Head over heels…and a wooden table
Gang, at one point I was completely obsessed with dancing with the best dancers at the clubs. The reason I was obsessed was because I needed those people to acknowledge me.
I wanted my own Lion King moment – “Simba, you made it.”
So I would always try to find the best dancers even though I was too scared, by the end of the night I would dance with them.
A few years ago, I was at a club called Lulu Lounge and I saw her – a pro dancer. I don’t even remember her name but we will call her Olga Spernichikova. Olga Spernichikova was this amazing dancer and I had seen her on stage a couple of times and torrents of thoughts were rushing through my head: “It would be incredible to ask her to dance. Oh, I can’t do it. Why can’t I? I’m a great dancer!” I went through so many stages in a matter of moments but I was still too nervous, so I kind of hovered around where she was dancing and studied her.
Finally, my inner monologue got to the “Dude, just go ask her” stage.
“Hey, would you like to dance?”
I could see Olga looking at me, judging me, sizing me up and down. This made me incredibly self-conscious but also emboldened me. I thought to myself “You don’t even know what’s coming.” That prediction was certainly true but I didn’t know what was coming either. She eventually said yes and we started to dance.
Three minutes into the song with a live band playing, none of my moves, none of my tricks had impressed her. Olga wasn’t smiling and I’m getting more and more frustrated. All I wanted at that point was her validation that I was a good dancer. So I became more and more aggressive, sloppy and reckless in my moves while trying to impress Olga. She did not react to any of it.
We were now seven minutes into the song. The band just kept playing the same song! We were both sweating and now I could see Olga was frustrated – she wanted the song to end so we could stop dancing. But she wasn’t quitting because her competitive side came out – she was going to finish the song. I certainly wasn’t going to quit either – my competitive side had come out when I first asked her to dance.
Finally, at about the eight minute mark, the song was clearly winding down and I was exhausted. I was out of breath, the lactic acid was building up in my muscles but I had one last chance to impress Olga. I was going to do something legendary, something I had never done in my life. I was going to do ten turns in a row, straight into a dip! It was going to be incredible!
So the song was rising to its crescendo finish and I made my move. One turn, two turns, three turns, five turns, seven turns, nine turns, 10 turns, 11 turns. I was ecstatic! “Oh my god!” 12 turns. “This can’t be real!” 13 turns and just as the song was ending, I grabbed her to bring her into a dip. I was grinning from ear to ear. It was coming – I was going to get my approval!
And then as I was bringing Olga triumphantly down into the dip, I saw it – a table. And I slammed her head into the table with the full force of those 13 turns and my need for her validation. Gang, her head hit the table so hard it was like something out of a cartoon. Olga’s head bounced and I heard the bam and thud.
The only thing Olga said her head bounced back off the table like a basketball was “What happened?”
It was a concussion level hit and she didn’t even realize what had happened.
I stared blankly at her and in my mind, my first thought was “I could just pretend nothing happened and go home right now.”
Obviously, I couldn’t do that. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. Your head just slammed into the table.”
Olga’s only response was “What?”and then I saw realization dawn in her eyes. “Why would you do that?”
I was flustered and stressed. “I don’t know. I’m so sorry.”
I brought her to the table, got her an ice pack, got her something to drink and proceeded to apologize for about 20 minutes. I went home that night feeling so embarrassed and so ashamed of myself.
I can laugh at it now, not laughing at Olga’s injury…RIP 🥺😭🌹
What I’m laughing at is the old Aleks. The Aleks who was so desperate for other people’s validation and needed it to believe that he was enough as a dancer. The Aleks who needed validation to believe that he was enough as a person.
I still have moments where I don’t feel confident and don’t feel like I am enough, but I have realized that confidence is something that no one can give you.
Every time someone said something nice or complimentary, it did not matter because I didn’t believe it.
It is intrinsically tied to not what people say to us but what we tie our self worth to.
I wanted so bad to have other peoples approval, that I never really felt at ease.
What it comes down to is this – yes work hard at your craft. Whether that’s in dance, at work, in your relationships…anything.
Work hard but also know that at any given moment, you are enough as a person.
I never felt that I was enough before but I am starting to feel it now more and more. I’m happy and that happiness and confidence did not come from any dance move being nailed down or validation from anyone. It isn’t something anyone can give you.
Now I am more at piece, I continue to grow as a dancer but biggest of all…I focus instead on being more connected and playful with my dance partners than trying to impress them with any move.
I know I can impress some people, others I can’t…that’s not on me and honestly I don’t want to chase that.
So if at any time you don’t feel confident and you’re doubting yourself, just know that it is those two little things – work hard on your craft and you’re already enough as a person.
You are. And if you don’t feel it, come to me. I’ll give you a hug and remind you.