Putting Yourself First

March 30, 2018



Over years, the most common thread I've found between dancers is that they have an unbelievable ability to place others before themselves. It's what makes them great at their job. When others come looking for emotional support, empathy, or just plain entertainment, we are able to put our own wants second and place those of our customers first. Yes, it is a transactional interaction; but it doesn't take away from this incredible skill set that grows and develops in this industry.


It doesn't only make us good dancers though. It makes us great partners, friends, mothers and community members. Many dancers are capable of caring for each other and for the people in their lives unconditionally and without barriers.


But at times, this lack of barriers can really get us into trouble. It's easy to feel like it's up to you to care for everyone around you. After all, dancing is a great opportunity to earn money quickly, and the industry has a reputation of being extremely lucrative. For anyone around you that wants or needs help, this becomes an easy excuse to ask you for support and assistance. And it's not wrong to help others around you; at times, having the ability to do this can alter the course of someone's life for the better, or it can prevent something negative from happening to someone you care about.


However, when this behavior of bailing others out becomes a habit, you risk losing more than the money you're giving away. You risk losing out on:


Your independence: when others begin to rely on you, you lose the ability to grow and explore all of the different directions that the revenue earned from dancing can offer you. If you are supporting someone else and their passions and interests, you are trading off on supporting your own ability to travel, to explore, to learn and to grow.


Your future: getting tied up in an unhealthy, dependent relationship with anyone in your life means that you are not focused on planning for a future for yourself. It's impossible to when you're carrying someone else's future on your shoulders. This may be taking the time to learn a trade, to grow a business, or simply to grow your bank account. At the end of the day, if someone feels like they can take advantage of you, they will not plan on saving for your future. Only you can do that for yourself. This industry is great while it lasts, but it is not a job you can keep until you are ready to retire. The financial decisions you make now can mean a) early retirement and a lifetime of success and adventure, or b) staying in this industry long after you would like to, and succumbing to habits and decisions that leave you without security or options. Every single decision counts. Every single dollar counts.

The future of your family, your children, and their children: you are the only one responsible and capable of supporting those you care for the most. If you have a small child, it cannot buy itself diapers, feed, or educate itself. But a mid-twenties partner that you are financially supporting can certainly do that for himself, and he/she should be aiming to be financially independent and future oriented in the same ways you are. Do not delude yourself. If someone is relying on you now, it is not because they need to but because you have made it possible for them to. If you cut off the string, they will find a way to get back on their feet. And even if they don't, it will not be your responsibility or fault in any way.


Your perspective: when you start allowing others to rely on you, you will lose the ability to see the big picture clearly. When others connect how much they emotionally support you with how much you financially support them, you put yourself at risk of emotional blackmail any time that they want or need something that you have. Over time, this dynamic will make you lose your compass and your moral lines in the sand. You need people around you that will help you see more clearly; not those that will complicate the picture even further.


Your self-respect and your self-love: You are NOT a walking ATM machine. You are a person worthy of love, respect, and support. The kinds of people that do not see this do not deserve to be in your life. Period. It doesn't matter how closely related or attached they are to you- if someone isn't capable of valuing you for you, no amount of money will make them see it another way. The only change that will come is you valuing yourself less and less every time you give away what you have earned.


Your happiness: because none of the above leads to a successful and fulfilled existence. You cannot learn to be loving, caring and supportive towards others if you can't do it for yourself first.


Your time: Of all your assets, time is the only one you can't get more of. You have as much time during the day as any famous or rich person you can think of. And you have as much time in the day as the person you're trying to help. They can also get up, work hard, and try to make something out of themselves. They can also help to support you and your needs, whatever they may be. Because at the end of the day, if your relationship or partnership or friendship ends, you will not be left with any of the rewards of your time. Only the memories you created, and the sense that you could have done a better job in caring for yourself.


Those you are trying to help: When you support others that can support themselves, you make them unable to reach the point where they start working to improve as individuals. It's this simple. Whether it's your sibling, your romantic partner, or someone who just keeps asking for help, you have to understand that no matter what they may say there will always be another crisis or emergency or need as long as you make your earnings available to them. It's not easy or pleasant, but if you have to cut someone off remember that you are helping them in the long term. If you continue to treat them as if they're incapable of succeeding then that is exactly what they will become. And if they remain the same while you reward their behavior with your earnings, you will reap needy and incapable adults, until this is all that you're surrounded by.


If you find yourself in a situation like this, please remember that you are valuable, you have worth, and that you deserve people that will not treat you like their wallet.


It may not be easy or fun to cut people out of your life for these behaviors, but it's something that needs to be done for your own sake. Make a plan of what you're going to say. Stick to it. Separate your assets from theirs. If they will not stick by your rules, then show them that you mean business. If you need to get away from them, or to cut them off for a set amount of time, don't be afraid to. The consequences for sticking around are much worse, for you and for them.


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