Over the course of the past year, I lost over one hundred pounds. The two photos above were taken exactly one year apart: June 2019 on the left and June 2020 on the right. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. When someone first undertakes such a tremendous transformation, one of the first decisions is often whether or not to share your goal with others. Sure, if you publicly share your desire and intention, others are likely to lend support and encouragement, not to mention celebrate your achievement with you. But, should you fall short, face challenges, or even just give up, you risk doing so in full view of an audience.
Given that I’m a dance teacher and professor—not to mention one who thinks heavily about the act of performance on a daily basis—the decision wasn’t difficult to share my desire and progress in full view of an audience. I decided to broadcast my achievements and frustrations throughout the transformative process of weight loss on Facebook and Instagram. Surprisingly—and I’m still not sure how this is possible, but that’s for another blog post—there were a whole lot more achievements than obstacles. I’m fortunate that my journey was efficient, steady, and smooth. I reached my goal ahead of schedule and then refined it to include developing muscle strength and increasing physical fitness and endurance. But, then again, perhaps the reason my particular journey was so successful was exactly BECAUSE I did it in full view of an audience.
Thus, I see a significant and powerful link between transformation and performance. Not only was I documenting my progress on social media, I was using the encounter with a “live” audience to keep myself inspired and to hold myself accountable. Perhaps it was a fear of failure in public that prevented me from ever getting discouraged or perhaps the kind comments from friends provided such motivation that I never doubted my commitment. Either way, I credit my success and consequent happiness to the public and performative nature of this entire process. Performance is indeed powerful.
You might say the in the summer of 2019, at the beginning of my journey, I discovered the joys of shameless selfie sharing. I’m sure I’ve lightheartedly made fun of people for going overboard with selfies on their social media accounts in the past but I discovered how fun it could be, not to mention how effective at keeping myself on track. Whenever I experienced that little dopaminergic rush of taking a photo and realized that I looked pleasantly different than I was expecting, I couldn’t help but share it. I wasn’t intending to get responses and I wasn’t counting the likes, but it did feel good when others noticed the changes. That was the fuel I think I needed to keep going day after day, week after week, month after month.
At some point, I began sharing the numbers of pounds lost along with photos of the jars of marbles I was using to visibly track my progress: one jar of pounds lost, another for pounds to go.
First it was every ten pounds, I would snap photo and announce it on Instagram and Facebook. Then, the closer I got to my goal, I switched to every five pounds. I so appreciated all the kind comments and encouraging sentiments. That was how I was able to be successful. As encouraging too was another unexpected result: others were inspired to begin their own transformative journeys as well. I wish them the same happiness I was able to achieve with mine.
So my advice—as always—is not to listen to the advice to dance like no one is watching. Rather, I encourage you to do the opposite and follow what has become the official motto of my dance studio: “Dance like the World is Watching.” In the warm glow of the spotlight, and within the terrifying yet thrilling gaze of the audience, you really discover what you’re capable of.