I've been having a mild panic attack for the last couple of weeks which escalated into a fairly full blown one yesterday because the woman who was my first tap teacher is expanding her empire to cover my side of Melbourne.
I want to firstly make clear that it's not her I have a problem with. She's a nice person, a friend of mine, she works extremely hard and she's a very good business-woman to boot. If she'd picked a location slightly east or west of me I would have said good on her. But she is opening very nearby and I ran into her yesterday in the playground of my kids' school, about to put an ad in our newsletter. My turf, my home turf. It panicked me.
Part of the problem of course is that she was my first tap teacher, and has been something like a mentor to me. It's hard not to feel threatened by that, by placing myself mentally as grasshopper to her ninja. Or whatever the right metaphor is there. I wouldn't (and didn't) feel that way when/if students of mine were to start up classes nearby.
The other problem is to do with my own self-confidence. I automatically thought Oh this is going to kill my tap school dead. And why would I think that? My school is a going concern with a good reputation (I think) and most days I believe my students enjoy the classes and look forward to coming back every week. So on some level I must believe that I'm an impostor and have been getting away with it, presumably because nobody in this area knows any better. (I don't think I'm the only one who feels like that, deep down inside.)
And then there's this kind of feeling, when a few things have gone against you like Fixit not getting the job last year, where it seems that the hits keep coming, that maybe Fixit and I are doomed to be battlers and losers all our life. I know this is crap now, but last night in the full barrage of an anxiety attack it was pathetically easy to wallow in the Mud-Of-Poor-Me, and to forget all the really good things we have to be thankful for.
All last night and this morning, my brain skittered between worst-case scenarios and trying to think it through logically. Worst-case gloom and doom goes like this:
- Her school is so big and mine is so small.
- Her school has variety, mine is too specialised.
- Her school will have a proper studio with mirrors and barres whereas I'm in a community hall with a makeshift floor and a one small rollaway foot mirror. I'm boutique in my offerings but not in my surroundings.
- She is a really good businesswoman with 2 booming studios and I'm just me with not much interest in the business side of things, just wanting to earn a living doing what I like. And I've seen her in action, she's good at and energetic about promoting the school. She is putting up flyers and posters, advertising in the local schools. Things that I do haphazardly.
- She has capital behind her for expansion, Fixit and I absolutely do not. I can't actually ever realistically foresee having enough business or capital to get my own premises (although I do of course daydream about it.)
- She was the original, I'm the pretender.
If I think about it all properly, and I've been trying to do that since yesterday in an effort to get my breathing back to normal and my shoulders down from around my ears, then I tell myself the following:
- That she is right when she says she is offering something different to me. Her school is very girly and pink and glittery and fairy. I think I do have my own brand and style and it is one that I'm happy with. Possibly I am the anti-danceschool option, the one you choose because you want your kid to dance but don't want the rigidity of a formal ballet school or anything too over the top or too hippy-trippy.
- That I can put up flyers and run ads too. I've been aware that I don't do nearly enough of that sort of stuff and that this could be the sort of kick up the bum I need.
- That I don't actually think I will lose students to her. Any students I lose will be because of my own shortcomings (gulp) and not because a school with nicer facilities has opened nearby. And I think a goodly percentage of my students are with me not because I'm the only game in town but because they enjoy my classes.
- That it is not my ex-tap teacher who will be the competition so to speak. It will be teachers hired by her and that has no psychological worries for me at all. And, to be honest, on my good days, I do think I'm good enough at what I do to be able to hold my own. We're all different, we all bring different skills to the table and I think that my best assets are my teaching skills (several of my grown-up tap students are also teachers who have taken the time to tell me that I'm good at it) and the way I can make it fun for my students.
But a good chat with a chance-met friend this morning helped me think more clearly about this too. Made me focus. Why I am doing my business? Is it to make money or because I love what I do? Answer: The money is nice (and some more money would be even nicer) but I do it for love. I do. You see? I'm not naturally a business-woman. I'm the child of a workaholic. I seek balance and family life and creative satisfaction and happiness and emotional sanity and fun. As Gabby put it, what price earning good money? I suspect it entails giving up dancing and teaching and taking up people management and paperwork and assets and marketing. I seriously do NOT want to do that. I just want to dance and teach dance. I'd like to be slightly more successful so that I didn't have to lug my tap boards around before every gig, but I accept that this is a pipe dream and that my life is not too hard really.
So I think I'm *almost* out of my panic attack. Moments of reaching for the metaphorical brown-paper bag. Still in need of reassurance. Might cry and hyperventilate if I have to talk to anyone face-to-face about it, but might also just hold it together with slightly leaky eyes. But shoulders almost back to below my neck, and trying to think sensibly and positively about the future. I think I can sustain my current levels. I hope I can continue to improve them. Breathe in. Breathe out.