Mirror, Mirror

When I was thirteen I had a ballet teacher who was incredibly hard on me. He’d shame me in class and never offer a kind word, no matter how hard I worked. One day as I stood on my toes and twirled and twirled, he yelled out, “You could walk into any company, Hamilton, and they’d take one look at your body and hire you. But as soon as they saw you dance, they’d fire you!’

I remember the feeling of shame and the heat that rose up and stained my cheeks as I kept twirling and trying. Tears escaping the corners of my eyes, heart crushed. One of my friends twirled by and brushed my arm with her hand, a gesture of sympathy, and I had to work harder not to break down. I danced that day with a fire raging inside me until he finally asked if I was okay. That shocked me, and made me wonder at my rage and his behavior. How could he think I was okay?

Years later, after I’d stopped dancing, I ran into him on Broadway. He called out to me. He seemed much older, but his gait was unmistakable. He asked me how I was, how my little brother was, and where I was dancing. When I told him I’d quit, he was stunned. He said he’d always thought I’d been special, that’s why he was so hard on me. The fact that he was so hard on me was one of the reasons I’d quit, though I decided not to share that with him. He wasn’t teaching anymore, so his brand of tough love wasn’t likely to have a painful impact on any other thirteen year old. I could see he’d meant well, even if his methods were lacking in compassion or understanding at the time.

If you’re a certain kind of person (people-pleasers, take note), and you sense someone doesn’t approve of you, the disapproval is a hook. Once you’re on the line you can dance like a clown, but you’ll never get the affirmation you seek unless you affirm yourself. I’ve had people roll up their mats and leave my yoga class, I’ve had people write nasty posts about this blog. Not everyone is going to like me, or you. The main thing is being able to look yourself in the eye at the end of the day when you’re brushing your teeth in front of the mirror. The only opinion about the kind of person you are that truly has an impact on your well-being is your own opinion.  If you live your life trying to please everyone else, you’re going to be miserable. You’ll be coming from a place of neediness and desperation. There’s no power in that, and you can never make everyone happy.

I’d argue you can never make anyone happy. People are happy or they aren’t, that’s inside work. But if you’re living in alignment with what’s true for you, if you’re honoring your intuition and following the pull of that yes, you really can’t go wrong. That yes is your connection to your purpose and your gifts. Your gifts are yours to share. If you’re coming from that place, you’re coming from love. People who are angry or bitter may not like that or understand it. It’s hard to be coming from a place of pain. Wish them love, but follow your heart, so when you see those “I want you to like me stickers” on your mirror at the end of the day, it’s a no-brainer.

Sending you so much love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, please find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here.

10 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror”

  1. And how thrilled we are that you left that dance world (I’m hoping it isn’t representative of all dance worlds?), and people like him, in your rear-view! No one benefits from that type of treatment, regardless of the intention.

    1. I don’t think all dance worlds are like that, but this was a ballet company in NYC and most of the dancers were serious about it. I think for whatever unfortunate reason, many people who teach use shame as a teaching tool. I’ve heard it in yoga rooms, as well, which strikes me as particularly sad, since the practice is about the opposite of shame. Hard to embrace all parts of yourself if you’re feeling shamed!! Sending you love! XO

  2. Oh Ally,
    the deep part of your message is so heard and translated to my life in so many ways. I am recovering from bronchitis right now but hope to see you soon. In the meantime I continue to feel inspired by your hard earned and ongoing deep self awareness. xoxoxo

  3. I danced during a lot of years, and I found different kind of teachers. I hated those who used shame as a teaching tool, but I also enjoyed a lot with those who were pleased with teaching. I still have my portable ballet barres at home and I practise a little bit every day 🙂

  4. I found this to be a very sad story Ally. Perhaps because I could envision your tears and attempts to please your instructor. It reminded me of not only myself as a child/young adult trying to please my parents and teachers, but never quite making the grade and hearing that I could do better. I too discreetly walked away until I went in the service and got a new opportunity. I just wanted to be validated but perfection was not to be had. As a parent, I failed to recognize the merry-go-round that I had been on. I would recognize my kids accomplishments, but only with a “but”, to push them to do better. How sad and depressed I felt when I began to recognize that I hadn’t stopped the dance. Today it’s different but it’s hard to remove the scars from both my children and myself. I continue to be aware of my areas needing improvements. Your posts are excellent reminders for me. You are a superb dancer in the arena you are in today and it makes me feel happy to see and read it. You are a huge source of love for all on this site. Take care my friend, love you.

  5. Oh, Randy, I think your children are so lucky to have you as their dad. None of us get everything right, but I really believe if you love your kids and you’re present, you’re doing as well as anyone can! I so relate to working for that approval, though. I did that with lots of people – parents, teachers, partners – it’s such a great thing to find freedom from all that. I’m sending you a ton of love. I hope you know what a gift you are to everyone who knows you!!

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