Have you ever heard the saying that all relationships are a mirror? Although sometimes I think my mirror is cracked and imperfect, I’ve been thinking about this concept lately, and that there exists a special kind of power being in relationship with other human beings.
What is meant by this adage, as I understand it, is that we can only see in others what we can see in ourselves and we have the opportunity to see these things because we are in relationship.
Know that person you think is awesome? The one who is so smart, or compassionate, or strong, or funny? These are all qualities that you possess but may or may not be able to recognize in yourself.
People who we like tend to exhibit qualities that we want more of, on a subconscious level, and are therefore we are attracted to them.
On the flip side, know that bastard who is unethical, lazy, just a general SOB. Well, I hate to break the news, but guess what? You (and I) possess those qualities as well. We are just generally in denial about it and project it onto others rather than accepting it.
Now, of course, we all have light and dark natures, being divine and damned all at once. We are human. But with that comes the gift of choice. Even if we have urges to act one way or another, we have free will and can override even darker desires, especially if we live according to principles.
Why am I bringing all this up? Well, I’ve noticed some interesting clues about myself (and about Ivan) in my relationship with him. Now, let me be clear….PLATONIC people! I love the guy, but just not that way, if you know what I mean. But he sure is being a mirror for me right now, as is every relationship I have in my life, but since this blog is about dancing, and mostly I do that with Ivan (or alone in group classes), it is this relationship that I will explore. Well, that one and the relationship I have with myself.
Ivan and I, we reflect one another. I can see myself in him, and though I haven’t specifically asked Ivan about it, I’m guessing the reverse is true as well. What I mean by this is that Ivan has certain patterns of thinking that I can relate to. One of them is never thinking he is/I am “good enough.” I swear, the man can deflect any compliment (even from people the likes of Shirley Ballas), avoid hearing positive things about himself (seriously, he will just keep talking), and he can reason himself out of anything good he was thinking about himself. I am going to give myself a little credit here and say that I’ve improved dramatically in this area, (there was a time in my life when I couldn’t make eye contact with anybody nor could I receive a compliment) but I still play the same mental games with myself, even if to a lesser degree than before. I, and Ivan too, psych ourselves out of our greatness before even taking a single dance step.
This awareness is fine and well, but so what? Well, it bothers me. It bothers me a lot that Ivan refuses to see how wonderful a dancer and person he is. When I look at him, I see the makings of a champion. Heck, he already was a champion back in Bulgaria, but it’s like he thinks he’s already reached his apex. I disagree; I think the best is yet to come….if he will allow it. And it saddens me deeply that he can’t or won’t see this possibility for himself.
And that is the real epiphany. Because if Ivan is a mirror for me, then the deeper truth is that it saddens me that I can’t or won’t see what a wonderful dancer and person I am and that I, too, have the makings of a champion. It feels bold, audacious, and uncomfortable to even entertain these thoughts, much less admit them here, so there is still work to do. When and how will I find the confidence and unconditional self-love I so desperately seek?
For me, it as a lot to do with my body image. I can get so hung up on identifying with my body. I harbor thoughts that others are thinking I shouldn’t be dancing at this size, that I’m not attractive/sexy/elegant – basically all the things a dancer “should” be. Of course, I have no idea what others are thinking! Not really my business, but the point is, I’m thinking it! These are my thoughts about me. I imagine that others are thinking them because that is easier and less painful than to acknowledge the truth – that I judge myself so very harshly.
God bless Ivan. I was having a low self-esteem moment while practicing our Latin Rumba routine the other day, hating on my arms. I have Italian ancestry and you know those old Italian grandmas with the huge arms, almost like bat wings? Well, I am blessed with those genes. My arms are probably the thing I hate about myself the most. So, I’m seeing my arms in the mirror, and doing this dance that is supposed to be alluring and I’m feeling like the fattest, ugliest, most unworthy dancer that ever lived. (No, I don’t catastrophize. Not me!)
So anyways, I am not feeling good about myself and it shows. Ivan asks me about it, and I say, “Ivan, how am I suppose to dance sexy when that is the absolute last thing I feel about myself right now? These arms of mine are so gross!” To which he replies, “That is not the girl I see. I see the one inside you. The ‘hot mocha.'”
In that moment, he reflected back to me my potential. He affirmed that it is possible for me to change. And he acknowledged he is dancing with me, not just my body.
I think one of the qualities Ivan has that I want more of is to be comfortable in my own skin, both personality-wise and physically. He is as genuine as they come. He is truly himself all the time. Some may think he’s a wacko, but I think it’s awesome that he is true to himself so deeply. He also has no body shame that I can detect. He complains about his weight, because I think like every ballroom dancer is slightly insane and thinks they should be rail thin, even the males, but even if he isn’t exactly where he thinks he should be, he shakes and moves and dances big and bold and with expression no matter if there is one person in the room or 100. I want some more of that, too.
I believe that we all mentor one another just by being around each other. The way I walk in this world (or how Ivan does) exemplifies a particular way of being. I can learn new and better ways of being just by being present with individuals who have what I don’t, and vice versa.
So I’ve come to a decision to take some action. It’s actually selfish of me, if I think about it. Ivan continually calls forth qualities in me that I’ve been reluctant to allow. He creates the space for me to dance bigger, bolder, and better, and to also express more deeply and authentically, not to mention blasting away most of my mental limitations. It’s time to return the favor. But, of course, by doing what I’m planning on doing for him, I’m also indirectly doing it for me. I’m doing it for the part of me that identifies with that part of him that refuses to accept his greatness as a dancer and as a person. The part that chooses not to hear positive feedback, only the negative. The part that psychs himself out, judges, criticizes, and squashes. I can’t stand the self-defeating practices anymore. So as I take action in an attempt to heal this “Mental Problem” Ivan has, I will also be healing myself. I love holding the paradox – being selfish and selfless at the same time.
I’m going to give Ivan a mirror. On this mirror I am going to write in Bulgarian (I got some help with the translation from Marieta) “I am a champion! Yes I am!!!” I’m going to instruct him to look into it for at least a minute or more every day.
And you know what? Knowing that I want to create the space for Ivan to step into this practice, I’d better make a mirror for myself as well. Forget this indirect healing stuff! If I’m so friggin’ aware of this part of me that wants healing, I have no excuse! So I think my mirror will say, “I am worthy! Yes I am!!!” I know I’ve got the right phrase because it’s making me cry right now. Bingo. That’s a bullseye.
So, what have I reflected for you in this post?
If you were going to create a mirror for someone in your life, who would it be? What would the mirror say?
And, more importantly….what would your own mirror say?