What Zumba Taught Me About Life

“I’m not going to nitpick.”

That’s what my Zumba mentor told me when I asked for her evaluation of my class. I had been teaching Zumba Fitness for one month, and she attended one of my sessions. Anxious to know her thoughts, hear what I could improve, and continue my instructor development, I waited for her response.

“I’d like to help you practice a few specific songs,” she said. “We can talk more about it later.”

I pressed for more. “Which ones?” “What else?” “Don’t hold back; you won’t offend me!”

“There are things,” she replied. “But I’m not going to nitpick. It’ll all come with time.”

I was blown away.  The new hobby that I loved deeply but felt utterly inadequate at was one she had mastered. There were so many things she could have analyzed. I kept a running list of everything I needed to fix in my own head.

But she chose to stay quiet.

There were a few things that did for my sensitive and over-analytical heart:

It reassured me.

There are always “things” to work on when you start a new hobby or skill, but that’s normal. Nothing I did (or didn’t) do in class was detrimental or warranted immediate feedback. Going home that night with zero feedback allowed me to press “pause” on my analysis and focus on other aspects of life.

It reassured me.

There are always “things” to work on when you start a new hobby or skill, but that’s normal. Nothing I did (or didn’t) do in class was detrimental or warranted immediate feedback. Going home that night with zero feedback allowed me to press “pause” on my analysis and focus on other aspects of life.

It safe-guarded me from public scrutiny.

Several of our students were present when I asked for input. Had they heard the review, they likely would have chimed in with their own thoughts. A natural people-pleaser, I know I’d have absorbed a variety of opinions and felt even worse about my abilities as an instructor.

It empowered me to take a break.

I had spent months practicing and preparing to teach. I felt desperate to impress my mentor, students, and friends. By not sharing her evaluation that evening, my mentor helped me give myself permission to stop for a few days. I went home knowing I was OK, rather than obsessing over what could change.

zumba-life-critique-criticism

A colleague said to me early in my career, “Critique and criticism are not the same. Critique will help you; criticism will stifle you.”

Time and again, that statement has proven true. The week after my class, my friend met with me to review and practice some of my choreography and approach to teaching. The critique bettered my skills. The practice increased my confidence. The interaction strengthened my understanding.

I think many of us criticize ourselves more than is ever necessary. Throughout the process of becoming an instructor and continuing to develop my skills, I discovered that my negative self-talk is actually more constant than I’d like to admit.

Along the dance and fitness journey, my friend has helped me grow without hating my less-than-perfect attempts. It’s been a healing experience, and it’s inspired me to say to myself and to others, in any situation:

“I’m not going to nitpick.”

Where can you offer critique instead of criticism today? Is it in your own life, or someone else’s? Let me know in the comments below!

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