A conversation with Sharon Pakir, dancer and coach23 February 2018 - interviews
At age five, Sharon Pakir was already sure of what she wanted in life. “I wanted to be fiercely independent, live life on my terms, be the boss even if it means being bossy, and live with passion,” the Australia-based Singaporean dancer and personal development coach says. “I wanted to do something I love.”
It’s clear that the passion and courage she possesses has done her well. Owner of Spin City Dance, a well-known dance school in Australia, Sharon has danced with the biggest salsa musicians, performed at festivals all over the world and coached the best dancers in Australia. In 2014, she came in second at the prestigious World Latin Dance Cup. On top of that, she’s also a successful personal development coach and owner of The Trailblazer Tribe.
But as it turns out, the kind of courage that matters the most is not what is found at our peaks, but in the trenches. In 2017, Sharon experienced what she recalls as “the worst pain I’d ever been in”. During the 29th week of her pregnancy, her uterus ruptured, forcing her into an early delivery. She and her baby nearly lost their lives. For weeks after it happened, she was unable to be with her child. “It was a very deep and very dark feeling of failure, even though I knew it wasn't my fault,” she says.
In her lowest moments, Sharon found the courage to take small steps towards recovery. “I set tiny goals,” she says, “like making it to the bathroom myself, pumping more breast milk for my sick baby... This way, minute by minute, each day passed. At the end of each day I would remind myself that I could only go up from rock bottom, and it was all about patience.”
Her courage and capacity for optimism in the face of adversity calls to mind the relentless hopefulness found in British author (and Sharon’s favourite writer) Jeanette Winterson’s words: “To me, life, for all its privations, is a luminous thing.”
We speak to Sharon about her love for dance, self-care, and finding courage in the face of adversity.
The Mindful Company (TMC): What trait do you value most in others?
Sharon Pakir (SP): Without a doubt, authenticity. I've found over time that I value friendships that are based on each person being 100% who they are. I am open with my life, and I expect the people I open my heart to be the same with me. When I meet new people, in life or business, I always ask myself if we are aligned in this one single value. If we are, we can usually commence a relationship - we can work together, hang out, or perhaps even form a deeper connection. Authenticity brings warmth, candor, and a sense that our stories make us beautiful. It's a comfortable and lovely way to live.
TMC: When was the last time you felt that you failed and how did you overcome it?
SP: I don't like talking about failing, because I don't think that failure is something [intentional]. Sometimes, things don't go our way despite our best efforts, but failure is not a word I choose to have in my vocabulary. So the times that I really feel like I've failed are few and far between.
I think the last time I truly felt sad about an outcome was when my body failed me 7 months ago. My uterus ruptured when I was 29 weeks pregnant, and I was forced into an early delivery. My son and I very nearly lost our lives, and recovery for both of us has been an ongoing, slow and difficult journey. I was in the worst pain I'd ever been in, my body had repeatedly let me down, and I felt like the worst mother for not being able to be with my baby. It was a very deep and very dark feeling of failure, even though I knew it wasn't my fault. I felt like I had been unable to do such a simple thing—to have a baby normally. It seemed to me that everyone else was able to do something my body [couldn’t].
To overcome this black hole, I had to find small things to look forward to each hour of the day. I set tiny goals, like making it to the bathroom myself, pumping more breast milk for my sick baby, or getting myself a drink even though I was bedridden. This way, minute by minute, each day passed excruciatingly slowly but at least the hours went by. [This also allowed me to] decouple my chaotic mind from the physical things that needed doing. At the end of each day I would remind myself that I could only go up from rock bottom, and it was all about patience. I would go to bed and start the next day with the same mindset.
I also asked for help—a lot. Asking for help is [a difficult thing] for someone as fiercely independent as me, but I ended up asking my friends and family to assist with everything. I had a rotating group of friends who dropped off food, babysat my toddler, came by and helped me make sense of my heartache, and more. It was because of them that we could recover.
Sharon is wearing Rainbow Chain in gold vermeil.
TMC: How do you practise self-care?
SP: I believe in 3 elements of self-care—spiritual, physical and mental.
