I often see many celebrities and influencers promote self-love, and talk about how important it is. It is easier said than done because the journey to self-love can be really hard to accomplish. But what I have learned through my own experience is that the first spark to loving yourself can be anything! It can be visiting new places, drawing, meditating… and for me, it was dancing.
I was born in Japan, but right before I turned five my family and I moved to Singapore. We stayed there for eight years, and they were the glorious days. Everything I experienced in Singapore builds up to the person I am today. I loved the country, the school, and all the time I spent with my family and friends. I always thought that I belonged to Singapore, and I never considered Japan as my “home country.” Although I visited Japan every summer, it was just a place to visit, not where I thought home. That’s why I was shocked when my parents told me that we were moving back to Japan. I couldn’t accept the fact that we were leaving Singapore — the country that I had become so emotionally attached to, and I was simply afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone. I never got over the shock and fear of leaving Singapore, and it actually got worse after we moved to Japan.
At that time, I couldn’t speak or read Japanese well enough for my age. Yet, my Japanese appearance obviously made other people assume that I was a “normal Japanese girl” and would look confused when I couldn’t understand or talk properly in Japanese. This accelerated my insecurities. I lost confidence in my Japanese skills, and even lost confidence in myself. My low self-esteem made me scared that people would walk away from me if I couldn’t speak Japanese and because I was “different” from everybody else. The bubbly girl that I was before gradually faded away, and I became the quiet girl who was never able to say what she wanted to. Although I was shutting my true self away from everyone else, it was easy for me to fit in since I was like a chameleon; never showing my true color and adjusting myself to the world around me. But thinking back to it now, I was unconsciously feeling a lot of stress from pretending to be someone I am not. That is why I spontaneously started to learn dance when I was fourteen years old.
I believe that dance is an art of self-expression. You express emotions and messages with your whole body through the beat of the music. A good dancer is someone who can precisely express any emotion, and to do this you must come face-to-face with the music as well as yourself.
When I first started dancing I thought it would allow me to be someone different, but instead it opened up my inner self to the world. I wanted to get better at dancing so I listened to different types music and tried to pick up the feelings behind the tone and lyrics of the song. I would also try to relate these feelings to my own, and reflect back on myself. These practices I did to improve my dancing helped me self reflect more often, and I started thinking for myself and stayed more loyal to the voice inside of me.
I was tired of being a chameleon and it felt so good to be myself! Even if I stayed as my true self, people didn’t walk away from me as I feared they would. Instead, opening up myself led to others opening up as well, and I’ve never felt as comfortable being around my friends.
I am definitely not the best dancer, and I still need a lot of improvement, but that doesn’t stop me from expressing myself. Dancing helped me break out of my shell; a shell that kept me from looking at my true self. To all those out there who are feeling insecure about themselves, I want to tell you that it is totally okay to be yourself. Be who you are, and love who you are. And for those who are looking for a way to change, take a look around because the spark to change can be anything.