After getting a bit of a mental smackdown courtesy of my demons last night, I considered letting them write today’s post. But I’m going to pull myself together and focus on the productive and the positive.
Another lesson and another repeated mantra from Teacher yesterday led to this extension of yesterday’s post on Trust and Ballroom.
You have to trust your partner in order to dance ballroom. But you also have to trust yourself.
Ballroom students: how many of you have heard your teacher ask “did you feel the difference?” You were dancing and your teacher gave a tidbit of advice or a suggestion for a small change. Then you danced again and your teacher is beaming as they ask you to confirm you felt the improvement.
I feel like this is a question with a right and a wrong answer. Because obviously I was supposed to feel the difference. So if I didn’t or it wasn’t clear what I felt, I must be wrong. So my answer is usually a question itself: “maybe?”
Teacher continues to pound into my head that I need to trust myself. But frankly, it is even harder than learning to trust him. The self-doubt demon is one of the oldest in my head and she has her claws in all of the deepest recesses of my brain. It’s not a bad thing to question yourself sometimes. It keeps your ego in check and helps you catch yourself before you make a mistake. But constant questioning and doubting leads to paralysis.
It’s normal to feel a lot of doubt when you first start learning something new. As your knowledge and skill grow, so should your confidence. The growth rates are not always equal though. I think I’ve maintained a pretty steady growth rate as far as knowledge and skill go. There have been some spikes and some plateaus, but always increasing. Because of my self-doubt, however, my confidence in my ballroom skills is all over the place. Some days it’s up and I have a great lesson full of positive progress. Other days, like yesterday, my self-doubt takes over and I can’t seem to grasp anything. No, Teacher, I didn’t feel the difference.
As Teacher continues to point out though, part of the reason I don’t feel the difference is I don’t believe I can. I don’t trust myself enough to believe I am a skilled ballroom dancer who can apply a small change to her technique and feel the improvement.
Now this post was not supposed to be an episode of Mental Smackdown, so what am I doing to get myself out of this negative state and into a place of positive growth and self-acceptance?
One thing I started doing was saying “yes” when asked that daunting question any time I thought I felt a change. Instead of questioning what I felt or assuming it was wrong, I practice trusting it and asserting that trust by actually saying “yes” out loud.
Did I feel a difference? Yes!
Maybe it was a small difference, maybe it was the wrong difference. But if I don’t practice trusting myself, it’s never going to happen. Telling my body “it’s ok, I will believe what you tell me you feel,” also seems to make me more aware of subtle changes, which reinforces that I was correct to trust.
Another question I sometimes dread is “how did that feel?” Good, bad, better, worse? So many ways to get this one wrong. My response is usually a question again: “better…?” I developed a habit of studying Teacher’s facial expression before I spoke to see if the answer was there. Again, I didn’t trust my own feelings and so I looked to Teacher to tell me how I should have felt. If he was happy, then I hesitantly said it felt good. If he looked like he had just found something that needed correction, I said I think I messed something up.
I’m making it a practice to declare how I felt before Teacher even asks to wean myself off of depending on Teacher’s reaction to decide what mine should be. I frequently make Teacher laugh when I quietly assert “that was better!” after we finish a dance. It’s only the same thing he’s been telling me all along. I’m finally starting to declare it myself.
I know all of this self-doubt and lack of belief in myself may sound strange when I’ve won first places at every competition that I’ve entered. It is strange to me too. It’s not about the placements though. It’s about me letting go of a lifetime of fears and insecurities. It’s about learning how to see the beauty that others say they see in me, and believing that what they see is real. When you’ve been listening to the same false song about yourself for so long, it’s hard to hear a different tune and believe it.
I think I can do it though. I compare myself to when I first started ballroom and I can feel the difference. And of course, Teacher is there to reconvince me when I start doubting again.
Only one more day of the 31 Day Writing Challenge! Click the link to catch up on anything you missed or reread something you thought was awesome (see? I’m asserting that I’m a good writer too!).