I have learned a lot since I began belly dancing, but the most valuable thing that I have acquired is the ability to accept and appreciate compliments.
I haven’t always had the best self-esteem and, honestly, there are still days in which I don’t love being me but belly dance has taught me that I am a pretty cool human and that other people sometimes think so too.
Before belly dance was a part of my life, I used to brush off compliments regularly. I didn’t *believe* the nice things that people said to me because I couldn’t *see* those nice things in myself. “Your hair looks nice today,” she would say. “Thanks. I wish it wasn’t so frizzy,” I would reply. What?! This lovely person just went out of their way to compliment me and what do I do? I thank them but immediately follow up with a self-inflicted insult. Not cool. But how do I change that behavior?
There are lots of ways to approach this but my favorite is highlighted in Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Mr. Carnegie tells us to
“give honest and sincere appreciation.”
When you give a heartfelt compliment to another, you are starting a chain reaction. You mean what you are saying and so you expect the person that you’re complimenting to believe it with all of their heart. I remember attending belly dance shows and telling the performers how much I enjoyed their dances. I meant what I said, so I expected the dancers to believe that I was telling the truth. Fast forward a few years…now I am stepping off of the stage and people are complimenting me on my performance. What did I do? The same thing as with the compliment on my hair…I said thank you to them, but I didn’t believe that my performance was good (because I messed up or the audience wasn’t responsive or you name it), so I usually followed up with a remark about how I messed up or blah blah blah. Lame.
After a while, I noticed that some other dancers brushed off compliments like I did and it clicked for me that this is SILLY. A person that is showing appreciation is most likely doing so from a genuine standpoint, so that individual believes wholeheartedly whatever they are telling you. Isn’t that enough? If one person appreciates something that you do, THAT’S AWESOME! Celebrate that. You deserve it. Once you open up your mind to this idea, you will be able to thank the people who compliment you with absolute authenticity and guess what? That builds your self-esteem because it makes you admit to yourself that you are doing something right.
Because of belly dance, I accept compliments with pure gratitude and I love my body and myself waaaay more than I used to. I am proud to be me, flaws and all.
What is the most important thing that you have learned from belly dance? Please share your stories!