I've been a ballet dancer off and on for two decades. One of my biggest challenges throughout my dancing history has been the pirouette. It's a turn in place that prima ballerinas make look incredibly easy, but to get it right takes a combination of balance, strength, and alignment. I could always do a single, but was never able to master the double.
Why? I think in large part because I was comfortable just doing one. Working on double pirouettes felt uncomfortable, especially in class, especially in front of dancers who could do triples.
I felt like a fool trying, like a wonky spinning top. I also felt like the more I tried, the worse I got, so I would settle for a few practice doubles, then defeat.
I'm 38 and only took up ballet again about four years ago. Only recently did I embrace the uncomfortable feeling and start practicing those dreaded double pirouettes.
Sometimes I stumble and sometimes it looks really ugly, but sometimes I nail it. And when I do...WOW! What a feeling! All the practice and hard work and looking like a wonky spinning top pays off and totally outweighs the discomfort I feel in the beginning.
There is discomfort in doing lots of things that we actually want to do. We fear looking and feeling like a failure. We can't stand the thought of being messy or ugly. We approach our novel, our dance, our painting, our creative projects with fear in our bellies because what if it doesn't turn out right? What if I mess it up? What if people laugh?
I love, love, love what Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA wrote in her recent newsletter:
What we often fail to see is that growth cannot happen in a state of complacency. The only way to improve ourselves as writers—and as human beings—is to get comfortable with discomfort and embrace the power of suck.
Embrace the ugly, messy, disastrous process that is creating.
Sometimes you're going to write and it's going to sound awful when you re-read it.
Sometimes you're going to work on an art project and totally mess it up.
Sometimes you're going to approach a project and not know where to start or feel overwhelmed or hate what you've already produced.
But you know what? That's all okay! That's how you become a better artist, a fearless creator, and fearless creators show up and do the work knowing that it might get messy, but they can clean it up later. Fearless creators do the work knowing that done is better than perfect.
Get comfortable with failure. Not only that, but get comfortable with just doing the work, whether you fail or not, because you won't always fail. Get comfortable with doing whatever it is that scares you.
You are your own barrier. You place personal limitations on yourself that keep you from doing the creative work you crave.
Erase the personal limitations and break down the barriers.
Complacency is comfortable, but hardly anything gets done in that zone.
Allow yourself to play, explore, discover, and get messy. You can clean it up later.