“The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look,” Julius Caesar
She came to me in tears, going on and on about how she could’ve done better; about how she is definitely better than this; about how unfair the whole system is; about the lack of attention directed upon her, as though the whole world wants to see her fail.
She tried to control her tears, because her mom told her that crying is bad. But as soon as she speaks about her performance again, she inevitably loses control over her emotions and torrent of tears pours out from the corner of her hazel eyes. Suppression, it seems, had only made it worse.
I reassured her that her performance was good, except, if only to nitpick, the timing of the turn could be better, or that pose could be held a fraction of a second longer. However, any kind words were in vain, for all she remembers was that perfect routine she had during the rehearsals and how it wasn’t perfect on stage in front of everyone.
This judgement that she bestowed upon herself is in spite of the praise that she received from her teachers, parents and friends who attended the performance. I guess, sometimes, the harshest judge is ourselves. Then I knew, from experience, that I could never say anything to dissuade her from her own harsh judgement; I could only sit next to her.
It is sad to see people treating each other badly, ranging from the conflicts in the macro level where nations fail to find common ground, to the micro level, where siblings fight over their rightful inheritance. But it is a different kind of sadness to see people treating themselves so harshly, as though as kindness from oneself could only arise if one fulfilled a certain condition or obligation.
I wondered why sometimes we judge without giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt. After all, who could be kinder to one but oneself? Perhaps we expect too much to begin with, or that, our expectation of our own progress does not match what was initially planned. And we start comparing with people who had started this journey with us, and have surged beyond our capabilities.
Does it not seem counterproductive, to hold on to all these expectations that often stifle our own progress in life? If we think we are better than this, and are not, are we falling short of our expectations, or did we set the bar too high?
But I find myself questioning instead, of the need for expectation at all? Why is it that we can’t act without one? Acting without the hope of anything in return; giving without the expectation of receiving; loving without the need for that love returned; is this not the purest form of action, one that roots directly from the willingness to participate instead of a source which compels and demands some form of compensation from our effort, which in turn must be deemed to be fair?
It wasn’t until about two years later, over coffee, where she told me how much she misses dancing since she had stopped. It was only then, during reminiscence of her days in the dance studio where the reason of her involvement in contemporary dance became clear. It was not for the applause, praise or the admiration but only for the simple joy of dancing.
As she expresses her regret on giving up so quickly, I asked: “What’s stopping you from returning then?” To which she replied, “I couldn’t forgive myself, for walking out on so many people just like that.”
It seems to me that sometimes, our worst enemy hides within.