The one lesson I've learned from life: Strictly's Karen Hauer says we need mental workouts, too 

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The one lesson I’ve learned from life: Strictly’s Karen Hauer says we need mental workouts, too


Karen Hauer, 39, is a Venezuelan dancer best known for appearing on Strictly Come Dancing. She lives in London, and is single after splitting from her husband, fellow Strictly dancer Kevin Clifton, in 2018. 

Growing up in New York, life was tough. My dad just took off when I was eight years old, with no explanation, leaving my mum to raise three kids on her own. Seeing how she took charge, with no one to help her, was amazing.

As a housekeeper, she often had to stay at other people’s houses overnight, so I’d spend a lot of time at home alone. I’d leave the TV on to help me get to sleep at night. When I started dancing, I discovered the discipline and family structure that I was craving, and it shaped me into who I am.

Karen Hauer, 39, (pictured) who lives in London, says speaking about your feelings is life-changing and should be celebrated more than losing weight

Karen Hauer, 39, (pictured) who lives in London, says speaking about your feelings is life-changing and should be celebrated more than losing weight

For a long time, I never felt able to talk about that heaviness regarding my dad, or my feelings in general.

About seven years ago, I realised it was still having a real impact on me. When you start crying all the time for no reason, you realise that you need help. I found it after a chance encounter with a former counsellor on Strictly, who was there to help us all.

While on tour, I went into her room and broke down. We’ve been having regular sessions ever since.

She helped me recognise that it had all been about abandonment — that I didn’t want to be left on my own again, and that I was trying to protect my family and relationships, but not going about it in the right way. I was so hot-headed. I couldn’t listen to anyone or make myself heard.

People talk about the importance of exercising and looking after yourself physically, but I think we forget that we need to work out mentally, too. Speaking about your feelings is life-changing and should be celebrated more than losing weight.

There are some people we keep in our lives because we’re afraid to be alone. But I’m learning to surround myself only with those I really want in my life. Gradually, I’ve got used to my own company and thoughts — and I’m so proud of myself. I will never be abandoned again, because I have myself.

  • Karen is on tour until March (firedancelive.co.uk). 

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