This is a true story about an instructor who snapped. I love what I do. I get to see the beauty, strength, grace, integrity and the very best of everyone expressed through dance and movement in the best place – the air! But aerial dance, pole, ground dance, circus, are all really hard. We are often working the edge of our mental and physical abilities. We may be tired, scared and not feeling “enough”; strong enough, flexible enough or maybe we just don’t understand how what we are trying to do is even possible. Yes… all of these things.

In the struggle it’s really easy to get down on ourselves. If a peer has a particular beauty or mastery you don’t possess (e.g. really beautifully pointed toes or a hand over hand climb) it feels easier to talk shit about ourselves rather than appreciate those qualities and strive hard to work on those areas you are less strong at.

As an instructor this self-hating behavior came to a boiling point a few weeks ago. I heard my students say some really nasty things; things they would NEVER say about someone else. (If you saw your same qualities/beauty/strength in another student you would be so encouraging! I see it all the time.) When I heard similar sentiments out of an instructor’s mouth, I knew something had to change. I snapped. Inspired from this experience, I created a homework and a Facebook challenge.

Here is the letter I wrote to my students:

I’ve heard it one too many times and I snapped lovingly and have started to give out homework. Dear students (and 4E instructors), if you say something bad about yourself, your abilities or your body you will receive an assignment from me. This is not a punishment, but a loving consequence from studio-mama who is tired of hearing my beautiful, strong and amazing ladies/people put themselves down. So I am giving homework to build you up, to inspire and to be kind and loving to yourself. We are not perfect and in each moment we are perfect. With so much love for all of you, I’m so serious about this happening!

Aerial Arts and dance are a journey; you have to want it really bad. Some days it will be amazing, and some days (ok a lot of days) it may hurt your body or your feelings. You may struggle with a move, transition or piece of choreo for months, and then one day like magic it happens! Or maybe it doesn’t and it taunts you for years. You are stronger, more flexible and more badass than you were yesterday and you carry that through the world. Yes, really! This is the stuff that transforms and changes your world. Give yourself credit for your accomplishments! Record your trainings and go back and watch them, not with a judgmental eye, but a loving and proud point of view. Note your hard word and your accomplishments. Talk to yourself, in your head or out loud the way you talk to and encourage your friends in class. You deserve it, even if you don’t think you do right now.

Are you feeling bold and gutsy? Here is my challenge to you:

Every day for 5 days post a photo of yourself that you do not like or a photo where the first thing you did upon seeing criticize all of the negative aspects. List them, then for everything you don’t like say at least one thing about yourself in the photo you do like. This is bold and takes guts! Please hashtag #‎lydiamavsaysyouarebeautiful so we can all enjoy your beauty. Tag at least two of your friends that don’t appreciate their own beauty every day. See mine posted at: https://www.facebook.com/LydiaMav or https://instagram.com/lydiamav

Also here is your homework should you choose to accept it:

Every day write down three things you like about yourself. Optional: Focus in on an area where you judge yourself harshly and write three things you like about yourself or did well every day. Bonus: Review it at the end of week and look back at your accomplishments.

Please let me know how it goes and how you are feeling. Try to keep saying nice things to yourself and rechallenge yourself when you catch yourself being a little less than lovely to yourself.

One of our aerial students, Eve, use this post’s featured image of herself on Facebook as one of her contributions to the photo challenge:

I don’t like this picture because my back leg is bent, my arm is so tense and my face looks strained! But now why it is beautiful — I believe it was one of my first times with the 18ft ceiling. And this is preparation for my first performance. Little steps to my bigger picture!

Thank you Eve for sharing!

#LydiaMavSaysYouAreBeautiful