Why Good Enough really is good enough–and so are you

Inktober 3. Collect

I’ve been reading a lot of novels in the last few weeks, since I discovered OverDrive, which lets me take ebooks out from the library and read them on my phone. I am ridiculously happy reading on my phone, which, as a book person, I never thought would happen. I’ve been binge-reading Ursula Le Guin, Richard Kadry, and Neil Gaiman. It’s been such a pleasure to read beautifully written books!

The other day I read a passage in Gaiman’s book, American Gods that just floored me. Sighing, I thought, “I will never be this good, no matter how long I write.” Oddly, this didn’t depress me–I get such a lift from great work. More oddly, the rejoinder that came right to mind was, “No, but if I put the effort in, I can certainly be good enough.”

It’s funny to think that, isn’t it? “Good enough” is kind of second best. It was was a catch-phrase a friend and I enjoyed over the summer. “I’ll never be as amazing as you,” one of us would sigh. And the other would kindly respond, “Well, if you work reallly hard, someday you might just be good enough.” And then we would laugh our heads off.

Good Enough has a lot going for it. 

When I had to make a lot of repairs to my house so my insurance wouldn’t get cancelled, we worked like dogs–but as the hour of the inspection approached, I realized we would never be finished in time. I almost just gave up. Then I thought, well, it won’t be done–but maybe it will be good enough to succeed anyway. And it was. So many times this has happened. It’s not perfect. But it does what it needs to do. It’s enough. And that’s good. And next time it will be better.

It’s like this with the book too–which is so close to done, it’s scary. What if it’s not good enough? But it will be. It won’t be perfect. Nothing is. It won’t please everyone. Nothing does. I’m sure it could be better. Everything can. But it will be good enough.

We are so hobbled by the notion that if we can’t be the BEST we might as well stay home.

That anything less than perfection is failure. Every artist struggles to reconcile the image of what they wanted to create with the reality in front of them. Even Neil Gaiman finds a typo in every book he publishes, yet American Gods still won every award in sight and is being made into a TV show. I don’t have to win every award, nice as that would be. I just want to make work that satisfies me and that readers buy and enjoy.

It’s the same with dance.

You put in the effort, and you get better. But there will be mistakes, errors, disasters. That’s how you know you are learning. After a while, you have fewer, but each time you put yourself in the position of being a novice again, you go back to that awkward place of beginner-dom. but there is nothing better for us than to be thrown periodically back into that place. Real learning is a difficult, messy, uncomfy process. But that;s how we increase our intelligence and gain new skills. By putting ourselves outside of our own comfort zones, taking risks, and–failing.

It’s not the failing that’s important–well, it is.

Failing means that we tried to do something new and difficult. We put ourselves out there. We went for it. But there is more to it than simply falling on our faces. There is the getting back up again. There is the continuing. The keeping going. Persistence. Perseverance. That is what makes a difference. So many of us have had dreadful setbacks–but we continue on. Not everyone gets to do that. Some of us are unable to go on. Those of us who can have something for which to be deeply grateful.

I will never be Neil Gaiman.

Or Bill Watterston, who created Calvin and Hobbes. Or Elena Lentini, queen of our dance (and that one does sting). Here she is, thanks to Tarifa Salem (Bobby Farrah’s niece): https://youtu.be/regqBiXdLrc

But I can be me.

And I can be a pretty darn good version of me. Maybe not the Me I see shining in my mind’s eye–the Platonic Ideal of me. I’m just too damn tired for now. But I can keep going. I can keep learning. I can keep challenging myself. I’ll fail. But I’ll also succeed.

We spend so much energy bemoaning our failures and not nearly enough appreciating our strength, good fortune, success, and persistence. Let’s cut ourselves a little slack. Let’s be grateful that we are all here, together, and that we can dance.

Let’s try liking ourselves. 

I like you. You like me. Why not like ourselves?

Love,

Alia

 

PS I’ll be teaming up with Rosa Noreen and Nadira Jamal for another Compassionate Critique Salon. We will celebrate each dancer’s strengths as well as some suggestions for growth. Get some feedback for yourself or watch and learn. It all happens on November 15th.  http://www.bellydancegeek.com/compassionate-critique-salon/

Thank you all so much for the Compassionate Critique event! I appreciate your discerning eyes on my dance, especially I have had no outside critique in over 12 years. I have just been bumbling along on my own, doing my best to apply what I learn as I can. I also took copious notes on everyone else’s critiques too because, as it was pointed out, there is so much to learned from other people’s critiques.
All 3 of you were great at articulating what I see in dancers but can’t always explain. So it was also very useful to me as far as being able to give better critiques as a teacher. I also really appreciated the different perspectives that each of you brought to this salon.
Thanks again for offering it. I hope you will do it again.

