Dance was always something I loved. For as long as I could remember, I always recall dance being part of my life. I was a quirky, fun-loving child, and I loved being part of my after-school dance club, taking part in multiple showcases and competitions. I wasn’t really aware of my difference back then, I was just having fun, doing something that I loved to do.

But when secondary school hit, my love for dance was pushed aside and replaced by insecurities. Due to my dwarfism, the size difference between my peers and me was far more apparent than what it had been before, and as I became older, the dance moves I was being taught got more and more complex. I was falling behind. I didn’t feel very good at it anymore. Suddenly the thing I loved to do, was becoming something that instead was making me feel rather lame about myself. The world isn’t always kind when you’re different. Society has expectations of how we should look, and when you don’t reach those expectations, sometimes the reaction of others is a bitter one. It was this, that took dance away from me, the words hurt too much to outweigh the passion, and the thought of all eyes on me on the stage, gave me a feeling of fear, not fun.

So at age 11, I gave in, hung up my dance shoes, and tried to live life, drawing as little attention to myself as possible. I didn’t want the limelight anymore, not when I was attracting the negative opinions and comments of others just by walking down the street. It’s fair to say that any quirk I had, had now gone, and instead, I was starting to believe the things the bullies would say. I went from standing in front of a studio mirror all day, to not even wanting to look in one at all.

But this wasn’t to be forever….

Fast forward to 2016; my self-confidence was slowly starting to improve after moving on from secondary school and finding my feet in the real world. However, my spark was still dim. But that was soon about to change, when I was invited to the Dance Sway Nationals in 2016 as makeup assistant for a dance crew called ‘Audacity.’ As I watched their performance from the side-lines, I saw in them the same enjoyment and fulfillment as the 10 year old me had once had. I saw people doing what they loved, for fun, and feeling rather good about themselves for it… something which I didn’t think I’d find in dance again… that is until my boss looked to me and said ‘Come on, Why don’t you give it a go’…

So I did.

A year on, I returned to the same competition, with the same crew, but this time they didn’t rely on me to do their make-up…. but instead to dance alongside them. Until then, I don’t think I ever thought I had the courage to perform again, but there I was, back doing something that I loved…. something that was becoming fun again. Was it easy? Nope? There were many tears, many times I wanted to quit, times I would compare myself to those dancing beside me, and be jealous of the moves that they picked up so quick… times I wish I could just do it as easy and as well as they could… and many times I thought to myself was I really good enough for all this after all? It had been almost six years since I had last performed, I had gotten much older, and therefore the moves which I was expected to be able to deliver, were far more intense than the Disney songs 8 year old me used to jump around to. The physical challenge this had on my body, presented me with a huge mountain to climb.

I still had the same body as 8 year old me. It wasn’t any bigger or stronger than it was back then… But if I was going to pursue my passion and keep up with the almost grown adults I was competing alongside, then I had to find a way to be stronger than the challenges that were in front of me. And the only thing I had stronger than the challenges was my passion. That and a little bit of stubbornness too!!

Some days were hard..

Somedays, I would fail to keep up, and other days I would watch from the side-lines while my body dealt with injury and pain. But every time I got back up. Every time, I tried again. And every time, I pushed through the barrier of doubt tormenting me. Okay, I’ve never been the best… I’m not the quickest or most skilled dancer, and to this day there are things which I can’t do, and probably won’t ever do. But that’s okay…. why? Because I may not be the best, but I am doing my best, and above all of that, I am doing something that I love and something that I want to do, and no one is going to take that away from me again.

For so long, I used to be afraid to step back out there… to have all eyes looking at me because in the past, never once has that been a positive experience. I let the words and opinions of others hold me back. But I’ve come to learn that those who stare, those who laugh…. they’ll have two minutes of my life… but the confidence, motive, and purpose that comes from when I dance…. that will stay with me for a lifetime. I will never be able to change how some people may see me, but I can change how I see myself, and you know what, some days, I don’t even notice my difference anymore.

If I could say anything, to anyone, who may be being held back, at the fear of feeling different, or the fear that perhaps you may not be good enough, it would be, to be brave. Take the leap of faith. Be bold enough to step out there. And be the version of yourself that you want to be, not who anyone else expects you to be. We are only held back by the limits we set ourselves, and when I let go of those limits back in 2016, my life was opened to a whole new world of opportunity. I found my spark again.

Third place at the UK Welsh Street Dance Nationals