How to Build and Maintain Confidence as a Dancer

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Glad to make it to 2015 and share another blog with you all and hope those who traveled to Lindy Focus or the SnowBall had a great time and were inspired. I hope whatever inspiration and progress that you took from those camps may continue with the article that I’m sharing with y’all today.

Introduction

Through out 2014 confidence and psychology probably had to be the biggest obstacle that I have come across not only within myself but with a few dancers around me. I’ve had conversations with dancers who were frustrated with how their development staggered in comparison with other dancers who were able to consistently travel and or practice their dancing. I’ve spoken to dancers who travel consistently and hit lows due to the feedback they have gotten from instructors and the number of dances they get at events. For myself getting into a masters track at an event and then not making finals in multiple competitions had me questioning a lot of my ideas I had in regards of my dancing but after ILHC specifically this dance from Jamin Jackson 

along with Pamela Gaizutyte they won 1st place in the All Star Jack and Jill. I had to go back and see where did I go wrong in my mental approach that left me to question my abilities as a dancer. Pretty much I found where I went wrong and during a conversation with a friend who’s in a rut herself I figured I’d dig in depth with my own advice a bit.

What is Confidence?

Before diving into the 4 things I recommend a dancer do to promote and maintain confidence we should define what confidence is. In a Ted Talk done by Dr. Ivan Joseph on “The Skill of Self Confidence”, Dr. Joseph defines Self-Confidence as “the ability or the belief, to believe in yourself, to accomplish any task, no matter the odds, no matter the difficulty,no matter the adversity.” I like this definition because it really covers a wide spectrum, taking into account things that can negatively affect ones confidence (ie. odds, difficulty and adversity). Similarly if you watch video presentations of Dr. Jeff Duke on 3Dimensional coaching from Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) he defines confidence as the belief that he/she has the skills to produce a desired outcome. This is similar to Dr. Joseph’s definition but he takes into account having that belief in spite of obstacles. Now that we have 2 working definitions, the next section is going to discuss how we build up these beliefs in ourselves and how these mind sets can help us maintain our belief when the going gets tough.

How to Build and Maintain Confidence

For this article I focused on 4 strategies that I’ve utilized to improve my confidence but also what I have spoken to other dancers to help them get out of a funk.

1. Avoid comparing,unless it’s to yourself

2. Define your own Success or what good dancing is through goal setting

3. Focus on what you can control

4. Disregard what you cannot control

Avoid comparing, unless it’s to yourself

Comparing is by far the biggest thing I’ve come across not only with myself but also other dancers. In competitions where I don’t make finals or don’t place, I tend to observe other dancers and wonder what it is that they’re doing that gets them these results. This really gets us nowhere because every dancer is their own and is exploring themselves within this dance. I feel to help you improve your skills. Jamin Jackson in his post entitled How to Dance “like” ANYONE hits on top of this phenomenon by stating this.” “Dang, I suck.” This is what the subconscious reenforces the moment you start comparing your present skill level to the culmination of an unsaid amount of work another dancer displays on the social dance floor. It’s an unfair comparison, but we all do it” Jamin Jackson. The simple solution to give to this is to stop comparing yourself to other dancers. Your response should rightfully be one of rolling the eyes and being upset on something lacking thought.

When you find yourself comparing your dancing to someone else use a technique I learned from sport psychology classes called thought stopping. This is pretty much a technique where you stop a negative thought and replace it with a positive one. I use a variation of this when I’m watching others dance and start comparing, rather then be like “man I’ll never be able do what *random dancer* does.” instead I find a concept that I like and implement into my dancing one of my dance mentors calls this copycatting. The only time I feel comparing is ok is if you’re comparing yourself with yourself. Now we have to be realistic when we do this because we can be too hard on ourselves but we must do this within reason. This is why I learned to watch myself objectively on video.  I video tape myself dancing frequently and I enjoy seeing how my dancing has grown from video to video. Especially videos I have of me dancing over a year ago, you can’t gauge your progress by watching someone else but you can gauge it by watching yourself. 

