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"Self-Validation is being the 'Superior Man'" by Akshaya Ganesan

     Confucius, the renowned Chinese philosopher, said these wise words, “What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”

     I was that ‘small man,’ and now I strive to be the ‘superior man.’

     Growing up submersed in a music & dance-loving family, I have developed a strong passion for Indian Classical Dance and Music. I have been learning Bharatanatyam, a major form of Indian Classical Dance that encompasses music, rhythm, and expression, from the young age of four. However, as a young Bharatanatyam dancer, self-validation has been, is, and will be a constant struggle throughout my dance career. Unlike my fellow dancers, Bharatanatyam was very physically enduring for me and required loads of practice and stamina because of my many asthma and breathing problems. As a result, a major insecurity for me is the way people judge how I dance. In fact, for the past few months, I realized that my dance is defined by other people’s opinions. It has become normal for me to seek approval from other people rather than finding satisfaction in myself. I constantly struggle with two problems as a dancer: first, needing people’s approval and validation to feel proud of how I dance and second, feeling shame and guilt when someone disapproves or criticizes how I dance. In fact, I would judge how I dance by comparing the quality of my dancing to the number of likes and views I receive on my dance posts on social media, to the number of compliments I receive from others after a dance performance, or to the amount of people that come to my dance performances. I am constantly seeking approval from my friends and family, which, for me, is a pretty scary idea. However, the underlying question is why? Why do I feel the urge to seek validation from others?  

     During this current COVID-19 pandemic, I spent a lot of time during quarantine thinking and changing myself to become ‘the superior man.’ Practicing every day in my dance studio purely for my enjoyment and pleasure has changed how I view dance: from a chore to a destresser. In a way, I am grateful for quarantine. The excessive amount of time we have been given has helped me focus on dance and realize the real reason I dance- to lose myself in emotion and surrender myself to the art. During these times, I realized that true satisfaction, happiness, and peace comes from within yourself and not from what others think. People, like me, seek validation from others because they feel nervous, insecure, and anxious in this judgemental world. We seem to forget that dance and other art forms have been given to us as a form of pure enjoyment because society turns these enjoyments into stressful chores by ranking people by how beautiful they play the piano or how well they sing which as a result, makes us, young artists, nervous, insecure, and forgetful of the real reason we learn and seek art- to attain ultimate peace and happiness within ourselves. While this is something easier said than done, I work to achieve this mentality every day and become the ‘superior man’ by continuing to be true to who I am.