In the Know: Divine Dance: An Interview with Shannon Primicerio
For those of you joining me here from Encouragement Today through Proverbs 31 Ministries, welcome! Today, we’re discussing performance…how it affects us and how it affects our students. My guest today is Shannon Primicerio. An author of 10 books, Shannon teaches teenage girls how to apply the Bible to the drama of real life and read it like it’s God’s love letter to them. At the end of this post, you can enter win Shannon’s book for a teen in your life!
After working with teens and struggling with performing in her own life, Shannon wrote the book, The Divine Dance which covers this topic. Today, Shannon will help gives us some tools on how we can rid our lives of this struggle as well as pass on this freedom to our daughters.
Shannon, how did you first recognize that you were performance orientated?
I always noticed elements of it as I grew up. As a child I was a dancer, and then I played softball and was an honor student. In the midst of all of my achievements I was always looking for applause and affirmation. My senior year I won a huge writing award sponsored by the local paper. It was to be given to me at my high school graduation, but my school goofed up and it was awarded to me in my AP English class. Instead of everyone—including my family—being there to witness my achievement I was left standing awkwardly in front of 28 classmates who had no idea what a big deal the award was. I remember being angry and disappointed that my big moment fell so flat. It was then that I began to realize that being esteemed highly by other people was really important—maybe even too important—to me.
What do you feel was the primary influencer when it came to this struggle in your life? Environment, your own personality, etc.?
When I was four my parents separated for a year and began the process of divorce. I didn’t see my dad often, and I remember being confused about why he left. The pain was so great that I acted out in my preschool class and became an angry child. In my mind I didn’t ever want to hurt like that again. Eventually my parents reconciled and worked things out, but that year left an indelible mark on me. It was then I first determined that I was going to make people love me to insure I would never be left again. I began to perform for people trying to earn their love and applause with everything I did.
How can we recognize performance in the life of our students?
I think it’s important to listen to what teenagers aren’t saying when they talk. Sometimes how a girl (or guy) talks can give you a clear picture of how she views herself. If your daughter comes home from school and you ask about her day, try to determine if she’s leaning heavily on her achievements: “I got an A in math and then my science teacher said I did the best project in the entire class, etc…”
When your daughter talks, is she giving you a picture of who she is or what she does? Without even realizing it is she trying to earn your approval or find affirmation?
Listen closely when she asks for something too—a new pair of boots, a shirt from a trendy store, an i-Phone, etc…Why does she want it? Is she associating her identity with what she has? Is she worried about being compared to her peers and coming up short?
If you notice your daughter is performing, don’t embarrass her by calling her out right away. Begin by affirming her. Make sure she leaves conversations with you feeling loved and accepted. If she’s feeling insecure, try to schedule a mother/daughter activity (like a pedicure or free mall makeover) that will leave her feeling better about herself—and then, while she’s feeling pretty good, try broaching the subject of her tendency to perform.
Instead of telling her what you see, ask her how she feels. You can mention a few of the things you’ve noticed, but don’t make it sound like you have her figured out or like you know what she’s feeling. If you invite her to talk, and you make her feel safe and comfortable doing so, she will open up. You may even want to begin by sharing ways in which you find yourself performing instead of finding your worth in Christ and who God made you.
What steps did you take to get free?
In college I found myself briefly dating a guy I didn’t even really like simply because he was the only one who bothered to ask me out. Around this same time I was hanging with a group of friends I had absolutely nothing in common with. I was wearing clothes I wasn’t comfortable in because that’s how the other girls dressed. I even wore a perfume I thought stunk (it gave me a headache) just because it was the popular thing to do.
I finally woke up one morning knowing that I was not who I was pretending to be. So, I broke up with the guy, went on a hunt for new friends and got rid of the uncomfortable clothes and stinky perfume.
But I also really began to spend time assessing who God made me. What were my strengths and weaknesses? What did I like to wear? When I looked five years into the future what did I want my life to look like? I know this sounds like a lot of self-focus, but it’s important for teenage girls to examine themselves apart from the crowd so they can recognize who God made them.
At the same time I was doing all of that, I really began to dig into God’s Word and see what the Bible said about me. I wrote out verses about how much God loves me and how valuable He thinks I am and posted them around my dorm room. I also took a few spiritual gifts tests and began looking for ways God could use me.
Once I had a better understanding of who God made me, and the gifts He gave me, I had a greater since of confidence. It was easier to say no to people and things that didn’t seem to fit with God’s plan for my life. It wasn’t—and isn’t—easy. But it was easier.
Honestly, I still struggle with my tendency to perform. I’m constantly stopping and reassessing my motives and desires. But first, I had to learn who I was so I could better understand who I wasn’t.
