Chapter Six.

Chapter 6.

Today I wanted to share a discovery for me that changed my life. I’m telling you...changed...my...life. 

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Growing up I always considered myself a MASSIVE people pleaser. I could not even stand the thought of ANYONE and I mean anyone not liking me. I’m not sure exactly where this stemmed from. All the success I had growing up, I believe naturally caused people to be jealous. I don’t say this in a boastful way, I’m saying this because I endured some hurtful things as a kid. I’ll never forget walking into a competition dressing room and some friends were acting as if they were me accepting awards...they didn’t see me. I’ll never forget when I was by myself in the bathroom at my studio and some friends made up a song about me-talking about how I was a “perfect little angel”...they didn’t know I was in the stall next door. I’ll never forget being the one girl on the company not invited to a sleep over. I SO desperately wanted my friends to like me. In fact there was a point in my life I started to somewhat resent my success because I just wanted to be liked. 

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I think there were some qualities that developed from this need for approval that might have worked in my favor. For instance, I NEVER wanted a teacher to think anything bad about me. If I was assisting on a convention, I NEVER wanted to be caught marking ANYTHING. I had the work ethic of a machine. I always wanted to be the hardest worker in the room. I didn’t care If I was going to pass out or if they said mark...I would dance 100% EVERY SINGLE TIME (I still value this quality in dancers so much) Even though that quality is good in and of itself, what I didn’t realize is that I was starting to develop a serious need of approval from others. In fact, it got so bad that I felt if a judge or announcer EVER looked down or away while I was performing- I internalized that as BAD because I thought I was failing to keep their attention. I thought, “I need to be so captivating that they can’t look away”… So when they did (heaven forbid that had to write some notes while judging) I literally thought I was a complete failure. WHAT A SILLY THOUGHT!!!! 

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When I won, I felt liked. When I won, I felt accepted. When I won, I felt important. When I won, I felt enough. The people that had this “power” to make me feel these things were the judges, and I SO desperately needed their approval to feel that way. Now growing up, I was taught AND part of me knew that Jesus thought I was enough and accepted me just as I am, but for some reason as a strong competitive dancer, I still needed the approval of others. I wanted everyone to “like me” to feel good about myself. I wanted my friends to like me, my studio teachers to like me, convention teachers to like me, and how I knew they “liked me” was when I was successful. That’s all I knew.

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Now when I talk about this concept, I am not talking about pushing to be your best. Striving for excellence. Respecting your teachers. Yes I wanted to live like that, and I feel I did. But my NEED for other’s approval developed beyond what I believed about myself. I was so concerned what other people thought about me, what they thought I was “accomplishing” that I was very disconnected from myself. This developed long after my competitive years at conventions. As I became an adult, I still struggled to keep proving myself to other people. To be VERY blunt and brutally honest, I struggled for years with TV shows. FOR YEARS, people asked me, “Why don’t you do that show? Why aren’t you dancing on that show?” All the sudden TV somehow became the baseline for “success” and it seemed you hadn’t quite “made it” unless you were dancing on your living room television set. Being on these shows not only became the standard for what was expected, it became a sort of guideline for kids to “respect” you.  

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I struggled internally for years about pursuing those shows. I never knew if that would be something that I myself really wanted to do? I knew that other people wanted me to though. For years I thought, “I’m way too fat for those shows, I would never make it” I believed it was my insecurity that held me back. But in fact, through years of counseling my therapist asked me, “what do YOU want?” I truthfully DID NOT KNOW. I cried. I always had this big internal battle. At the end of the day, I couldn’t really even process what ERICA wanted in her life. All I know is what other people expected of me. OR what I THOUGHT that they expected of me.

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Now through many years of counseling, EMDR (Thank you Wade for the guidance on pursuing this), and being able to hear God’s voice more clearly...it FINALLY dawned on me. For years, I had been living for OTHER PEOPLE’S EXPECTATIONS OF ME. I had been SO concerned with what other people think about me, my life, my “successes,” if I did enough, if I “made it,”...that I never really got to know myself and what I have actually wanted with my life. I never really exercised the muscle of developing what I FELT over my THOUGHTS of other’s expectations. My younger self did not know how to handle and process certain things, because she was so concerned with how she appeared to the outside world. Now my adult self is FINALLY able to find FREEDOM in my life and live for what truly brings me JOY and happiness. I’m not saying I have it all together, but I will say that I finally don’t have what I think other people think of me at the forefront of my mind over my own.

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I will tell you one more story. As a convention teacher, I finally got my “dream job.” A job I never thought I would achieve. A job I always envisioned for myself when I was younger. When I began teaching, I was NERVOUS. I knew I was qualified to be there, I knew I would teach a good class, but I was nervous for what people THOUGHT about me. Horrible negative dialogue would fill my head...even as I was teaching! Before I even started a class, I’d be walking into a room completely cutting myself down with all these perceived things I felt people were “thinking” about me…


“They probably think my combos are stupid...” I thought.


“They probably think I haven’t even accomplished anything as a ballroom dancer, since I’m not Russian Latin champion of the world...” I said to myself.


“They are probably laughing at me...” I would say.

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One weekend as I was leading a warm up, I started saying all these negative things to myself again. My breath was almost short as I sat in the Butterfly position and said horrible things to myself. Then something almost miraculous happened…it was like someone literally came and smacked me across the head. “ERICA, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT YOURSELF??” First of all, I don’t know if they even are thinking those things. No one has ever said anything like that to my face, but I’m just over here assuming the literal worst! Secondly, if they do actually think certain things THAT’S. ON. THEM!!!! I love what Rachel Hollis says, “Other people’s opinions are NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.” BOOM. I asked myself, “What do you believe about yourself? Do you think you are qualified to teach here?” Then I thought, why am I so concerned with what they MAY OR MAY NOT be thinking about me? I am the one that has to wake up and live inside my head all day, and the good news is that I get to choose what I do with my life and what I think about myself. In that moment, I literally shifted my thought patterns so drastically. I thought to myself, I have been given this BEAUTIFUL opportunity to teach kids in a convention setting, in a world where I was very successful, and I’m gonna teach the BEST DANG CLASS that I am capable of. Whatever they choose to think about it or say about it...thats on them. 

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So I guess I’m here to say friends that living for other people’s opinions/expectations over your own is a big NO-GO. I don’t regret the things that I have gone through, because I know God is now using them. I wasn’t able to comprehend many things as a younger competitive dancer, but BEYOND thankful that my adult self is finding freedom. Live YOUR truth. Live YOUR joy. Live YOUR happiness. Not what others think you should do, what they think is cool, what they say is “success.” WE get to determine what that means for ourselves. I still struggle with the daily pressures that we ALL face, especially on social media, but for the first time in my life I am beginning to meet the real Erica...who isn’t living for other people’s opinions of her. I so badly wish the same for you and pray that whoever reads my words and hears my story can hopefully take a step in the direction that leads them to their most full and joyful life!! 

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