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The Underestimating Game

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

It has been a while since I have written a blog post. I’m actually currently drafting a couple blog posts, one being food related, I want to begin to share some really delicious but healthy nutritious meals/meal planning. Keep your eyes peeled for food blogs to come, but that is not today’s topic.

Today I’m actually writing about the power of underestimation (in general, in oneself, in the power and force of being that you are). As I head into audition season and am in the midst of performance season with BMD, I started thinking about how to succeed, what I need to do differently, how I could shift my approach. As I did so, I realized how much I underestimate myself and sell myself short. It became very apparent as auditions approach. The need for new headshots and making video reels as a dancer especially this time of year is so hard for me. Instead of seeing the good, I tend to look at what I need to change, what I don’t like and for some stupid reason tear myself apart. Like clockwork, I’ve come up with a reason or an emotion that makes me feel I won’t cut it, won’t have what it takes, blah blah blah. But WHY?!

I had to start by defining success. What exactly is success to me? I had to decide whether to

look at it as a full picture or if to take a specific task/audition/job/etc? I’m still working on defining it all to be honest, because I have many on the large scale hopes and dreams… but I also have many smaller more achievable ones on the short term. Within this audition season, success can appear in so many ways for me.


For example: success doesn’t necessarily mean getting the job…

It might be any of the following:

- I didn’t resent myself for how I looked

- I didn’t compare my body to other girls in the room (yikes)

- I didn’t look for my flaws in the mirror.

- I felt good.

- I was on my leg.

- I felt warmed up and strong

- I nailed my pirouettes

- I was strong in my extension and had straight legs.

- I didn’t sickle!!!

- I out jumped everyone. ;) ( or better yet, I didn’t get cut before jumps.)

- I listened to the music and forgot it was an audition.

- I made call backs

- I felt I executed the repertory well with the dynamics and intentions that they were looking for.

- I got the job.

- I didn’t leave sad that I didn’t get the job.

- I am proud of how I did, because it was MY best.

- I did it for me and only me. Not for approval, but for the love of dance – This is the one I am trying to channel the most this weekend heading to Hubbard Street.


If I walk out of my auditions with myself looking for these successes, I will be proud of myself.

I want to be forward moving. Nothing of value comes without hard work and devotion, and I am both hard working and devoted (often to a fault). I needed to look into myself, to people I respect, and to those I am inspired by for guidance and inspiration. I needed to reflect, evaluate and process what success was to me and how my approach could differ, how my background and experience could be an advantage instead of things that were holding me back.

To understand what I needed to do, I had to start looking back and see what worked and what didn’t. I had to be willing to play with new ideas and approaches and compromise with comfort and discomfort, sacrifice etc..

It isn’t easy, I’m not sure I’ve actually changed, but it is something I’m working on constantly. This morning (Friday Mar 23) talking to my roommate Greg, he said something that was really touching and meant more than he understands. We were talking about approaches to auditions etc and he said something along the lines of, “Mackenzie, over the last two years, we’ve watched you. You’ve grown so much and its really amazing to see and witness how much you are trying to better yourself, for others and for yourself. You are finally actively learning to put yourself first and encourage and fight to speak positively about yourself. Your positive self-talk is outweighing the negative and its really nice to hear. You went from thinking of yourself as foot boil model or the before picture to an awareness of trying to use positive thinking. It's awesome.” It meant so much especially because I haven’t given myself that much credit thinking I should be more by now. There are times I feel like this choosing of myself has lead me to be more insensitive and I don’t have the patience for the BS anymore. I’m looking at friendships for what they are and how I’m treated verses investing so much in people who genuinely just want things from me or when it is convenient. I’m trying find the balance of putting up with stuff and being taken advantage of. I’m actively trying to choose things that make me a better person, not that I’m always succeeding, but I am just starting to realize losing yourself, your principles, and what’s important because you want to make people happy doesn’t serve anyone. I’ve really been working on that, not setting myself up to get hurt (by me or by anyone else). So as I’ve been on this journey of self-discovery and what matters to me… it, of course, calls into question your actions, activities, and choices. Are you willing to make the necessary sacrifices to make your dream happen? Are you willing to give up those mornings in bed to train harder before a day of rehearsal? Sacrifice that beer when out on the town with friends or is that taking things too far? Are you being fair and reasonable to yourself? (Of course as someone trying to find balance in their life, that requires balance in all things, but being able to choose the right times to makes those sacrifices is key) I began looking into my past years auditioning, noting any consistent finding, anything different, emotional, physical, activity wise etc. As I looked back, I found myself wanting to find a sports psychologist who might be able to guide/help me understand why around Jan – Mar my ankles feel more tender or as we dancers like to call it “crunchy”. Or why no matter how good I feel about something, somehow somewhere along the line it turns into self-sabotage… why?! Like WTF, why do I do it? Where does it come from?? Truth is I genuinely don’t know, I’ve been praying and meditating and writing about it and it’s as if I’m attempting to protect myself from getting hurt and disappointed so I do it to myself before anyone or anything else can. DUMB.