How can we help our students to take these steps?
I think it’s important to help your daughter discover who God made her to be. She needs to know how she’s different from her friends, how she’s different from you and how to make decisions on her own.
Let her develop her own sense of style (as long as it’s modest). Encourage her to break free of the cookie cutter mold of saying and doing what everyone else is.
Teach her (and model for her) how to say no in a healthy way. If you’re constantly performing for people, and that’s all she sees, then your actions won’t align with your words and she’ll notice right away.
Talk to your daughter about spiritual gifts. Point out opportunities for her to volunteer and serve at your church or in your community. Don’t just tell her God has a purpose for her life—teach her how to find it, help her discover what it is.
When the gifts, talents and passions God has given her start to emerge make sure you encourage them—even if they are completely different than the gifts, talents and passions God has given you.
The remedy for seeking the world’s applause is learning to dance for the Audience of One. More than anything else, make sure you model what it means to live for the approval of God and not the applause of men.
If your daughter sees a strong example in you she’ll know she’s found a safe place to confide and that’s priceless.
Thank you so much for sharing your heart and expertise, Shannon. I know I learned a lot from you!
Shannon’s books and conferences provide:
*Guidance and structure for how to have a daily quiet time
*Strategies for battling peer pressure in areas like dating, purity and friendship
*Insight on how to see yourself as the beautiful treasure you are
*Direction on how to find your purpose and live your passion for the glory of
You can learn more about Shannon at http://www.beingagirlbooks.com/.
You can enter to win a copy of Shannon’s book! What area do you or your girl struggle when it comes to performing? Just clik on “comments” below! I can’t wait to hear from you…Lynn
My husband is a perfectionist and, I think, my daughter struggles a great deal to please him in many ways. Although she has recently begun to work very hard, with me, to help grow and mature her relationship with Christ. This has helped a great deal and I have already begun to see changes in her need to perform. I have the title of this book written right here by my desk from a previous post. It's a book I plan to get for her! Thank you for this post. Cindy G.
I have two little ones but would like to read the book for myself and then pass it on to the teen girls at my church. Thanks!
I think we as adult women could learn a lot from this book. A lot of us go through our lives into old age not knowing who we are and how we are to live our lives. We need to live only to please God.
I could relate to your post today, Lynn.
My oldest daughter will be 13 next month and with our experiences with her so far, I know this book will help! Even the blog helped give me a clearer perspective into the way she thinks! She is a people pleaser and that is good, but also scares me to death! One of our struggles is the sloppy way she dresses. She has come back to me with, "but Mom, you say I shouldn't worry about what other people think". I guess that is refreshing to hear that, but within reason. I am more guilty of the "performance" issue than she is! Thank you so much for writing this book. I can't wait to learn more!
Being the oldest child, I have always had a tendency to want to be perfect so that my parents would be proud of me. I never wanted to do anything that would make them ashamed of me. The problem is that at 54 years of age, I have never heard them say that to me and that still bothers me. I have tried to tell my daughter I am proud of her and that she is a good mother, etc., so that she hears all the things that I have longed to hear from my own parents.
I, too, think many adult women could learn much from this book! Having come to Christ at 40 years of age, I have 'catch up' work to do! Thanks for the post and sharing some insights into this frame of mind.
I needed to hear this today. My eyes are being opened to this in my life. I don't want to pass it on to my 4 wonderful daughters.
We adopted my oldest daughter the week before her 16th birthday – 2 years ago. So many things from her childhood (and mine) make this area such a struggle for her to grasp and me to model. I am working every day on improving this area in my life so I can model it better for her life. Thank you so much for this post – great reminders, tips and ideas to help us along the way.
I have 2 teenage girls that could benefit from this book. When they were young their father went to prison and they have had no contact with him since then. The girls and I have a good relationship but they both seek attention in whatever form they can get it. We have always been active with our church family and they struggle to be true to God in a world of pressures. They suffer from poor self image, they are insecure and heap insults upon themselves. I was encouraged by your blog and can't wait to read the book.
Growing up I never felt loved or acknowledged by my Dad unless I was achieving something. It is something I still struggle with.This sounds like an awesome book to go through with my 15, and 12 year old daughters. There is a balance of wanting to do our best for God vs. doing our best for the recognition of others. Thank you for your insight.
Sometimes it is hard for children with perfectionist parents because they believe that the parent does or does not love them based on how they do. My husband also likes to have things done right. One thing I do is try to help my children understand their dad's personality type; when things are in order, he is at peace. Helping them understand their dad can help them to not make it personal!
Glad to hear you are getting Shannon's book!