 

PPS more upcoming events: 

November 1-31,
National Novel Writing Month
Write a 50K word novel in 30 days.
http://nanowrimo.org

 

Saturday, November 19 at 7:30 PM
Gina’s 12th Annual Belly Dance Showcase
“They Called us Gypsies” in Lebanon, NH
http://ginadances.com/events-page

 

Wednesday, November 23-30:
Sausan’s Raqs Al-Masriya,  Internet Choreography and Belly Dance Challenge
www.raqsalmasriya.com
Everyone makes a dance to the same piece of music (available on the site) and posts it online. Register with the Challenge to display your video with the others and let the open web view and Like favorite videos.

 

Friday and Sunday, December 2 + 4
Tarifa Salem (Bobby Farrah’s niece and protege), teaching in Danbury CT. 
http://riskallah.com/tarifasalem.html

 

August 4th, 5th, & 6th 2017:
Raq-On Strong: VT Festival featuring Leila Farid, Sahra Saeeda, and Tamalyn Dallal
(registration and payment plans now open).  https://www.facebook.com/events/1701852790031831/

 

And just in case you missed them…
Great Books, recently or nearly published. 

Erotica, Love and Humor in Arabia
Spicy Stories from The Book of Songs by al-Isfahani
Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani. Translated and Edited by George Dimitri Sawa (georgedimitrisawa.com). Spicy!  http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-1-4766-6365-4

Trance Dancing with the Jinn 
The Ancient Art of Contacting Spirits Through Ecstatic Dance By Yasmin Henkesh (sandsoftime.com). She is brilliant. This will be amazing.  http://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738737942

 

 

 

 

How to critique for confidence (or, “What the hell is this B?”)

Outdated Beliefs
Outdated Beliefs

 

 

A gal I knew was raised to believe that she mustn’t handle flowers when she had her period, because the flowers would die. I’m not kidding. People used to believe this. I was shocked to meet someone for whom this had once been a truth. We met in the first belly dance class I ever took, so she had finally figured out there was something wrong with that picture (and it is an easy test, after all).

Sadly, many of us are raised with equally outdated beliefs and models

And we never even think to question them.

One of the more dysfunctional models with which I was raised was the dismissal of anything done well, and a focus on what was wrong. For example, growing up, I never heard, “Oh, honey, four As. Nice work!” Nope. All I got was, “What the hell is this B?” So this is how I talked to myself, too.

My self-critique was vicious. I couldn’t watch a video of my own dance without wanting to die. I never saw the good of what I did. I felt anxious and insecure.

I see that same focus on what’s wrong in many of my dance friends and students. We have been brainwashed into thinking that we have to be perfect or stay home. Women especially are tyrannized by the expectation of perfection. That’s just a myth designed to keep us powerless. When we focus our critique on what’s wrong, we rob ourselves of confidence and accomplishment. When we focus on what’s right, we win.

Switching to what’s right builds confidence

In child-rearing, the productive model is to tell the kids what to do. Instead of saying NO all the time, you can say YES. Instead of “Don’t touch that!” you redirect the kid to what is okay for them to play with. This was a big shift. When I started teaching writing at the college level, I educated myself about how to teach, how to do critique. Wow. I learned a LOT. It changed me as a teacher and as a human being.

Focus on student success

I have been a teacher at some level since the early 80s, working first for Headstart and later as a Speech Language Assistant in the public school system. I now teach English Composition at the college level (and have for over 20 years), so I have to do a lot of critique.

It was a hard job to change this in myself, but it mattered a lot. I was a LOT nicer to my students than to myself,  but I still told them what was wrong with their work instead of what was right. It didn’t work very well–for me or them.

The main thing I learned is to emphasize everything students did right. I even developed rubrics with all the tasks so I could find more things to compliment. And I went one step further. When we discussed what needed improvement, I framed it as an action step—what to do, instead of what they had done.

For a dance example, to a student with good presence but sloppy, floppy hands, I’d say, “I love your shining presence. I’d love to see you bring that energy into your hands. What if you try this?” And I’d demonstrate. This worked. It worked with the writers and the dancers. It worked for me, too.

Yes, there is a lot of crappy dance out there

Is shaming dancers for their mistakes going to make it any better? What if we try another way? When dancers enjoy the pleasure of the movement and the moment, when they give themselves to the the dance, they have confidence–and their technique often improves organically.