I’m actively trying to encourage myself, looking on the bright side and fill my life with people who are good for me, who encourage and inspire me, who are non-toxic. I’m actively choosing activities that both make me feel good and don’t have me taking steps backwards – or at least trying to. I am choosing me. After all that was the theme for this year, 2018 is the year of yes and me. Brian had mentioned and expressed frustration with me that everyone else came first and how unhealthy it was. And looking back, I can see what he meant, a little bit. Just a month before our relationships ended, he explained to me how he really wanted me to find how important I could be to myself. So that’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot as I shift and change as a person, it pops into my mind every so often. When I quit one of my jobs, I did it for me. Was it the most financially responsible choice? Absolutely not, but I’ve been able to prioritize things that are important to me. Auditions, family time, a social life, sleep, cross training on my time. I was going to train at a bar and decided that right now might not be the best time to be doing that if I’m making my dreams a reality. 1. Sleep and time for cross training were absolutely necessary and would be sacrificed if I did work there. 2. Was I doing it for money or was I doing it as a back up in case I bombed audition season and needed a fall back job… 3. Did it have to start now? Luckily, the owner, trusted friend and supporter, Jeff told me we could revisit this idea later and I was beyond appreciative. So that’s when I decided… no bartending (yet). Just dance, yoga and training… luckily dog sitting has become another addition that I LOVE and can choose to take on as my audition and work schedule permits.

How does this all lead to the topic of underestimating? All I’ve been doing is talking about my attempts at self-betterment and change and how critical I have a tendency to be on myself. Truth is, my self-criticism has played a very large role in just how much I underestimate myself.

For example, when I got hired at Seton, I had been teaching for years at that point at studios but still felt under qualified, In reality, I was perfectly if not over qualified. As I left that job last spring, I looked back and finally acknowledged the feat I had accomplished - building a dance program and writing a curriculum and starting a genuine interest and passion in the community. I finally started to realize my calling as a teacher, I loved it and if I may say so, I’m pretty good at it. Sure, I have a lot to learn, but connecting to the kids, sharing my passion, learning more and sharing it – was strangely natural. It felt good.

I was talking with Kathleen Schuman, friend, owner of prana, and one I consider a mentor in my yoga and life journey – we have really amazing conversations and when I told her this was going to be one of the topics and she was really proud to hear it. And truth Is, as I write it, I’m just thinking of how often I underestimate myself: I didn’t know if I’d be a successful teacher in high school or resonate with the kids, but I did – it took time but I did. Same for teaching yoga, I didn’t think anyone would want to come to my classes… and every week I’m always pleasantly surprised that there are people who show up… come back even! They actually like what I’m offering… I still have so much doubt in my teaching, my sequencing, in my lack of use of Sanskrit for struggling with pronunciation – you name it. Chances are I’m self-conscious about it.

