This weekend the new series of Strictly Come Dancing kicked off on the BBC.  As I sat there after a hefty bowl of sausage pasta and a cheeky second glass of Malbec, I had the usual tape playing in my head:

“I could NEVER do that.”

I’m right of course.  With that tape playing quietly but incessantly, I will NEVER even begin to be able to Salsa, Cha Cha Cha or Tango in front of an audience of millions.  NEVER.  My brain is telling me that, and if necessary it will prove it to me.  Just as an anorexic sees a fat person in the mirror, I see an unfit, overweight and shapeless bag of potatoes in the mirror, who to add to the complication also has two left feet, looks like Mr Bean and can’t dance for toffee.  If I try and prove myself wrong on this, my brain will engage me in an arm wrestle in which it undoubtedly will have the upper hand.

If he can, why can't I?

If he can, why can’t I?

The thing is, I could choose to replace the tape with a new one.  Just as actor Mark Benton appears to have done, I could decide to change the tape to one which said:

“I could enjoy learning how to do that.”

He obviously has.  That in itself is very impressive, methinks.

He’s not the first, of course:  Ann Widdecombe and John Sergeant spring to mind as perhaps having had to overcome more “challenges” than some of their younger more agile contestants.  But overcome it they did, and both went on to great success and popularity with the audience, not only because of the fun they had, but because of the authenticity they brought to the show.

This is class, John!

This is class, John!

(Incidentally, John Sergeant eventually had to resign from the show, because he was so popular with the public they continued to vote him in, and he felt there was a risk he might win – a joke he felt which “even I think may be taking things too far”.  He was the only contestant to be awarded a 1 by one of the judges, who said he would have scored it a zero if he had been allowed to.)

Most people hold themselves back in some way, I think, with self imposed mental limits.  Who knows where they come from, but they are very real and they can completely inhibit what people are capable of.

I’ve had some great ones in my time:

  • “I can’t sing”
  • “I could never run my own business”
  • “I could never learn Ancient Greek”
  • “I will never win an organ scholarship”
  • “I’ll never be able to manage other people”.

Maybe part of the enduring popularity of the show is that it confirms for the rest of us that it is possible to overcome seemingly impossible challenges, and thus that there is hope for all of us.  Maybe we don’t need to go on a TV show to prove it, but we can be inspired to replace one or two of those nagging self doubts, and give something new a go.  Some of the more well worn cliches seem appropriate here:

  • “Don’t ask, don’t get”
  • “What have you got to lose?”
  • “He who dares wins”
  • “Fortes fortuna iuvat

Action:  identify something you believe you could never do, and allow yourself to believe that you could be great at it.  Then make a commitment to take the first step towards achieving it.

Let’s finish with a smile, and the uplifting highlights of Ann’s Strictly series:  completely true to herself, and having a Ball proving to herself that she was wrong.  Enjoy!

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