Fear, Ego, and Finding Compassion

There are a few things in my life that I regret. Many of them, have to do with the intersection of my ego, fear, and the stories my ego creates to justify or explain my fears.

One of the stories I continue to hold on to concerns a decision I made many years ago as a high school student. The story goes like this: As a junior in high school I was being actively recruited by a prestigious conservatory. The school was so invested in having me attend that they paid for me to visit, stay with current students, and attend classes for a whole week.

The story continues, that while I had a great time and even envisioned myself performing on one of the stages we visited, I ultimately decided that attending this school was not something I wanted to do. I justified this decision by citing all the things that “I” (i.e. my ego) said were not quite right about the situation: “I would have to spend the first year re-learning how to do a plie.” “I would be in debt by the end of my tenure.” “I would potentially get hurt or burn out.” “I would need to starve myself to look like a dancer.” All these stories my ego created to comfort the fears that I had.

Something I wasn’t willing to admit then, but am more willing to admit now is that I was afraid. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get in. I was afraid that  I didn’t have what it took to be a professional dancer. I was afraid of all the things I might not know, or be able to do – including the basics. I was afraid that at the end of the day, the school would reject me for being wonting in some way. Instead of risk that rejection, I didn’t apply and instead rejected myself before someone else could.

While that decision saved me from the momentary discomfort of having heard “No” from the school that most artists strive to attend, it created a lifetime of discomfort as I continue – even to this day – to wonder what if? What if I had said yes to being vulnerable and taking that chance? What if I had not rejected myself  in order to “save” myself from being rejected by someone or something else? What would my life be like now?

Although not everyone has dreams of  becoming a professional dancer, I do think everyone of us has made a decision that they sometimes regret.  Such decisions could include anything from choosing to (or not) nurture relationships over work obligations, travel to another part of the world (or not) to start out on a new adventure, or even saying yes (or no) to an opportunity that comes up.

The important part for us to remember is that we cannot rewrite our pasts. The only thing we can do is forgive ourselves for the choices we made and live fully in this present moment. By doing so, not only will we find more compassion for ourselves but also find more compassion for others.