Now going into auditions, I know I’m talented, I know I would be willing to throw my body into anything that was asked of me. But because I’m so used to being cut, I used to assume it was going to happen. I used to fear it was my body that was the problem… but then more recently I began thinking: what if it is my dancing that isn’t near good enough? Like what if I’ve been fooling myself to believe I have what it takes… and then I say it out loud and I gag knowing that is just utter bullshit. I am a good dancer – wow, and if only you had seen what it took to keep that sentence in this blog… I erased that sentence ten times before deciding it needed to stay. I am worthy – but I will be the first to sell myself short.

Art created by anonymous artist in response to my dance photos

I underestimate my intelligence on the regular and will be the first to say I’m not smart as a defense mechanism. But truth is, I am smart, emotionally smart, physically smart, and just smart. I know this and as I’m writing this, I’m proud to acknowledge my own active energy spent pushing myself and doing things that serve me rather than setting myself like I so often do.

I have many big dreams… one big one (and many others) I know what I’ve been working for, my heart is invested and ready. And I am challenging myself to not sink into my self-defense ways, like I always do. I am going in with the intention of doing my best, having fun, and walking out happy. Period. Seems so simple, it isn’t but that is the goal and that starts before you do any dancing – it starts and restarts when you decide it does… so that is what I did.


Sun Mar 25:

Today I walked into the Hubbard Street audition, with a new approach. I woke this morning to the smile of my long time dance/high school friend Rachel and her warm hugs, we shared conversation and musings over coffee (tea for me) and breakfast joined by her loving husband Pablo. There was much laughter and good talk. Rachel and I did a morning yoga flow together before all going to Palm Sunday Mass. We parted ways and off to the audition I went. I checked in, ran into some people I knew in the dressing room as I got ready. Leotard, tights – intention set and into the warm up room I went. Midway through some warm ups I saw long time friend Eve across the room. All focus – out the window and I didn’t even care. I was so excited to see her. We chatted while I distractedly warmed up, laughing and smiling and loving every bit of it. Next thing I know, its 2pm, my group is called and away we go. I felt so good, even from the start. Strong, centered, controlled, powerful and overall not too judgemental. In fact, I vividly remember being excited with how I was feeling. In the past, that is NOT normal. I was even more excited knowing that. I knew I was in an audition but for the first time, I was there for me. I was showing them the dancer that I was and could be. It felt amazing. Clean transitions and turns. Out jumping women and knowing I had the timing that was expected (that most people weren’t listening for), I was feeling great. I was alive and the music felt so good to move to. As if writing that list of successes guided my approach (because it absolutely did, even though I didn’t really think about them at all) I knew my approach and mindset engraved those ideas of success into my work. Though I felt great, I still was cut from the audition. I would not be going to choreography. That was it. And of course disappointment came, but the best part, it also went. I know I went in there with my best for today and I am really happy about how I felt. Giving my best is all I can expect from myself, I did that. I had a 2 minute freak out wondering if I wasn’t actually as qualified as I was thinking and maybe my ego was in the way… truth is, even I know that isn’t true. I acknowledged the feeling, I let myself be disappointed, then I moved on. I left quite happy. I was reunited with a few friends, I got to dance and show myself and I had many successes… if you check that list… I felt the following were successes today:

- I didn’t resent myself for how I looked

- I didn’t compare my body to other girls in the room

- I didn’t look for my flaws in the mirror.

- I felt good.

- I was on my leg.

- I felt warmed up and strong

- I nailed my pirouettes

- I was strong in my extension and had straight legs.

- I listened to the music and lived in it

- I didn’t leave sad that I didn’t get the job.

- I am proud of how I did, because it was MY best. - I did it for me and only me. Not for approval, but for the love of dance

And with that I can’t say that I am anything but proud and happy. Disappointment faded and I’m genuinely excited for what this new approach and mindful behavior will do for my career and hopes. It will obviously be a process… but I think this shift will be so necessary for personal and professional growth and further successes. Underestimating myself I would say hasn’t been the worst quality but its one I’m looking to drop and let go of. Okay so it was less about underestimation of myself and more just a rambling of me processing things… thanks for reading along the journey - until next time!

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