I remember this distinct moment during the beginning of my travels in South America—I was hitchhiking my way up the desert coast of Peru, and I took a break in the afternoon to walk through the sand dunes.
There was nothing but the occasional truck driving by. Other than that—stillness. Suddenly, I had a vision of dancers performing there in the sand—moving to the wind and to the contours of the dunes.
How beautiful it would be to have dance performances held in nature—in secluded locations—for the sole purpose of creating.
I jotted the thought down in my notebook, and left it at that.
At that point in time I envisioned myself being a spectator. Never did I imagine that I could be the one dancing. Because of my clumsiness and lack of coordination, it didn’t even cross my mind as a possibility.
Today—years after that day in the desert—I’m beginning to dance and do yoga.
Through life’s subtle hints, I’ve been reminded that the body as an art form has been a hidden passion of mine for awhile. A passion that I haven’t cultivated, because it’s not something that comes naturally to me. Still, there’s nothing that intrigues me more at the moment than to dance, to do yoga, to flow and to push the limits of my strength and flexibility.
I’ve been meditating on why it’s taken me this long to begin to dance and connect with my body. I’ve realized that since young children, we’re taught to pursue only the subjects we excel at—so I did.
I aced all my classes in high school and graduated at the top of my major in college. School and college taught me how to succeed, but they did a bad job of teaching me how to fail—or how to try things I am initially horrible at.
The drive for success and perfection created an unhealthy fear of failure in my life. I was very accomplished in school, and I grew accustomed to people only seeing me at my best. I didn’t want people to see me struggling to learn something—or worse yet—failing to master a skill. So I stuck to only the things that I knew how to do well.
This is truly a shame! Fear is the opposite of love—of creativity or growth. It’s the reason we stick to what’s comfortable and what comes easily to us in life. It’s the reason we don’t pursue our wildest ambitions. It’s the reason we stop ourselves from falling in love.
Fear of failure is the reason why I would study by myself, until I’d mastered a subject, and avoided learning in groups or seeking help from others. Fear is the reason I would create art and work on projects alone—only opening up to others when I had a successful finished product.
I only realized the extent of this fear while traveling. On the road there is always something new to learn—juggling, poi, qi gong, breathing exercises, acrobatics.
Traveling nomadically from place to place, my partner and I spend most of our time in parks or public areas—there is rarely a place to learn in private. I was initially very uncomfortable with having others watch me learn, feeling only eyes and criticism on me as I tried my hand at something new. Slowly, and partly out of necessity, I’ve had to break down my fear of failure.
So I’m trying something new—I’m learning to stumble and fall in front of others.
I’m learning to practice yoga with people watching, to move awkwardly while trying ballet in front of my partner and to sing horribly off key. I understand now that there’s much more to learn from failure than from success.
I’m starting to dance now that I’m 24. I often feel inflexible, awkward and not at all graceful. But I’m changing my mindset to convince myself that it is possible. My goal for the year is to form a connection to my own body—to feel comfortable in my own skin, to flow freely, to my own rhythm, to dance.
It may not look like much to others, but I’m impressing myself.
The thing is, I was always a dancer—I just hadn’t convinced myself of it. But once we let the fear of failure go, we can start convincing ourselves of our own potential, rather than finding ways to escape it.
Fear—the ego’s evil step-brother—is a b*tch. But once it’s gone, all sorts of positive things flourish—confidence, creativity, spontaneity.
As I’m slowly starting to let fear go, I’m beginning to manifest the vision I had in the desert years ago. The best part is, I’m not just a spectator.
Author: Teresa Monika Miroslaw
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Author’s own.