Reach You Are Worthy of Your Dreams. Here’s How to Get Started Renowned belly dancer Ebony Qualls shares her journey from fear to the actualization of her dreams—and shares some advice for anyone looking to do the same. By Ebony Qualls Photo by Paulette Wooten You are the author of your own narrative. Tap into your true north at a Wanderlust event this year. If we think back to our early memories of childhood, many of us remember there being no shortage of sources offering up ideas about what types of lives we should desire. These sources are quick to fill in any silences born out of a young person taking the time to deliberate how they want to show up in the world. Those suggestions can be strong enough to stunt or delay the process of figuring out what we actually want out of life. This can be dangerous. Knowing what we want is a lifelong and ever-changing journey—and one that often involves distinguishing between who we’ve been told we should be, and who we truly want to be. Then, there’s the sorting out of which of our desires are a means to an end, versus what we really want. When we get a glimpse at what really excites us as individuals and what unique desires tug at our souls, we sometimes suppress that knowing. Why do we deny ourselves the joy of following our dreams? There are plenty of reasons. But there are more not to. Here’s why you deserve the life you desire. Why We Shy Away from Pursuing Our Dreams Fear is strong enough to paralyze us because of the risk that comes with change. It’s easier not to change because we can see what we’ll lose if we do change—and because we can’t see what we’ll gain. We may be afraid of the embarrassment that comes along with failure, or that others might be envious of us if we actually succeed. Feeling unworthy or not good enough for the things that we desire can stem from old belief systems or stories that we repeatedly tell ourselves about ourselves that are no longer true and maybe never were. And it’s important to remember that anyone who is envious and doesn’t support your success isn’t worth worrying about. True friends lift each other up and both encourage and celebrate each other’s growth. Knowing what we want is a lifelong and ever-changing journey that often involves distinguishing between who we’ve been told we should be and who we truly want to be. Guilt can also keep us from being and having what we really want. We may feel selfish for cultivating our own happiness when others aren’t fulfilled. Then, there’s good old self-doubt, which can make us believe that we’re just not ready to go after what we desire, but that “one day” we finally we be. The truth is that we all grapple with fear and self doubt. Rather than attempting to extinguish our fears altogether, it may be a more realistic approach to let fear take the backseat instead of letting it drive us. Further, life coach Lex Kelly offers that fear is not only necessary, but it can be a valuable learning tool for us. “When you experience fear,” he says, “the root of this feeling could be stemming from a lack of confidence in yourself. When you work hard and hone your craft, you build confidence that replaces your sense of fear.” My Journey Toward My Dream Photo by Carrie Meyer I’ve been familiar with feelings of resistance on my own path of becoming a professional belly dancer. When I was offered my first job teaching belly dance, the resistance showed up as self doubt, “I haven’t been studying this dance long enough” or “I don’t LOOK like a belly dancer”. When I began to get offers to travel internationally to teach and perform, the resistance showed up again, “There are better and more deserving dancers than me”. And sometimes, when it came to creating dances I could get the resistant feelings of “What if I’m not good at this anymore?” or “I’ll never make anything as good as X dance that I created.” One thing I’ve learned along the way is that putting my focus on showing up as my authentic self as an artist blows away feelings of unworthiness or fear. I realize that I simply cannot fail at being me. I am the only subject matter expert on creating my art. I’ve also found that feelings of self doubt take a back seat when I’m regularly creating dances that make my students smile, laugh and enjoy their own bodies. In those situations, I’m more focused on what I’m bringing to others than whatever my own perceived shortcomings might be. Showing up as my authentic self as an artist blows away feelings of unworthiness or fear. I cannot fail at being me. It can be difficult to sort out what we want in life, and it takes bravery to go after our dreams once we identify them. Here’s what I suggest for releasing resistance and getting closer to what we want: Figure out what you want. Become curious about what resonates with you. Make a list of things that light you up. Food, films, writing, taking care of people—are all some ideas. Spend time getting clear on how you would ideally spend your time. Decide that you’re worthy of your desires. Know that living your dream is not only good for you, but for everyone around you. Decide that you have the right to be happy and work on releasing resistance around that. Make peace with failure. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Valuable self improvement can come from analyzing your failures. Take inspired action. Once you know what you want, and believe that you’re worthy—you’ll become inspired to take action, even if they’re baby steps to start. How do you chase what you want? Let us know in the comments below. — Ebony Qualls has been teaching belly dance since 2003. She is based in Washington, DC and is a regular headlining teacher and performer at dance and wellness festivals throughout Asia, Canada, Europe and the US. She has toured internationally with the world famous Bellydance Superstars and Bellydance Evolution; and has performed in and choreographed for Zoe Jake’s House of Tarot. Ebony has performed onstage with Grammy-nominated band Thievery Corporation and with electronic musician and performance artist Peaches. Her mission is to help people express their unique creativity through dance, and she is dedicated to celebrating diversity in age, body type and culture.