Self talk, dancing and keeping it real

Sometimes dancing, as much as we love it, can be a source of emotional turmoil and frustration.

I don’t think this is always a bad thing. If you are pushing yourself in terms of creativity and skill, it simply goes with that territory that you will hit blocks now and then. Part of growth is facing fear of failure and frustration without quitting. Any person that has honed themselves to high skill levels of an art form has been there.

But I want to talk about the main stress traps I commonly see dancers falling into, and they tend to feed each other:

  • unrealistic expectations,
  • toxic comparison,
  • FOMO (Fear of missing out)
  • over-committing

In the social media world it’s so easy to get caught up in what others are doing. If you have online dance friends all over the world, then at any given time, there will be always be someone up to something more impressive looking than you. People are posting the highlight reel of their lives, not the 24/7 version. Logically, we all know this, but can forget. Looking through the filter of stress, tiredness, depression, or a creative drought can make this tendency worse.

It’s worth asking yourself if your expectations are realistic. We have become an instant gratification society. It takes years. So many times I hear people negatively comparing themselves to videos of dancers who have decades more dance experience. If I put the same pressure on some of my students that they put on themsmelves, honestly, it would be emotional abuse.

People who are studying or working full time, or raising kids don’t have a huge budget or a lot of spare time. You will not progress at the same rate as someone with more time and opportunity to dance. And that’s OK.

Most intermediate bellydance students these days seem to do a whole lot more than we did in the 90s. There are simply so many more in-person training opportunities, online courses, DVDs and dance festivals to perform at. Yet there are a whole lot more people freaking out because they missed out on this or that.

Even if you are doing things you love, if you are trying to do too much you are going to get burnt out, and not going to be enjoying the journey. Stress erodes creativity and increases the chance of mistakes and injuries. Some people live for the adrenaline rush of last minute chaos, but most of us (and long-suffering partners!) end up drained in the long run.

Identify if you have specific triggers eg. other people at events you wanted to attend, similar costuming or choreography ideas, seeing very physically beautiful or highly skilled dancers.

Know what your response pattern is.

Outward attack – feeling snarky and critical of others.

Inward attack – toxic thinking. It tends to be very absolutist. Eg “I’m not as good as x, therefor I’m crap and should just quit.”

Just consciously being aware of having a pattern can go a long way into not slipping into it.

Change the focus back to you, and your dance practice and journey.  Take a social media break. Be realistic and objective. Most of all be kind to yourself. Remember what drew you to dance, and why you enjoy it.

© Black Moon Bellydance.