I have always been a perfectionist, but not just toward myself. I expected it from others too. I expect people to live up to the standards I set for myself. The problem with this is I couldn't meet my own standards, how could I expect others to meet them. I am trying to teach my daughter to "just do your best" but I still find myself encouraging her to set standards that will only cause heartbreak, because they are unobtainable. I really want to help her to be the Godly woman God is calling her to be with out the guilt & shame I felt (and still feel at times) for not living up to the unobtainable.
You are so right that this message is for us as adults! I struggled for years believeing that the better I performed, the more God approved of me. Not loved me. I got that His love was unconditional; it was His approval that I craved. I know understand that He loves ALL of me; that part that gets it right and the part that doesn't!
We struggle in the Cowell house with the sloppy dressing too! I learned this from my good friend Shari Braendel, "If they aren't sinning, leave them alone." It works pretty good here. The thing I focus on in dressing is no cleaveage (I just wish I had some to show like they do 🙂
Keep on pouring on the love…she'll get it!
I had a very quiet dad. When I would say "I love you" he would say "yup"…that hurt. When he got sick with cancer, one day before he died, he told me he loved me and was proud of me. By that time, like you, I was an adult.
The cool thing is that we have a heavenly Father who says He takes great delight in us (Zephaniah 3:17). That is what I call approval!
Thank you God that you are the perfect Father and fill every gap!
I have found many books written for teens have a message women of all ages need to hear. After all, we are just grown up little girls aren't we?
Isn't it so cool how Jesus can heal us and then we can pass that healing to our kids?
Lynn – I have so learned that the best way for me to improve in this area is by filling my mind with the truth of the Word. Truth of how Jesus sees me. At my website there is a tab called "Freebies". There you can get a list of my favorite verses that every girl should know. My daughter and I are currently memorizing these on our way to school each day. Print it out and give it a try!
If you haven't already, please introduce your daughters to my site for teen girls: http://www.RadRevolution.org. It is a great source of encouragement!
I am so glad that God our Father is perfect. Our earthly fathers are just that – earthly and human. So glad we have a perfect One in him!
Order is good. Doing things with excellence is good. But when it becomes a driving force in our lives, it becomes bad (as you get) :).
I believe that often we look for perfection because we believe that acceptance is found there. Again, the more you KNOW the Word the more you will know acceptance. Pop over to my freebies and print out my favorite verses and hide them in your heart 🙂
I have always felt that I had to compete for attention, and show off to keep the attention, especially from my family. I've also noticed a tendency to appear perfect at churc. I run away from accountabilty programs and building deep relationshps becase I am afraid for people to find out I'm not as 'good' as I appear.
Recently, I've started working with our youth group and I would LOVE to share Sharon's resources with the girls.
You are not alone. We are afraid that if the real me is found out, no one will like her.
A big key is finding a truly safe friend, someone you can trust. That is a good place to begin to let the real Rebecca out. You will find so much peace when you are free to be yourself!
I hope you will sign up to receive my blog as I address teen issues every Wednesday. It might be helpful with your work with teens. Also, check out my site for teens at http://www.RadRevolution.org!
I know that I struggle with wanting things to be right because "what would people think". For a long time I thought my daughter (11) was lazy and the complete opposite. I am starting to realize that her performances are just in different areas. I want to help her not to struggle with this like I have.
I got connected to his blog through the Proverbs 31 devotional I receive. Today's devotional hit the nail on MY head. I am the perfectionist driven woman who scurries to keep her house clean for others. After reading the blog I realized how much I have impacted my daughter in this area-the way she dresses; the newest gadgets that she "needs" to buy. Each day she greets me afterschool with what "A" she achieved. Please help us!
I didn't think I was a perfectionist, but my husband showed me otherwise this Holiday season. I have that "issue" with wanting the house to be perfect when guests come over and I always want my kids to behave for fear of what others will think if they don't. I would love to read your book.
Wow! This is so "right on" for me! I think I was conceived in perfectionism, raised in perfectionism ("if you can't do it perfect, let someone else do it who can!") and now as an adult I continue to live in this pressure kettle. I cannot relax when "caught" with a dirty home by drop by company. I cannot do things poorly, sloppily or less than my very best. My sense of self worth is based solely on performance. Yet, I am a Christian and should know better……..
I have fought to please my immediate family all my life, only to discover their conditional love was simply unattainable. We have a 10 year old daughter, and I am so thankful God has brought me to the end of that struggle and is showing me how He loves me, I am praying that I might, with His help, pass on this new legacy to out daughter. I would so love to get to read your book.