I usually take at least one video of myself at practice or have a friend video tape me while at a dance like the video below. You maybe shocked at how you look the first time you watch yourself on video but stop the thoughts of “O MY GOSH I’M TERRIBLE I QUIT!!” tell yourself top and say “my dancing doesn’t look the way that I want it to but I know what I can do to get to that point which leads us into the next section

Define your own Success or what Good Dancing is through Goal Setting

During my schooling in my undergraduate and graduate studies in sports coaching a big factor that came up in regards to promoting confidence in athletes was to define what success is to your team or program .Within 3Dimensional coaching this is huge to not let success be defined totally by the scoreboard because within a game there are so many things that are out of your control, so if you set your confidence off those outcomes, you’re setting yourself up for an emotional roller coaster. With that you’ll most likely be spending more time being dissatisfied rather then being satisfied and could potentially lead to giving up. Defining your own success can best be done by setting goals for yourself that’ll bring you satisfaction and confidence. That way if you’re a competition dancer like myself you don’t rely on your placing or whether you make finals or not be the source of your confidence. While I had to define my success as me conveying what my interpretation and philosophy of what Lindy Hop is to me to the audience and the judges. I had to really set goals that would allow me to work out what my philosophy is. This section is going to dive into the dynamics of goal setting to keep this from getting super abstract and out there.

Normally people would define their success by whether they satisfy goals they set or not, but what if I told you that those goals could be a big part of why you end up having your confidence take a hit. An article on breaking muscle.com discussed how a lot of successful people and companies don’t set goals. The reason behind this being that goals tend to set us up for limitations and also there are so many unknown factors (market change, injury etc.). Rather then setting no goals as you look at my Lindy Hop Resolutions post for 2015. You’ll see the goals I have are to commit myself to task that’ll aid me to some type of improvement or give me a new experience of some kind. So if factors out of my control were to arise, I can still achieve that task and improve. Then I can’t allow myself to beat my own brains out if I don’t achieve a particular outcome.

So rather than defining your own limitations through long-term goals, perhaps just make a commitment to continual improvement.” Breaking muscle.com‘s above statement pretty much touches on the advantage of setting process goals as opposed to outcome goals. A process goal is setting a goal to perform a task to work towards a particular event “I’m going to practice at least 3 times a week”. That is a process goal, a outcome goal is what we hear the most and that is a goal that focuses on the outcome of an event

“I want to make the Masters Track at Lindy Fest again this year.” That’s an outcome goal possibly me practicing at least 3 times a week can create the outcome of me making Masters track at Lindy Fest again. Ultimately all of these tricks in goal setting can help you take steps to achieving what you feel good dancing is and be able to have more control over gaining success within your dance philosophy. As I said earlier the outcome goal is completely out of my control, while the process goals are more in my control. By having goals that are in your control your odds of success increase a bunch. The next two sections will go more into depth with controllable and non controllable circumstances.

Focus on what you can Control

As we introduced this point towards the end of the previous section, process goals are the things we want to keep in mind to keep up our belief in ourselves as dancers. To focus on the process of improvement rather then an outcome that’ll show us that we improved that has a lot more chance played in. A TedTalk titled If you want to Achieve your Goals,Don’t Focus on them  coves this quite well. This feels contradictory after going over setting goals to begin with but the speaker Reggie Rivers talks about a time how when he focused on the actions needed to get him to a desired outcome, he had the belief in himself to take care of those particular tasks. Rather then focus on achieving a goal he was more occupied with completing the process for him to get there and this allowed him to be more confident and focused. 

As a dancer we must put more focus on our processes to become better. Find ways to practice, things to work on in our dancing, try doing another dance to improve a particular skill, attend classes or teach classes. If it’s a task that can help you improve and build confidence in yourself then keep your eyes on that. I spend lots of my spare time trying to come up with drills to work on a particular dance skill, also this is how I prep for teaching classes.