Nothing is perfect. Everything has room to develop. This life is is about becoming, not being. We learn, we grow, we change. Otherwise, we are dead. We copy to learn, we take classes, study others, and practice. But there comes a time when we must hop out on the branch, flap our wings, launch ourselves, and fly. Taking such risks benefits us in so many ways, some understood and others yet to come.

Will our first efforts suck? Of course they will! Growth and learning include failure and revision. That’s how we learn—through trial and error, persistence, feedback, and trying again. Embracing process, identifying and correcting errors, this is key to improvement. Shame is not.

Let’s all learn how to reinforce the good, critique wisely, and model Eastern dance principles.

For more on how to do this, please check out aliathabit.com/dancers/focus-on-the-feeling. Registration is open now. There are only 25 seats. The price rises on August 17th. Please take a look right away.

How to Build Confidence so you can Dance with Joy

Smile, honey!

SmileHoneyTake a walk in any big city. Walk like a boss–and listen to the catcalls rain down upon your head. Mmm, baby! Gimme some of that! The more confident your walk, the more demanding the comments. Smile, honey! Why don’t you smile? Something about a confident woman inspires endless commentary. An appreciative glance is always nice, but who likes to be the object of unwanted attention? No one.

Still, the catcallers have a point. Smiling is magic. Especially when we smile for ourselves. A smile lifts mood, melts stress, and ripples outward to lift up those around us. It is part of the secret sauce of self-love that brings us confidence and joy. And one great place to smile is in the mirror. That’s right–smile at yourself!

I learned this from Bobby Farrah. It took me a looong time to understand its value–and longer to put it into practice. Bobby gazed at himself lovingly in the mirror. I mean, yeah, he looked at us to correct us, too–but when he looked at himself, as he did going across the floor and at many other moments, he damn near simpered. It was pretty interesting. Now I see (as I do with so much of Bobby’s material), how advanced and amazing his models were.

Think about it. Most of the time when we look at ourselves in the mirror–particularly doing practice–what do we do? We squint accusingly. We watch ourselves like hawks for any mistake, deviation, or flaw. And then we berate ourselves for them. We are always looking at ourselves with mean, narrow eyes. And we all know that what we do in practice, we do in performance. So those mean eyes go out into the world with us. We frown in concentration when we dance. At our guests. At our friends. Yikes!

So what can we do?

Smile! Now, when I practice, I don’t look at myself for flaws–I beam at myself! I give myself flirtatious glances! I laugh with myself! I treat myself like a loving friend and share joy with my reflection in the mirror. And you know what? It works. It’s far easier to express joy when I practice it every day. My dance is more confident. My affect is more welcoming. My practice is much more fun. And the warm feeling I get lasts into my day.

Try it! When you look in a mirror, give yourself a flirty wink. When you dance in front of a mirror, focus on flirting and laughing with yourself. Twinkle your joy at every opportunity. It may be hard at first, but persevere. True learning is uncomfortable. But gaining joy is well-worth the effort.

It’s okay to love yourself. You won’t turn into a narcissist, and you won’t suddenly become a schlub, either. It’s okay to feel good. It’s okay to smile. Maybe not for catcallers, but certainly for yourself and your friends. We could all use a dose of confidence. We could all use some more fun. And we could all use joy. Let’s make it a habit to give that to ourselves.

Breath helps bring the joy. Breath has become such an integral part of my dance, I can’t imagine going back to the way I was. Last call for the early access to The Road to Joy: Step 1, Breath.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do.

 

Love,

Alia

Fake smiles good and bad

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/health/22really.html?_r=0

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/raising_happiness/post/fake_it_till_you_make_it

How to Trick your mind for Happiness

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_trick_your_brain_for_happiness

 

PS We have some friends who could use some love. 

PS In the 2012 and 2013 90 Days, Dawn Schmidt Ventimiglia gifted us with buckets of love, insight, and great improv prompts. Dawn’s beloved husband is surgery bound. If you’ve been wishing for some of Dawn’s wonderful painted bowls, glamping lamps or other bright, whimsical creations, now is a very helpful time to buy.  https://www.etsy.com/shop/EclecticDawnArts

PPS Someone unlocked my cage, so I will be running around loose much of the summer. It’s not all set yet, but it looks like I will be in

If you might be around, please hit me up. I’m available for parties, coffee breaks, workshops, and private lessons.

 

Lots and LOTS of love!

Alia

 

 

 

Ever think you’re Not Good Enough? Read this.

Our Crisis of ConfidenceThe Road to Joy

Thanks to everyone who wrote back to me last week.

