The People We Need

“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” Oprah Winfrey

Most people in life will tell you what you want to hear. That will keep you comfortable. But the people we need are the ones who tell us the truths we are avoiding. These are my favourite people because they believe in us. These are the people we need.

Six years ago, I was teaching a Salsa level one class and a student and her boyfriend ran up to me excitedly at the end of the second class. She explained that she is from a Latin family. She said that everyone in her family danced except for her so she always felt like a bit of an outsider. But now she was having fun while she was dancing. She was excited and feeling confident. She looked up at me and said “Aleks it’s because of you. This has happened because of you! Thank you!”

As I smiled back at her, I wanted to make her feel even more special. So I said to her said, “Hey, it’s not me, it’s you. I’m 1% of everything that you have done yourself. Don’t thank me, thank yourself!”

 I saw that she got flustered and frustrated and she looked upset but she responded; “Oh…. Ok…..Thanks.” Immediately, she grabbed her boyfriend’s hand and left. I thought it was strange. I had been building her confidence so what was up with that? I was upset and confused.

The next day I happened to have a meeting with my mentor. We were talking about the business and finances and the usual things but I couldn’t get that conversation out of my head. So I asked my mentor what he thought. He didn’t even look up from his tablet as he was working and without hesitation and in a very matter-of-fact tone, he said “Yeah. It’s because you don’t love yourself. That’s why it happened.”

Immediately I was on the defensive. “Yes, I do! What are you talking about? I have been doing personal development. I’ve been reading Tony Robbins and Mel Robbins all the Robbins.”

Again without hesitation, my mentor replied. “Nope. You don’t. That’s why you can’t take a compliment. She came into your house to give you a gift. You didn’t think you deserved it, so you rejected the gift. She walked away feeling rejected as well.”

This was not easy to hear and in frustration, I asked what I could do. “Simple. Next time you get a compliment, tell the person you don’t believe it.”

“What? Are you serious? That’s so awkward. I can’t do that! Who says that? It’s weird. Am I supposed to tell them they are lying? No way.”

“What’s awkward,” he replied, “is on your T-shirt. It says Belong but you’re not letting your students feel like they belong because you’re rejecting them. Go fix it.”

Four weeks later I got my opportunity. The same girl and her boyfriend came up to me at the end of the class. She was even more excited than last time when she shared her news. “Aleks we had a family party at my place. The Salsa music started playing and we danced! I danced in front of my mom. I have never been able to do that before. It is all because of you. Thank you so much!”

Instinctively, I started to say no that it was all her, but I caught it. I remembered my mentor’s words. So I looked at her and said; “I don’t believe it.” As soon as the words left my mouth I looked down as she confusedly asked what I was talking about.

Still looking down, I said “I don’t believe it because I struggle to see myself in the way that other people see me. I don’t feel good enough or deserving of those compliments. So when someone says something nice, I don’t feel like I deserve it. That is on me. It is not about you. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to hold your words in my heart. And if I can at least receive 1% of that love, I know that I have grown a little bit and I love myself a little bit more.” Then I started to cry.

It was embarrassing. I was still looking down and these tiny little feet popped into my line of sight. I looked up and the tiny feet belonged to the boyfriend (who was well over six feet tall – it struck me as odd even at the time). He had been silent throughout the conversation but he was the first to hug me and then his girlfriend hugged me. I still feel that hug to this day. Six years ago, I probably loved myself 1%. Today, on a good day, it is 40%. And ironically, it started by admitting that I didn’t love myself enough.

What I’m most grateful for is that I had someone in my life tell me the truth that I needed to hear. It was uncomfortable and painful but it was because he loves me and wants to see me grow. Most people in life will tell you what you want to hear. But the people we need most are the people that tell you the things that are uncomfortable to hear. These truth-tellers will help you get to the place you’re meant to be. Surround yourself with the truth-tellers, they are the people we need.

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