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Nia Sioux spills: 16 things I learned by my 16th birthday

It might be Nia Sioux's 16th birthday, but today the Dance Moms star is gifting *you* 16 life lessons you need to know.

Turning 16 is a *big* deal. This is the year I’ll get to drive, have a super sweet sixteen party (eek!) and truly evolve into the person I want to become. With so much to look forward to, it only seems right to look back on all the amazing memories—and, yes, mistakes—I’ve made throughout my life, and share with you the lessons I’ve learned along the way. 

1. Know your worth. Do not compromise or lower your standards to fit someone else’s needs or wants. Even when my former dance instructor Abby Lee Miller said something like “You’re not good enough,” I just pushed past it and reminded myself that I am better than what other people say about me. When you do that, you know your value. 

2. Be appropriately outspoken. In today’s day and age, it’s important to be vocal about the causes that you care about. But no matter what you’re speaking up about, do it respectfully. Whether you’re standing up to a school bully or getting yourself out of a grounding, say everything with love and kindness in your heart. Remember: “You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.”

3. Don’t worry about the size of your dreams. Whether your dream is big or small, it should inspire you. I like to dream big because it pushes me to take risks and not get comfortable. My biggest dream? Becoming an EGOT winner (which means nabbing a trophy at the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars and Tonys). It sounds impossible, yeah, but I’m not going to let anyone tell me that I can’t do it.

4. Don’t let others steal your joy. Happiness is a choice. Even when faced with mean Instagram comments and dance moves I just can't nail, I try my best to choose happiness. 

5. Remember that friendship is a gift. You don't need a ton of friends. You just need a few best babes—like my girls Maddie Ziegler and Kendall Vertes—that know the true you, so be selective with your gift of friendship. Once you’ve got your squad locked in, always be loyal, present and supportive.

6. Don’t overthink. It can stifle growth and progress. When you think too much, I’ve found that you can become paralyzed in making a choice or decision. Just do what comes naturally.

7. Trust the timing of your life. Life is not a race. There is no rush to be first. Things happen when they are supposed to happen. I always think: If I hadn’t started Dance Moms in 2011 or released my song “You Don't Really Wanna” today or even attended a certain red carpet, my life would be completely different than it is right now. I try to be content and thankful for where I am.

8. Be present. Don’t get me wrong, social media is great for keeping in touch with your loved ones. But if you find yourself getting too caught up in it, take a minute to appreciate where you are, what you are doing and who you are with without a screen in front of you. Not every moment needs to be documented on Snapchat. You’ll probably find that you have way more fun without it.

9. Dance to express, not to impress. Whatever you choose to do in life, make sure that you are doing it for you, not to please others. When I dance, I do it because I love the art and want to use it to express my thoughts and feelings, not because someone thinks I should.

10. Know that you are good enough. You do not have to change who you are to be accepted. We all face insecurities, but do not let these feelings define or limit you. When others try to use my differences against me, I remind myself that I am strong and that I am a hard worker. Those are things that can’t be taken away from me.

11. Be a critical thinker. People believe everything that they hear on TV—especially reality TV, and *especially* about Dance Moms. I urge you to independently observe and assess the world around you. Analyze the media you’re consuming. Question everything. Ask yourself: Whose voices are heard? Whose voices are not? Who has power? Make yourself an active participant in conversations, not just a passive listener.

12. Smart is beautiful. Repeat after me: I will not dumb myself down. I will not dumb myself down. I will not dumb myself down. No matter what you do in life, you need to be educated. I’ve noticed that sometimes girls feel embarrassed by being smart and liking school, but being smart is *incredibly* cool, so own your intelligence and show it off with confidence. 

13. Don't wait around. I’ve never dated anyone before, but I’ve had *plenty* of crushes—enough to know that I do *not*, and will not, wait around for a boy to make up his mind or pay attention to me. I do me—always.

14. Empathize with others. If you’re in a fight with someone, step out of your box and consider how others are feeling and try to see things from their point of view. You may never be able to totally understand somebody else’s experience, but you can at least try to identify with them on *some* level.

15. Trust your gut. I know this is totally unscientific, but I make my best decisions when I trust my gut. Whether it’s something as big as peer pressure or figuring out what lipstick to wear for a performance, I know what is right for me and what's not. It’s hard to know it in the moment, but I’ve always been happy with the decisions I’ve made when I’ve gone with my instinct.

16. Laugh at yourself. Seriously, don’t take yourself too seriously. I am a perfectionist and can be really hard on myself, especially when it comes to my art. It's important to strive for the best, but it's also OK to find humor in your imperfections.

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by Nia Sioux | 6/20/2017
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