We have quite a cross section of walls. People cited finding community, performance freeze, practice habits, illness, student readiness, and where to sell vintage vinyl (ebay or FB groups). We will get to all of these.

But the number one wall?

“I’m not good enough.”

Many of us believe we are not good enough, will never be good enough, or worry what others might think of us. This fear is so common, so pervasive, we don’t even realize the Bad Voices are lying. This destructive perception colors everything–it hijacks our happiness, short-circuits our success, and corrodes our souls. And it’s a perfect opening, since we planned to talk about Confidence as one of the 3 prongs of Old and Hot. But it also raises an important question: Not good enough for what? Belly dance?

Belly dance isn’t about being “good enough.” It’s about sharing a physical and emotional enjoyment of the musical moment. Traditionally, it’s a casual, loving, dance of the people, not a tour de force for highly-trained professionals. Sure, there have always been professional dancers, but relaxation is a virtue–plus millions more folks do this dance at home for their own enjoyment, with friends and family. It’s not rocket science. It’s a fun, playful dance. You are already good enough—seriously. But you still feel bad. Wtf?

That feeling won’t go away—until you see through it. For most of my life, I was the poster child for Not Good Enough (and it’s twin sister, Perfectionism). I believed every disheartening word the Bad Voices said to me. I just thought they were the truth. Subsequently, I have spent a lot of time and energy exploring this. I believe that dismay at our perceived lack of quality is largely an artifact of trauma. The way I see it, perfectionism, self-censure, and other control issues are all about staying safe.

In the past, others hurt us, found fault with us, or shamed us. So now we are going to beat them at their own game. If we judge ourselves first, if we point out every flaw, we will pre-empt those who might burn us with their critical flamethrowers. We will hurt ourselves first. We place our own flies in the ointment. We disappoint ourselves so we will not be disappointed. How sad is that? Pretty darn sad.

What can we do about it? Many things help. Dance and breath are among them. But there is one shift that helps all the others to come through: Mindset.

What is Mindset? Mindset is the set of beliefs that people have about themselves or the world. The researcher Carol Dweck coined the term to characterize the beliefs students held that caused “smart” kids to fail and less “smart” kids to succeed  http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/.

What does mindset have to do with dance? Our belief that we are not good enough is just that: a belief. It is a mindset and nothing more, a sad, Eeyore-like conviction that “We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.” Well, that’s not all there is. And the secret is NOT working harder, practicing harder, or otherwise punishing the body for its supposed infractions. The secret is changing our mindset and developing self-compassion.

How do we change our mindset? By observing, challenging, and releasing our previous beliefs. Full directions are here. We CAN change from self-blame to self-compassion. Remember last week’s self-compassion quiz? Go back to that aliathabit.com/old-hot/. Then come back to this. Mindset shift is the first step. Self-compassion is our new mindset.

Next, we need strategies. One of the first strategies is breath.

Breath grounds us. It calms, energizes, and heals. It cures performance brain freeze, helps us develop confidence and resilience. It is a miracle drug! And it is available to all of us. Numerous breath strategies help with our assorted needs.

Try this, right now: Inhale a count of 4; Exhale for a count of 8. Do this a few times. Slow down your count after the first few breaths. Keep going until you feel calm and grounded. It won’t take long.

Remember this for next time you feel stressed, anxious, or negative—in life or performance, alone or with others. It works because we are biologically wired to connect safety with long exhales. This was the first exercise I learned in my trauma resolution journey. Now it is yours.

Love,

Alia

PS Interested in more?

Remember that Small Product Challenge from last week? What we most need is Confidence—but let’s go a step further: Joy would be nice, wouldn’t it? The Road to Joy. Now, this is a huge, huge topic that includes pretty much everything that interests me. So we have to start small. One of the primary strategies is Breath. This is where we start.

Announcing

The Road to Joy, Step 1. BreathBreathe!

The Road to Joy: Step 1. Breath will be ready to roll on May 16. But if you want to get in on Trust the Chef early pricing (and you know you always get the best deal), feel free to jump right now.

https://aliathabit.com/road-to-joy/

Thank you for being part of this journey!

 

 

 

 

What’s your wall?

Sometimes we hit a wall. 

SoHigh2

So high, can’t get over it. So low, can’t go under it. So wide, can’t get around it…

Where is your dance wall?
What stops you, gets in your way, or keeps you from dancing what you feel in the moment? What walls do your students or dancer friends face?

Here are a few things I, and other folks, have struggled with. 

Confidence
Never feeling good enough, creative enough, or anything enough.

Presence 
Getting stuck in one’s head, losing energy, falling out of the zone.

