About 20 years ago I stepped onstage as the lead in Swan Lake for my New Jersey dance school’s yearly production. I really had wanted to be cast as one of the 4 “little swans” in the piece where they intertwine hands and quickly move their feet. Instead I got stuck as the lead.
I had to dance a pas de deux with Vinny, one of the only guys in the studio. I had to stand out. I felt like all the other girls hated me because I was "the lead." And I hated every minute of it.
But the Type-A in me had to perform perfectly. In the VHS footage of that performance, I don’t think I smiled once. I was so determined to get all the steps right and to nail my fouette turns, that I didn’t even really enjoy the process.
These opposing parts - the perfectionist who strived to be the best and the self-deprecating, shy little girl who just wanted to blend in - spent a long time fighting. Even in school, I would hold myself back and get answers wrong on purpose if I felt like I was getting too many A’s - because being called a “goody-two-shoes” was not cool at all.
Maybe you can relate?
I’ve seen similar patterns in clients and friends: Wanting something so badly but then sabotaging or holding back so that you don’t quite get there. Playing in the safe zone. Finding connection through the struggle, rather than the success.
It must be shocking to my younger ballerina self that I’m not only about to perform the lead in another version of Swan Lake, but I CREATED this opportunity myself. No one forced me to stand out this time. I was compelled to.
And honestly, I had a lot of hang-ups throughout the process, even though I knew that it was essential for my soul.
I worried that it would come off as being egotistical or selfish. I worried that the other dancers who I invited to be part of it would think I was a jerk. I worried about being judged.
And then I stopped thinking and got to work.
And here’s what I learned:
If it comes from an authentic place, being in the spotlight is really about sharing. (tweet it!)
The reason my soul was compelled to journey down this path is because of the pain it’s been through and the deep messages it wants to communicate with the world. Dancing and performing happens to be the outlet that I chose. To paraphrase the classic Marianne Williamson quote, shining my light is giving others permission to shine theirs. It’s contagious inspiration.
Being the lead actually takes a lot of selflessness, humility, and generosity.
As I’ve been directing, choreographing and rehearsing, I’m pouring my heart into the process and holding the space for each performer to own their power and communicate a strong message. I’m also constantly having to relinquish the way my mind thinks something should go, and instead allow it to happen naturally. I’m wowed by the collaboration that’s in action and by the creative ideas and input that each performer contributes. I’m stepping back as much as I’m standing out. We all are.
And so, creative one, here's the message I'm passing on to you on this Creative Friday:
It’s ok to follow the impulse to be a star if that’s what you truly desire. You never know who you might inspire or help. You will save the world in your own way if you take the lead in your own story.
Just like the theme of the show itself indicates, you can create your own way. The answers aren’t in the clouds or in a book or even in a role model, they are inside of YOU.
Take a moment to share your thoughts on this in the comment box below -
Where in your life are you stepping into a starring role or holding yourself back?
What are you feeling called to lead?
Go ahead. The stage is waiting.
leading with love,