In my opinion, dance is the toughest sport on your body physically, mentally and emotionally. You are constantly standing in front of a mirror noticing how you look compared to the teacher or how you look compared to the other dancers in the room. It is so easy for competition dancers to fall into the mindset of “why am I not as good as them?” Throughout class, competition and convention you analyze each other carefully. Somebody will always have more turnout, higher extensions and stronger technique than you do. However, you also have amazing qualities that the dancer next to you doesn’t have. The qualities that make YOU stand out.
Competitions are so much fun. And although they are very fun, throughout the whole weekend most people have this little voice in their head asking them questions such as: Who has the best solo? Who’s personality shines the most? Who can do the most pirouettes? I have been competing since I was 8 years old, and trust me, I know that feeling of being backstage watching the dance right before you perform and having you be completely blown away by how amazing it was. Soon after, you start comparing your dance to theirs which automatically puts you in the worse mindset before performing.
You can get stuck comparing yourself to other dancers at your own studio, too. That’s where you spend most of your time looking in the mirror watching you and your friends take class every day. Let’s be real here, we all look at the other dancers in the room. You could be facing them at the barre or even just watching them onstage. Dancers compare everything from body types to technique, and those comparisons will either hurt or build your confidence in the end.
Okay, so at this point you are probably wondering how to keep all of the comparisons from getting you down. If you are at a competition, find a quiet spot backstage. Just breathe and focus on you. Listen to your music and mark the dance in your head so you are super-confident with what you are doing. Do not watch other dances until you are done performing. I know from experience, this will help a lot!
At the end of the day, it is not all about winning. Sure, it feels great to go home with a trophy and confidently say you placed out of all of the dances, but you are there for the experience and to help you feel more inspired and hungry for more. In the end, you will just be going home with a trophy that will could be sitting in your room for years. Don’t get too worked up about it. The real reward is the opportunity to dance. If you are physically able to perform, you have already won the grand prize. So many people can’t perform, whether that is because they are sick, not financially stable or even injured. If you do get to perform, you have got yourself a serious gift.
As for comparing yourself to others in a learning class environment: you are completely different from the person next to you. Your strengths are their weaknesses and vice versa. Focus on all the moves you feel confident in and how good they make you feel, yet keep working hard for all the ones you would like to improve.
In conclusion, yes, most dancers will get caught in the comparison trap at some point. It’s natural to look at your competition. But if you are focused on other people, you’re not focused on what you need to do to improve. What if you can’t stop comparing yourself to others? Try looking at it as healthy competition. To this very day, I still have the horrible habit of comparing myself to others. My confidence has for sure improved tremendously and I would like to break the habit completely in the near future. I watch other dancers to get inspired and learn from them. I highly encourage you to do the same for yourself! Set goals for yourself and remember that no one can dance exactly the same way that you can. Keep the focus on you and remember you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to if you work your absolute hardest because you ARE good enough. You will ALWAYS be good enough. Remember that and please don’t ever forget it!