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Walking On Eggshells

Walking On Eggshells

 

How judgmental comments stall your development.

One of the best things about being a belly dancer is the community. But the dark side of community is gossip and cattiness.
 
 

It’s not uncommon to hear judgmental comments from other dancers.
And because they’re so often directed at other people and not directly at us, we often don’t notice them.
 
But they stick with us, and they can stall our development as dancers.
 

Listen Now:

 

Or Read the Transcript

This was professionally transcribed, but it probably still has some errors. If you catch any, drop me a line at nadira@nadirajamal.com. I’d love to hear from you!

One of the best things about being a belly dancer is the community. The friendship and support that you get from the dance community can be just wonderful.

But like any community, there is also some cattiness and gossip. And so we often run into judgmental comments from other dancers. These are incredibly prevalent in the community, and because they’re so often directed at other people and not directly at us, often we don’t even notice them. But they stick with us, and they can stall our development as dancers.

And so, as we walk through that landscape of judgment and criticism, we can internalize all of these things that we hear. That leads us to create a mental list of all the things that we have to do in order to avoid being “bad dancers” or “bad people.”

And this is especially tricky for the perfectionists like me. The more conscientious and responsible you are, the more likely you are to internalize this stuff. And so we end up walking on eggshells trying to make sure that nobody makes those comments about us. But here’s the thing: trying to avoid criticism by removing the grounds for criticism is the kiss of death for an artist.

This is true for a couple of reasons. One, it puts you in a negative mindset. We do our best work out of love, and not out of fear or shame. Two, it gives away your power and your agency. It lets other people’s priorities and hangups drive your art, rather than directing it from your own values and your own tastes.

But most importantly, it doesn’t work. This kind of criticism is never about your dancing. It’s about the speaker’s own hangups. If somebody wants to find something to criticize, they will. Even if you manage to do everything the way that they would do it, then they’ll criticize you for copying them. And you can’t please everyone at the same time, so even if you manage to shut one person up, somebody else is going to dislike those changes.

So if you want to get out of that hamster wheel, you need to detach from those critical comments. And that is easier said than done. Now this is a big topic, so it’s something that I’m going to talk about over several episodes. But for now, let’s focus on how to avoid engaging with negative comments.

One option is to reduce exposure. Just put yourself in fewer situations where you encounter that kind of negativity. Two, let it roll off. Three, don’t listen. Four, push back. And five, make sure you’re not part of the problem.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say that you usually sit with a particular group of dancers at shows, but they often make catty and negative comments. It might make sense to sit with a group of dancers with a more positive outlook. But if that’s not a good option, you can just stop listening and disengage from the conversation when they take that tack. For example, if somebody makes a judgmental comment, pull out your phone and just play with that until they start taking the conversation in a better direction.

Often, the people who make these kinds of comments are looking for attention, and if you don’t feed them, they’ll get the message and they’ll stop. Now, this is especially true if you also give them the attention that they’re looking for when they have more positive things to say. So actively engaging when they’re positive and pulling back your attention when they’re being negative can be very effective.

And if they press you when you ignore them, or if you’re not quite comfortable with it, then you can also have an explanation ready. If they bring it up, say that you’ve been struggling with critical thoughts about yourself, and that when you hear critical comments about other people, it makes it harder for you to break out of that loop. And obviously you need to pick wording that makes sense and feels comfortable for you.

Keep yourself focused on I, and what you need and how you respond, and not give the impression that they are bad or wrong. Even though they are being rude in this situation, they’ll typically respond better if you keep it focused on you.

And, you know, if you don’t really feel like you can respectfully ask your friends for what they need, then they probably aren’t your real friends. If you’ve had enough, or you’ve reached your limit, or if you’re just feeling extra bold, you can say all of these things without being asked. As soon as you hear a consistent barrage of critical comments coming out, you can just say, “You know, I don’t feel great about negative comments. Do you mind if we keep things positive or more constructive?”

And finally, start paying attention to your own comments. If you find yourself discussing other dancers, pay attention to how much of it is negative and how much of it is positive. If you find yourself saying negative things about other dancers to a third party, ask yourself if that’s really appropriate and really helpful. And if you do feel like it’s appropriate to say, make sure that what you’re saying is constructive and helpful, and not negative or critical.

Now, you might be thinking, “But I need feedback in order to grow as an artist.” And yes, absolutely you do. But this is not that kind of feedback. Kind and constructive feedback from a mentor you trust is very different from catty, critical comments made by random people, or even the leaders in your dance community. Constructive feedback is intended to support your growth, as you become the dancer you want to be. But critical comments are always about the commenter’s own ego, and their own hangups. They’re always about the speaker and never about you.

Now, we’re going to talk about how to separate useful feedback from unhelpful judgments in another episode, but for now let’s summarize. Have some cattiness and gossip, but it’s particularly prevalent in the belly dance world. And even when it’s not directed at us, we internalize it. So often we start to try to fix our dance in order to avoid criticism, but that’s impossible, because judgmental comments are always about the speaker’s own issues, not about the dancer they’re discussing, and definitely not about you. Someone will always find a way to criticize you if they want to, and so trying to prevent criticism never works. It will also kill your artistic spark.

So the first step is to start detaching from catty comments. Reduce your exposure. Visualize them rolling off. Actively don’t listen. And if you’re ready, push back. And above all make sure that you’re not the one starting it. This is easier said than done, but every little bit helps, so it’s never too early to start.

 

Your Turn

Do you hear judgmental comments often?

Have you ever changed your dance or your priorities to avoid being criticized?

Got a question or topic that you’d like me to talk about on the show?

I would love to hear from you.

Leave a comment below, or better yet, leave me a short voice message. Maybe I’ll even play it on the air!

 

Want More?

If you’ve been trying to live up to other people’s priorities, and feel like you’ve lost track of your own, check out my online training, Personal Style Snafus.

You’ll learn how to cut through the distractions, and find your own path.

Check it Out 

 

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