A Lesson from Failure
It's been a long while since I've had the opportunity to fail at something I truly care about. This past weekend I competed in my first dance competition in over 7 years. I gave it my best shot, I felt super confident in my performance... I came nowhere near winning. I was crushed; I doubted my ability, my self-perception, and even whether I wanted to continue dancing. My ego was definitely bruised. But I am thankful for losing; I've learned a really valuable lesson about my creative self.
I am afraid to take risks. I am afraid to step outside of my comfort zone. I am afraid to put work into pieces of craft that need polishing. I am afraid to disappoint, to try something new and have the audience reject me. I prefer to be "boring."
I am a competitive pole dancer. I am more Cirque du Soleil than stripper, but I am proud of the art form's sexy roots. Since I started 4 years ago, I've always shied away from the drops, being upside down... basically any of the tricks that were intimidating. I labeled myself as a dancer who was not brave enough nor strong enough to try moves I wasn't already comfortable with. I relied heavily on floorwork to choreograph routines.
I played it safe for this competition. In the 9 months I had to prepare, I chose to stick with moves I learned as a beginner and bulked up the routine with flashy kicks and spins I could perform grounded. My performance was safe. If it were an ice cream flavor, it was vanilla. I think the judges felt that; I think I was technically a strong dancer, but I didn't leave an impression.
This experience is a mirror to who I am as a musician. As I continue to work through the creative process of writing a new album, I find myself returning to cliched chord progressions and unimaginative lyrics. I find myself returning to my 16-year-old creative self, naive and novice. I am afraid to widen my comfort zone. Even something as simple as an inverted chord makes me wonder if it's too weird for you to accept me. I've realized I am a people pleaser, and that has hindered my courage to take risks and explore my creativity to its fullest.
The competition has left me hungry to take risks as a creative and competitive person, as both a dancer and a musician. I am striving for a voice bigger and stronger than my current creative self. I feel as though I am in a new chapter of my creative journey. I am eager to see where I am headed, how much more I can accomplish simply by being more confident and trusting my ability.