About five years ago, I took ballet classes. I really love to dance, and as I had always wanted to take ballet when I was younger, I decided that it is never too late, and enrolled for weekly group classes in central London. Now I have very high standards, so I was extremely nervous about taking these classes, and from the beginning of the course right to the very end, I felt like the most awkward, clumsy and foolish person that ever walked this earth! I frequently felt like crying from embarrassment in class, and frustration rose easily. I came away each week totally lacking in confidence. I was reduced to feelings of inadequacy and imperfection – feelings I thought I’d left behind me many years before. The dance teacher didn’t help – she was extremely sharp and critical – and at times I felt like I was back in the school room. YUCK!
I was really confused as I experienced these feelings, and I began questioning my self-esteem. What I then realised is that firstly I shouldn’t have taken myself so seriously (bad habit), and secondly, feeling the way I did was okay, and no indication of my core level of self-esteem. Rather it was simply a reflection of my confidence level relative to my own perceived ability to dance, set against the unrealistic standard I had set for myself. I really wanted to be amazing right off the bat!
All that happened was that I had moved way out of my comfort zone and into the realm of the unknown. I had forgone the illusive security of certainty and control in order to learn something new and expand my experience of life. In doing so, I had subjected myself to these “horrible” feelings that most certainly were not welcome in my world, and I almost mistakenly attributed this total discomfort to a low self-esteem.
A little while ago, I was again thinking about the issue of a healthy self-esteem, and while I wondered who exactly set the parameters for such a thing, it occurred to me that one’s self-esteem could not possibly be static, or fixed. I had a sense that it was not beneficial for any person to define themselves as having a set point of self-esteem, as that would create an inaccurate view of oneself, and it would also be extremely limiting. While I feel that self-esteem is the foundation of our being, it is something altogether more fluid, and constantly in motion. As with everything in life, it is subject to ebb and flow, finding intervallic resting places until it is ready to move again.
Growth in life depends on constantly deviating from a point of balance particular to the individual. It is living the yin and yang in order to enhance the life experience, and to provide opportunity for new choice and direction. We then rest at a greater, expansive point of balance which will once again tip in our favour as the circle of life unfolds.
I see now that true self-esteem (much like dance), allows free movement. It may be stretched and pulled along with the tides of life, but in its unwavering strength it cannot be permanently harmed or tainted by surface fluctuations of confidence. For me it is a knowing that I am an expression of life itself, and that my life matters simply because that is what I choose to believe.