I’ve struggled with confidence throughout my dancing career. And the thing is, when you don’t have confidence, people will easily tear you down. When you’re unsure of yourself, it’s hard to convince others to put faith in you, which can create a destructive downward cycle of deflating confidence. Building confidence is integral to persevering in the dance field. Are there tools to achieve this? You bet!!!
- Surround yourself with people who do believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself.
- Sometimes we’re so focused on the future, on goals, on what we lack, that we are blind to are successes and what we have achieved. Remind yourself to be grateful for people, teachers, mentors, experiences, and just how far you’ve come, while still keeping that expanding horizon. Know your past work will always be a springboard for current and future projects.
- Not knowing everything and not being perfect has always seeded an inability to see where I am and how far I’ve come. You don’t have to be perfect and you never will, and that’s okay! Don’t let that stop you from sharing your work!
- Even failure is a step forward if you learn from it. So, really, there’s no such thing as failure.
- Give yourself time to reflect and learn as you move forward. There is no need to rush from one project to the next.
- Listen to your inner child, your inner spark. Find ways to enliven that drive. Often, we find that spark outside of dance—drawing, baking, crafting, writing, taking walks, being social, observing the world, going to concerts, trying a different genre of dance—being an explorer of the world. If you get too narrowly focused on dance, it’s hard to see your own value outside of dance…there is more to life than dance. Which also means, acknowledge who you are deep down inside, not what you do. What are your values? Not what you do, but who you are.
- Read about other people’s journeys. You’ll notice pretty quickly no one makes it without having to build and rebuild and rethink their work and their confidence over and over. And the successful people acknowledge this growth, and keep moving forward, pushing their limits and putting in the work. Growth doesn’t happen without work.
- Get in the studio and practice. Let’s be honest, saying mantras about your self worth won’t help if you haven’t put in the work. Put in the time to know you have the steps. Make them your own. Understand them from the inside. I think dancers who “own” their moves and the space have made the steps work for them, they’re aware of each cell of their body in each step. Rather than imitate a shape, they understand the underlying energy that shapes a form and imbue that with their own personality through practice, deconstruction, and interpretation.
- Just do it. After a brutal first national dance tour in which the director would laugh or make fun of nearly every thing I did no matter how hard I tried, I got back to NYC with my confidence totally shot. An unsureness had crept in, hesitation to hit any golpe (footwork stomp) or clap caused me to literally be shaky and off-tempo onstage. A colleague noticed, and simply told me to shake it off and get out there and dance like I know how. That was all I needed, something clicked and I went for it 100% again, letting go of the hesitation and unsureness. (So really, this is an example of someone else believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself), but also the grit to shake it off and keep going. (Willa Bronce was the one to say this to me, and her strength, ferocity, and fortitude continue to inspire me, even now that she has passed on.)
- It’s not so much about growing a thick skin as it is about trusting yourself and knowing what you’re capable of. And guess what, we’re all capable of almost anything if we put our mind to it. Our own mindset, creating fake stumbling blocks, can often hold us back.
- You are not one job, one performance, one stumble, one fall. A career is built step by step, it’s an accumulation. We all have to fall at some point to grow. Patricia Dickinson, one of my ballet teachers growing up and the director of Festival Ballet Albuquerque always says you’re not a professional until you’ve fallen onstage. (I haven’t actually fallen onstage, BTW, though I have come pretty close), though had my first big fall in front of someone earlier this year. And ya know what, it wasn’t a big deal. I had a bruise. The bruise went away. And now I’m less afraid of the ground. #growth
- Find joy in dance. Let go of technique and “supposed to’s.” Put on your favorite song and jam out. (Thank you Samuel McIntosh for reminding me of this!…which ties back into trying out a different style of dance—I took his popping class and had a blast!)
So, be like the tree in this pic, and not the truck. Keep on growing.
Here are some books and articles that have inspired me…maybe you can find inspiration here too. Or share in the comments people and writing that inspires you!