Introversion
Feeling constrained in performance or navigating social scenes.

Improvisation
The feeling in the moment ; )

Not Performing
Why is this such a crime?

Technique
How the heck do I… ?

Age/Looks
We don’t fit the mold, but have so much to express.

Personal Style
How do you find it? Does it take forever?

Finding Spirit in Dance
Is it really all hoodoo?

 

What’s your biggest wall?
How does it affect you?
What would help?

 

Write to me. Or post on the blog. I’ll write back.

Love,

Alia

PS I am once again endeavoring to create a little something new, this time in two weeks. This week is for figuring out what to make. Next week is for making it. It shall be done and ready to roll on May 1. I want it to be something that solves a problem for my dance friends–that’s you. Hence my question. More on Thursday!

How to be Old and Hot (what else is there?)

Self-CompassionOne summer on the Coney Island Boardwalk, I saw two Hispanic ladies in swimsuits dancing to salsa music blaring from a portable radio. Since it was New York at least 40 years ago–and salsa–they were probably Puerto Rican. These ladies were a lovely shade of tan that glowed in the sun. Both were older, maybe in their 50s–but I was just a kid, so hey, maybe 30s. Neither was “pretty.” Neither had a “good” figure–one had a big round belly and skinny little legs and arms. Both were saggy and lined.

Unabashed by the hundreds of other people strolling the boardwalk, they laughed and danced in the sun, completely engaged with their pleasure. They were relaxed, confident, and present. They were radiantly beautiful.

Hotness has nothing to do with looks. We have been told all our lives, in ways both explicit and implicit, that as women, our value is all in our physical attractiveness. We are encouraged to compare ourselves to unattainable models and work incessantly on our face and figure. We pity and despise anyone who doesn’t measure up, even as we are secretly delighted to scratch out the name (if not the eyes), of one more competitor in the big contest of attraction. No wonder so many women are so angry.

And then we get old.
That first grey hair. That line. Someone calls us ma’am. Some hot new property appears on our horizon. Our days are numbered. Somewhere we realize this is all a shuck and a sham. That our value is deeper than than our skin. But it’s a rough road, people. Even if we are not “pretty,” youth conveys a certain dewy hormonal veil of attraction. When we base our worth on youth, beauty, even athletic ability, we build our house upon the sand. Once that’s gone, we are pretty much washed up.

All of us over 40 have been there. Some of us live there. All of us are going there. Aging is no cakewalk, my friends. Take some notes now, so you, too, can be a beach-dancing beauty in your so-called “golden” years. If you are already there, listen up. There’s no time like the present. The three keys are Self-Compassion, Confidence, and Personal Pleasure. Today we will look at Compassion.

What is Self-Compassion?
Compassion is generally defined as Loving Kindness. Compassion exists outside of the duality of good and bad. In this case, we are looking at Self-Compassion, extending loving kindness to the self.

Most of us are pretty hard on ourselves. As we age, we have even more opportunities to hate on ourselves. Every glance in the mirror is an ordeal. We attempt to shame ourselves into doing better. This keeps us in a state of perpetual unhappiness. We never feel good enough. We fear that simply loving ourselves is suspect, a short slide to a slovenly satisfaction with our crappy lives. It’s not.

Self-Compassion IS treating ourselves kindly. It is how we might treat a good friend. It is mindful, honest, and kind. It does not involve evaluation. We are no better (or worse), than anyone else. We are all humans, each with our own challenges. It doesn’t depend upon our failure or success, if we are beautiful or not. We are all beautiful, we are all unique, and we are all deserving of kindness and love.

Self-Compassion means having our best interests at heart–we want ourselves to be well, and we are willing to help. We can look at negatives from a place of love. It provides all the benefits of self esteem without the narcissistic downsides.

Self-Compassion is key in releasing trauma. We give to ourselves the love and comfort that we needed in the past.  The sooner we start loving ourselves, the sooner we can let go of shame and fear.

How do we develop Self-Compassion? Part of it is a mindset shift. Accepting that we are worthy of love and kindness is a big step for many of us. We re-write our inner scripts–we replace scathing put-downs with understanding such as we might offer a suffering friend. We forgive ourselves for having been hurt, and for hurting ourselves. We hold ourselves close in our own hearts.

Kristin Neff is a pioneer researcher of self compassion. She has put together a quiz to help folks see just how self-compassionate they are–and a compendium of exercises to help develop it. So let’s get to it!

Self-Compassion is key to our development of Confidence. And confidence is key to presenting ourselves as more than a pretty face. We’ll take a look at that next time.

Lots of love,

Alia