Updated: Aug 19
**WARNING** Reading this blog may test your ego. Feel free to respectfully agree or disagree in the comments. I’m also not against disrespectful disagreement, so feel free to show your true colours in the comments below.
One of the hardest lessons of competition – and if we’re honest, of life in general – is that we do not “deserve” the outcome that we receive.
What exactly do I mean by that?
I don’t mean that maybe some people didn’t deserve to win because the judges were wrong. As a judge I totally understand that watching a routine as a spectator and a judge are 2 completely different experiences, and I will totally admit that the performances I would enjoy most as a spectator are not always the ones that I would score best as a judge. Because judging criteria are very different from enjoying criteria.
What I mean, is that you as a human being do not deserve anything. That is, no matter how hard you train, how much money and effort you put into it, you are not entitled to anything.
To deserve: do something or have or show qualities worthy of (reward or punishment)
Just looking at the definition of deserve, how messed up is it that your 2.5-4 mins on stage makes you worthy of reward or punishment?
Here’s the thing that I have realized through many years of competing and placing everywhere from first to last place: None of it determines my worth as a dancer or a human being.
There’s this thing that often happens when we don’t win at a competition: If we made a mistake, either people assure us that it was hardly noticeable, that it was totally fine, that we should be proud of ourselves no matter what, OR they tells us it’s ok, shit happens, we just have to pick ourselves up, learn from the lessons, and try again. These are not wrong. Well, that latter is not wrong. It is 100% ok to be disappointed by either how you performed or how you scored. If you're supporting someone, you don't need to invalidate their disappointment. They know they messed up. You can still show them that you love them even though you saw the mistake and it's still ok.
But remember – you “deserve” neither to perform well (or poorly) nor to score well (or poorly) and neither actually contributes towards your worth.
While it is totally normal to feel like a failure when you don’t win, it’s not the truth. No matter how much time, money, energy you invested into your performance, a failure of your performance does NOT make you a failure. The fact that you dedicated your time, your energy, and your money to challenge yourself, improve yourself, and experience growth makes you so incredibly bad ass, amazing and worthy.
Now let’s take a moment to examine the other side of this. This part tends to make people a little more uncomfortable. We often spend a lot of time helping people learn how to fail well. For example, you didn't get a trick on your first time, here's some feedback now let's try again. You didn't place at competition, let's review the judges feedback and improve.
But we rarely consider the importance of helping people learn how to succeed well.
If your lack of placement bears no weight on your worth, then your win also bears no weight on your worth. This is where egos tend to get a little fragile. Your win does not make you better than everyone else.
But you worked really hard (or you didn't. A lot of people like to post around competition time about being super unprepared, etc, which is possibly an insecurity-driven defence mechanism to protect just in case of failure. Don't be an ass. I'm not judging you, I've been that person. If you've not prepared, just show up, do your best and if your best isn't "good enough" because you couldn't be bothered to train properly, train properly next time and do better). That little bracket got away from me. Let's start over.
But you worked really hard, put in so much time and effort, progressed so much, so you TOTALLY deserved to win, right?
That’s right – whether you win or you lose, you are no better or no worse than anyone else who worked hard, gave it their all, and competed fairly with good sportsmanship. No matter how hard you work, you do not deserve to win. Because, you know what? Except for those people who didn't prepare, everyone put in a lot of work and your work makes you no more or less special than everyone else who also worked hard.
I'm not trying to take it all away from you. Your hard work, concept, etc made you score the best, and that is great. Your routine and execution may have deserved to win. But you as a human being are not more worthy than everyone else who's routine and execution did not score as well as yours on that day.
Winning is often more challenging than losing. It's really easy at first: everyone loves you, tells you how amazing you are, and essentially put you on a pedestal. Like you are somehow more magical, more powerful, or more worthy than others. Like your life is somehow so blessed that you “deserved” to win more than everyone else who also trained hard and gave it their all. Some people are very comfortable in that place. But, I think it's awkward. A pedestal is a horrible place to be. It tells you that your worth is based on your accomplishments, not your process, values, integrity or actions. If you win and you are not secure in your own recognition of your value as a human being outside of your win, it can be a really tough place to be and it puts a lot of pressure on you to always be a winner because you can easily lose faith that people value you for anything more than your standing. And some people do truly believe that their placement is what makes them worthy, so it is scary to think of losing because they truly believe that losing is a loss of their personal, human value.
The challenge or perhaps the solution comes from setting good goals - ones that are within your control. Winning can still be a goal - you are competing, so it is totally cool to want to win - but it shouldn't be your only goal because the outcome is not in your control. I strongly recommend setting some process goals that are within your control. For example, some of mine have been to be more dynamic, include a fonji in a combo that matches the music, create more unique transitions. These are all things that I can look back on and, no matter whether I win or lose, have the best performance or worst performance, I'll know that I have progressed, extended my abilities, and experienced growth with my training. I know I am better than I was before I started training, no matter the medal placement or lack thereof.
Competition is a challenge physically, emotionally, and psychologically. It's tough. But it can add so much value to your life if you choose the right goals and let go of the belief that your value is attached to the final performance and placement.
I want to take a quick moment to send my love to all of the competitors who have taken the stage, challenged themselves, been vulnerable and brave enough to open themselves up to live performances, and who have strengthened themselves physically and mentally by putting themselves through vigorous training to compete.
I am so incredibly proud of all of the people who I have helped train and prep for competitions and performances. It saddens me that many of my dancers worry that they will let me down or represent Volair poorly. Your performance and final placement means nothing to me. The fact that you believed in yourself enough to challenge yourself and commit to the physical, emotional, and mental trials and tribulations of training (even though you 100% had many days of freak-outs and doubts along the way) means everything in the world to me.
Be humble, be confident. You are amazing human beings.
"Humble enough to know I am far from perfect. Confident enough to know I can do anything I set my mind to."
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