In Rebecca Brightly’s blog post titled When Lindy Hop isn’t Fun Anymore she has a list of concrete actions to take to break dance stagnation. A lot of these can help you maintain confidence in yourself. The 4 that stand out the most is learning better practice skills giving you a renewed and revamped process to continue forward. Another action is to deepen relationships with those who support you, the best thing is having that little team who you can celebrate your triumphs and your blunders with.

Also, if you want good honest feedback from somebody you’ll get it. The same goes for having a mentor as I danced in Orlando, Fl, I could always count on Blake Wilkinson to give some moves to try to add to my dancing and honest feedback. Though at that time I didn’t really take workshops that really helped my dancing. I also had the benefit of International Instructor Joel Green to tell me that my hold step in a Balboa class was and I quote “Effed up” lol. The last and most important thing is always focus on the positive, always be proud to take a lesson away from anything. Anytime you can learn something new consider that a victory. In short make sure to be process focused and positive in all that you do. You can never control your circumstances but you can control your attitude.

Disregard what’s out of your Control

“But I have no partner! I have no money! I have no time! I’m not creative enough…” This is the opening to Jamin Jackson’s blog post titled But I don’t Have you want to know about how to disregard what’s out of your control this blog will show you. I really want people to read this blog so I’m not going to spoil it. Due to circumstances out of Jamin’s control he’s not always able to practice with his principle partner but in spite of that he didn’t let that hold him back. He was able to overcome the circumstance and end up placing 3rd with her at ILHC. Through out this year I realized I hit a slump in my dancing, a big part of it was I had a partner I practiced with but we mutually split up after Lindy Fest in March. After that I made no effort to practice at all but seeing Jamin’s example made me realize that I can overcome my circumstances of not being able to travel as much as I would like or not having a practice/competition partner.

Going back to Rebecca Brightly’s blog on dance slumps she touches on 5 things that can cause a dance slump and in turn a drop in confidence. One thing that I find compelling that I see a lot of dancers get caught up in is the fear of missing out. In every scene there are dancers who don’t get to travel very often if at all. In my 3 years of Lindy Hop thus far I’d put myself in that category actually. I can’t control the many factors that have kept me from traveling to events (ie. injuries, money, schedule, emergencies) though I’m not traveling I still have been able to improve my dancing. Grant it traveling is a great way to improve so if you can travel to an event do it but if you can’t don’t feel like you’re missing out. I’ve never been to a Lindy Focus but in past years that time period is where I’ve made most of my progress mentally as a dancer. Anytime a situation comes about like this you have to make a conscious decision “am I going to sit and complain about my circumstances or am I gonna find a way to get better today.” If you’re a beginner or someone who finds themselves in this situation but have no ideas on how take make lemonade out of the lemons you have, check out the recommendations I have at the bottom. Also, just hit me with a question in the comments or on Lindy Fitness Facebook page and we can make the best of your circumstances.

Conclusion

I had to realize those things I can’t control, so I must remain resilient and continue to practice even if that means that 99% of my practices are by myself.This comes down to the old saying, you can’t control your circumstances but you can control your effort. If improving as a dancer really means a good deal to you, why let obstacles stand in your way of what you really want. Jamin has a lot of great advice in his post How to master lindy hop as a part time dancer this advice works and it just isn’t just relevant to leads it works for follows as well if you don’t have a partner. I dance both roles and use this philosophy for both and it has helped me SO much. Follows if you want more information on how to take control of your dancing check out Swungovers The proactive Follower to get ideas on what things to focus on. Like my Facebook page I’ll be posting fitness articles along with Lindy Hop ones between posts to help y’all train to be better Lindy Hoppers. Feel free to check out my other posts.

Love y’all and God Bless remember to be inspired and to dance inspired.

Photo Credit to Ashleigh Beckman from Dallas, Texas

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