meeting sucked. I figured there was a chance I would be an alternate again, but what I didn’t expect was to not be on the team period. So yea, that’s what I learned and as tryouts kept getting closer, I felt my odds getting slimmer. I kept working hard though, because if there’s anything you should know about me it’s that I do not quit. I continued to wake up early, go the rec when it opened and dance. I needed to do everything I could. I couldn’t just quit. One reason being that that’s not who I am and the second being that dance and that team was my passion. I loved it so much. Even more so I loved the people: my teammates, my friends; my family. I knew I had to try, even when I knew the odds weren’t in my favor. I knew I couldn't throw in the towel because I loved it and them too much.
the sad part
I went to tryouts knowing I would not be on the final list. Instead I tried to focus on dancing with my teammates and my friends for one last time. Of course, in the back of my mind a sliver of me was hopeful that maybe, just maybe I could do it. The realistic part of me though, said OC you’re not going to be on the team next year so you need to just dance and enjoy being with your friends for the very last time.
There are three days of tryouts and I was cut on the second. Which is what I asked for. I told one of the seniors that if there was a zero percent chance I’d make it, then I wouldn’t want to go the third day. I especially wouldn’t want to walk up to the final list. It was still embarrassing though. I remember gathering my stuff and walking out by myself in front of everyone as they continued to practice. I avoided making eye contact with my friends and thought about trying to stay as small as possible so I wouldn’t draw attention to myself. I remember holding back tears until I got through the door. Simply put, it was heart breaking.
That night I did what any girl would do. Retail Therapy. I threw on a cute outfit and makeup and forced myself to go out so I wouldn’t continue to cry. It worked and I spent more money than I had and bought more stuff that I didn’t need. The following day, I went home to my mom and cried.
I could tell the story above without crying now because those are the facts, the things that happened. What people did not know was how it affected me emotionally. For a little while, I felt okay. I didn’t cry too much and tried not to think about it. After about a week and a half it really hit me and all I did was cry when I was alone. I remember, I’d come home from class, ignore my friends/roomies and then lock myself in my room and cry. Then I’d put spoons in the freezer so that I could keep the swelling down the next morning and go to class as normal as can be, but I was always thinking about it. That’s when I began questioning myself, continuously blaming myself for not being good enough. I began questioning my self worth.
I’d start with my ability strictly as a dancer. I wasn’t good enough. Why wasn’t I good enough? If only I had better technique. If only I could turn faster, leap higher and have naturally pointed feet. If only I was more flexible, had a better center or had better lines. Why wasn't I good enough as a dancer? I should have been better.
From there, I would criticize myself as a person. I wasn’t good enough. Why wasn’t I good enough? What if I had been a better leader? What if I was more out-spoken and pitched in? If only I had a more outgoing personality, was funny and made people laugh. If only I had talked more often and gave my ideas. If only I was a worthy person. Why wasn’t I good enough as a person? I should have been better.
That’s the one thing I kept saying over and over again. I should have been better. I continued to blame myself and think of all the things I could have done differently that could've changed the outcome. I mainly continued to think, if only I had been better. It’s my fault I didn’t make it. It’s my fault I wasn’t good enough.
I started to allow myself to feel worthless.
...I wish there was a way to say that so it didn't seem so dramatic, because I feel like the term "worthless" is stretching it a little too far... But that's kinda how I felt.
I kept all my feelings to myself for the longest time. Every once in awhile I’d make short comments to my past teammates or sorta confide in them. But even though they were still my friends, I didn’t want to make them feel bad. So for the most part I kept it concise and said I was okay. I never really told them or any of my friends exactly how I felt, because I didn’t want to bring them down. I didn't want them to worry. Even more so, I didn't want them to feel like they couldn't come to me anymore about dance. They were still my friends. I wanted to be there for them no matter what and I didn't want them to think that they had to tip toe around me (...if they're reading this then hopefully they know that they don't have to do that. That I am truly always there for each and every one of them whenever they need me).
the current state of mind
Anyways. I still question myself, because in the end I wasn’t good enough. It’s not a daily thing. I swear that the majority of the time I’m content with life. But I still have those bad days when dance comes across my mind and I’ll cry for a few minutes. It’s a hard thing to face, but it’s the truth. In general, no one should be kept on a team if they no longer meet that team’s standards, but accepting that you were simply not good enough is tough. I grew up with parents who have always been extremely loving and supportive. They would always tell me that if I set my mind to something and worked hard enough, then I could do whatever; be whatever I wanted to be. They believed that I had the potential to succeed in whatever I chose to do. For the majority of my life that has been true. This was the first time that I put in all my efforts and still came out on the bottom, not being able to meet someone else’s standards. It was the first time I was not good enough.
I’m learning that is okay. We are not all good enough in some way. We don’t all get 4.0 GPAs, we don’t all go to the Olympics or get the highest paying job because we are not all good at everything. Even if it’s something we’ve been involved with for a long time, sometimes we have a limit no matter how hard we work.
But here’s the whole point of why I’m posting this. Here’s
I’m still learning. A situation does not determine your self worth. Just because you don’t succeed in one thing does not mean you are worthless. The situation does not correlate with your worthiness as a human being. Hell it doesn’t even always correlate with your characteristics or personality.
In that situation, I let the ugly come out in me: the negative and judgmental part of me. I let the situation control my thoughts about myself as a dancer and as a person. I let it bring me down in the worst ways possible. Now, I’m constantly reminding myself that I am more than just a dancer and there is more to life than just dancing. I used to identify myself as a dancer for so long that I forgot that there’s so much more to me.
That goes the same for everyone. We are all so much more than the sport we play, the grade we get or the job we have. We are complicated human beings with real personalities and characteristics that make us who we are. We are worthy of love, compassion and happiness. We are more than just a sport we did. And let’s be honest, our bodies can’t do that shit forever anyways.
I’m learning every day and reminding myself of all of these things constantly. It’s hard and there are sad moments when I think about the team and get a little down on myself. I know those moments will continue to come for awhile, but all I can say is that I will constantly to work on it. I will continue to remind myself that I am worthy, because I am more. My identity is more than just a "dancer".
P.S. I hope that sharing my experience & thoughts have helped you in some sort of way. Whether it made you think of a new perspective or gave you advice that can pertain to you and your life. Either way, I hope that there was some sort of bigger take away than my own story.
P.P.S. It took a lot to write this and even more to post and share it. I hope you'll be mindful of everything I've shared and try to understand or at least respect my point of view.