To care for my soul, I reflect daily, have values and mantras that I live by, and surround myself with good people. I don't believe in bringing bad energy into my life, I don't sweat the small stuff, and definitely choose what affects my heart and soul. When I need to, I take the time to celebrate/grieve/meditate/talk, whatever I need to rejuvenate and feed my soul.
To care for my body, I dance! It's really the only consistent exercise I've ever done. Dance is amazing for self-care because when I dance, I focus on the movements, breathing and muscle use, so any problems you have from a lousy day simply melt away. Plus, music never fails to make us enjoy an activity more!
To care for my mental state, I try not to multi-task. I used to think I was so good at juggling. It turns out that trying to focus on too many things at the same time makes us immensely stressed and unable to do a good job. Once I made a conscious choice to stop this habit, my stress levels became almost negligible, and my focusing on one thing made the quality of everything I did so much better. I also practise slow living - I try to make sure I don't overbook myself and I refuse to work during breaks. I don't respond/react to other people's timeframes if it isn’t urgent, and I don't accept the term "urgent" unless it has a real impact on the outcome.
TMC: What's your favourite memory of your dancing career?
SP: I have basically lived the dream in pursuing what I love so passionately and in so many facets! But my favourite memories of all are made most nights, every single week. I love the feeling of sharing a great evening of classes with my amazing students in my dance school. I love the laughs we share, the camaraderie, and being able to influence the very personal journey that is dance for so many people.
Over the years, my students have become some of my closest friends, business partners, and one even became my husband! It's been the space where I've gone to heal from every tragedy I've experienced because every evening I spend there is pure magic. My dance school turned 10 years old recently, and I don't think any other experience [in my dancing career] has affected me as profoundly as my dance school.
TMC: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
SP: I wanted to be a fabulous woman. I’ve never known [exactly] what I wanted to be, and I actually still wonder what life has in store.
TMC: Name 3 things that you value in your life.
SP: My family, learning and my health.
TMC: What does success mean to you?
SP: Success is multi-faceted for me. Success is living life on my terms and doing what I love every day. Success is being able to impact other human beings and improve their sense of self and state of being. Success is being able to provide for my family. Success is taking pride in what I've done, and not feeling like an imposter. Success is filling my cup whilst filling the cups of those around me. Success is living a life filled with love and gratitude. Success is being a good human being.
TMC: What advice would you like to give to your children?
SP: I would like my children to know that they are enough, just the way they are. That they hold value just by existing. That it's their job to be a good human being and impact the world and those around them in a positive way. That respect for others is paramount, and authenticity is the surest way to create strong relationships. To take pride in their work and play alike. To be strong and vulnerable—both are just as important.
TMC: What’s your favourite song to dance to?
SP: Anything by Michael Jackson.
TMC: What’s your favourite movie?
SP: A Beautiful Mind (2001)
TMC: What made you become a professional development coach?
SP: I worked as a corporate trainer for a few years, and consistently received feedback that my work was helping attendees create breakthroughs and positive change in their lives. Many of the people I coached asked if I held personal development workshops. So the transition seemed very natural. That was how The Trailblazer Tribe was born. We have to know ourselves to grow ourselves, so the company is focused on capacity building through self-knowledge.
TMC: Are there any similarities between your work as a business/personal development coach and a dancer?
SP: Absolutely. In both roles, it's essential to touch the audience. And it's important not to lose focus of what the outcomes need to be.
TMC: What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in your career?
SP: To be a dancer and own a dance school, work is mostly in the evenings and weekends. For the last 10 years, I've spent evenings and weekends in dance classes, performances, judging competitions, coaching and travelling for work. It's a beautiful lifestyle because I’m living my passion, but when coupled with my day job, it's grueling. I've missed out on a full social life—dinners with friends and important occasions like weddings, christenings, birthdays.
TMC: Is there someone whom you’ve met in your line of work that has impacted your life?
SP: I met my husband in my dance work - he was my student for a few years before we dated. We developed a great friendship in that time, and as it turns out, he's become someone who motivates and coaches me to be my best all the time. He asks me the hard questions, and helps me talk through and strategise my goals. He's my biggest cheerleader, and supports me in all that I want to do.
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