Don't feel bad! Every thing around us screams "Reward good behavior". It is how most of us grew up and there is a time for that. I mean the Bible says if you don't work you don't eat, right? It's when we believe we are who we are based on what we do instead of whose we are that there is a problem.
Ask the Lord to give His perspective and peace…your daughter will see it in you!
Don't feel like you should "know better". When everything around us says one thing…doing it perfect is the only way, that is what we believe.
When you are spending time with Jesus next time, look up the word "grace" in the back of your Bible or on Biblegateway.com. Write out these verses and then choose one to memorize. We all have to reprogram our minds according to the TRUTH.
Mtngirl: Oh how I love when God breaks generational sin! Freedom!!!
I have struggled so much with performance in my life because of not feeling loved by my parents. After having 4 daughters I have seen where I have put that performance burden upon them also. I hate that. I want them all to know that I love them as they are, and not how they perform in studies, etc. There has to be a balance. I am trying to work that out within myself. Knowing that through Christ Jesus, I can do this.
I have a close relationship with a 16 year old girl that I am caregiver of. I would love to share this book with her. She struggles with trying to fit in at school and is searching for acceptance. thank you for the chance to win.
I am wondering if you have any advice for boys. I am the mom of 4 boys,17,16,14, and 11. One of my teenage boys struggles alot more than the others over typical teenager stuff. In reading what you had to say alot of it was applicable to him.Fitting in, pleasing others,clothes etc. Is your book meant for all teens or just teen girls? Nicole P
I just finished reading through these comments and said a prayer for each of you. Your daughters are blessed to have moms who care as much as all of you do. Keep dancing for the Audience of One!
I'm visiting because I am a big fan of this book! My dear friend and I used it in our girls' Bible study with my students. They got a lot out of it, but we got even more!!
Get your hands on a copy of this book!
I have one teen girl (and one tween) plus 5 other littles. Right now things seem ok, but I would LOVE to read this book and be ready for whatever comes!
Sounds wonderful! Being a grandmother now and loving granddaughters without wanting them to be perfect is wonderful! Some wisdom comes with age. Blessings!
I want my kids to behave, be orderly and I was convicted when I read the answer to my response when I see my oldest performing. I have three girls and I have a lot of teenage years ahead of me.
Even as an adult I still find myself looking for approval. I always tried to give my daughter affirmation when she was growing up and even today when she has her own family.
I seek validation and approval from others. My daughter does this, too. I am better than I use to be, but have more to tackle – with God's help. 😀 firstname.lastname@example.org
While the principles apply to both guys and girls, the book is aimed specifically at girls. I'm often asked about similar resources for boys and unfortunately I haven't come across anything. I'm sorry I can't be of more help.
Definitely hitting a nerve with this post! My dad always told me he loved me but he did expect perfection. It took a lot of the fun out of activities. I have learned from this, though.
And I honestly think that it has made me grow up to be a person very aware of how things affect people…more sympathetic. If I can use it to see people who need help and are hurting,then it's a positive.
What a great message for all of us and teen girls who face so much pressure these days!!!
There is so much pressure in high school to fit in – to wear the cool clothes, the right hairstyle, etc. I know this is a struggle for my daughter to seek approval from her peers & others. Thank you for your post & for a book that will help girls to find their identity in Christ.
I have 2 daughters-a teen and a tween. Both of them have strong Christian values, but sometimes they feel left out with peers. We could really use this book. Their father walked out on us 6 yrs ago, and there is still an inability for them to forgive him. Please pray for them..and him. Jody
I see signs of perfectionism in both myself and my two teenage daughters. This article in very informative and insightful. The book sounds very beneficial. Thank You.
These are such good points. Thank you for sharing.
Loved this interview. I hope to share some of the strategies with youth I encounter at church.
Reading this post simply reminded me of my childhood all the way through highschool. I was always a people pleaser!!! I discovered this tendency in myself my senior year in high school and worked very hard to not carry these characteristics on with me into college and into my adult life. I now have two daughters of my own and pray that they will be confident girls of God who know that they are to live for an audience of one every day. This was a great read. Thanks for sharing. I would love to here you speak live one day!!!!!
Anonymous: I am so glad you were encouraged. I would love for you to hear me speak live one day too 🙂 We might have to see if we can work that out!
I'm beginning to see my daughter needing to 'fit' in other peoples molds; kinda becoming part of the world. She was just released to grade 11 public school this year after homeschooling her whole life. It's been interesting watching her change, mostly positive, but I can clearly see the pull of the world on her. I'm a Parenting Coach and speaker, this is a performance based life style and she is also beginning to speak publicly. I'm very interested in your book, she is a dancer as well, in worship ministry yet still performance based. Looking forward to finding this gem. 🙂