Do you hate looking at yourself on film or in the mirror? Are you always focusing on what you need to improve, without taking pride in your accomplishments? If you answered yes to either of the above, you may want to make some changes to how you perceive yourself.
An often overlooked part of learning to dance is the importance of staying conscious, not only of what you need to improve, but also of the progress you’ve made. Without this balance, many dancers develop or reinforce negative beliefs about themselves, which may have no basis in reality.
It’s important to remember that what we see is often coloured by the opinions we already hold about ourselves. A person who believes they are fat for example, is likely to still hold that belief even after loosing 50 pounds. In order to develop a more healthy relationship with yourself, you first need to change these limiting beliefs.
First: Is the mirror distorted?
Sometimes, it really is the mirror’s fault! A warped mirror can make people appear bigger or smaller, create the impression that they are not balanced well, or make correct technique look strange. Before reading on, try remembering if there is certain mirrors you tend to like dancing in front of more than others, and why.
Is your perception of yourself distorted?
This is by far the more likely situation. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself of course, and you can’t do that without being aware of what you want to correct. But this can work against you when the self-criticism becomes demoralizing, when it starts to hurt your self-esteem and self-perception.
You might have a distorted perception of yourself if:
- You receive compliments about your dancing with skepticism.
- You find yourself focusing on the flaws in your appearance and technique, and ignoring what looks good.
- You complain frequently about how bad a dancer you are.
- You often leave a practice feeling sad, depressed, or angry at yourself.
- If a performance or competition goes well, you assume you just ‘got lucky’.
- You hang around other dancers or people who complain about themselves a lot.
- You spend a lot of money on your appearance, and it still doesn’t seem like enough.
- You use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ when critiquing yourself (ex. ‘I always screw up X, I’ll never get it right.’)
- You take constructive criticism very personally.
- You quickly give up if a practice isn’t going well.
- You feel like this article is telling you to stop working hard.
- You compare yourself unfavourably to others
If you want to start creating a more positive (and honest) image of yourself, try these tips:
- Find at least one thing you did well after each practice. Thank yourself for doing it well.
- Ask your instructor to let you know where you’ve made progress, and trust their opinion! Remember that they are the experts.
- Ask yourself why you feel fat, clumsy, etc., and using only hard facts, what you know that backs that up. Compare that to why you might be the opposite.
- Imagine yourself as a champion dancer. Think of how this person would walk, talk, feel, and dance. Practice being this person in your daily life.
- Write down an empowering sentence about yourself, and repeat it daily. For example: ‘Every day, I am becoming a more skilled and competent dancer.’
- Make a plan with your instructor, and set some concrete goals you can measure your progress by.
- Smile more! Studies show just by smiling, you can trick your body into feeling happier, which boosts your self-confidence.
- Stop comparing yourself to anyone but yourself from 24 hours ago.
- Practice letting go of your mistakes, either by making it funny, or quickly refocusing on the next movement.
- Reward yourself after doing something well, even if only by allowing yourself to feel a little pride.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
These mental hacks will allow you to start seeing yourself in a better light. And that in turn, will help you find the motivation you need to become the dancer of your dreams. Go get ‘em!