I was nervous, my heart pounding as I waited in the alcove for my music to start, and when it did I stepped onto the stage and into the light and I danced. It didn’t go quite as I had practiced. Being nervous made me clumsy, and the stage felt smaller than it looked. I got distracted when my earring fell off, and I forgot a step. I improvised until I found my place again. I hoped my mouth wasn’t doing the trembly frowny thing it does when I feel nervous and try to hide it. I’m not very good at hiding my feelings.
The first Sunday night of the month was when students at the dance school had a chance to perform on stage. It was good practice, and a warm crowd. Still, dancing in front of people is a vulnerable act, and perhaps even more so when it’s belly dance and wearing a costume that revealed my tummy. Sometimes I danced in something modern and minimalist: tank-top and pants, for instance. But I had a couple dazzling, glamorous costumes that I didn’t quite feel qualified to wear, they were so beautiful.
I remember one night, after everyone had danced and people were gathering their things to leave, a woman came up to me. “I loved your dance!” she said, “You were wonderful.” I didn’t know her, and my first instinct was to say, “Oh, no, I wasn’t that good. I screwed up the choreography, and it didn’t go the way it was supposed to.”
But I caught myself, and I just smiled and thanked her. This person saw me perform and liked it enough to come up and tell me. If she didn’t see the errors, why point them out? Let her enjoy the performance as she saw it.
I think it is important to receive compliments with grace.
Giving a compliment is like giving a gift. It would be rude to reject it. If you have ever tried to give someone a compliment and they squirm out of it, you know how frustrating and disappointing that is.
Receiving a compliment honors the giver. It builds them up.
So when someone pays you a compliment, be kind. Just say: Thank You.
There’s another angle to this story, and it is this: I judged myself harshly for not performing as well as I wanted to. I didn’t feel that I deserved the compliment. I didn’t feel worthy of her admiration and praise.
Take credit for putting yourself out there. Getting on stage is an act of courage. Your willingness to take a risk, to be vulnerable and even clumsy in the spotlight is worthy of applause. Receive it with grace.
Be curious. Savor all of it.