- Kristina Pfeffer, The Ballroom Coach
How Do I Stop Comparing Myself to Others?
One of the things I hear dancers talk about frequently is how they would like to stop constantly comparing themselves to other dancers. Making comparisons to others is a natural human reaction. Social comparison theory states that we make comparisons in an attempt to make accurate evaluations of ourselves. I think everyone can relate to the feeling of comparing your life to everyone else’s and feeling that your life fades in comparison to someone else’s perfect life.
Beautiful picture of Massimo Arcolin and Laura Zmajkovicova showing some real freedom in dancing. Follow them on instagram: @massimolauraofficial to follow their journey.
Being in the dancing world it is particularly challenging as dancing breeds comparison as the whole premise of competitions is to dance and be evaluated in comparison to others. So if it is natural, and a part of competition, why should we stop doing it?
The problem with comparing yourself to other people is that it creates unhappiness. Research shows, that making constant comparisons with others creates self-doubt and low self-confidence. If we compare ourselves to people that are better than us, we might feel that we are not as good as them and it will create a sense of not feeling good enough and decrease our self-confidence. That might indicate that we should compare ourselves to people that are not as good as us. The issue with this is, that we might feel better but it would mean that we have to take some pleasure in other people’s unhappiness or lack of ability, which creates jealousy instead of connectedness and negative competitiveness instead of collaboration. The general rule is, that if you comparing yourself to others, leads you to devalue yourself or others, then it will have a negative impact on you.
Another reason for stopping comparisons is, that when we focus on others it takes our focus away from ourselves. When our focus is not on us, we are also not focusing on our own goals. The less time we spend focusing on our own goals and how to achieve them, the less likely it is that we will succeed. In addition, if you are always comparing yourself to others, you are limiting yourself, because you will only ever be as good as the person you are comparing yourself to. Dancing is about constant improvement and there is no limitation to how fast or smooth or precise you can be. Even if you are the best dancer in the world there are still things to improve, and you can, if you are constantly looking in the mirror and just competing against yourself and not everyone else. Check out these tips to stop comparing yourself to others:
No- comparison zone
Attempt to create an environment where the focus is not on comparison. When we want to change our environment it always starts with ourself. Try to change the way you talk about other competitors and don’t make comparisons between yourself and others or between other dancers in the way you speak and act. For example if you have a bad result, don’t go to your teacher and say “ I was so much better than the couple who won”. Instead focus on yourself and what you did well and what you could have improved to get to the position you want. If you change the way you speak about others and think about them then you will slowly change the people around you and your environment as well.
What makes you special?
Every dancer is unique and has something special to develop and to show. I love this quote from Martha Graham
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.
What is fabulous about this quote is that it empathises the focus on each dancer as being unique and having something special to contribute to the world. If we are all unique then there is no need for comparison.
Focus on performance goals
Lots of research shows the benefit of setting goals, from increased self-confidence to better focus. There are different types of goals and some we have more control over than others. As we don’t have control over other people then all goals that are dependent on other people would be out of our control to some extend. Therefore it is a good idea to have goals that are completely independent of others and under your complete control. These are called performance goals. A performance goal could be for example to be able to dance your choreography through to music or to improve your rumba walk. If you want to know more about goal setting and how to set the right type of goals then check out my youtube video on goal setting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IriHHwDUmVA&t=76s
Focus on strengths
We all have a unique set of strengths. In dancing we are conditioned to focus on our weaknesses as we are constantly trying to improve them, but focusing on our strengths and what we are good at is great for our confidence and to understand that we have our own unique set of strengths. Do this little exercise to improve your focus and awareness of your strengths. Write down three things that you are good at. If you are brave try and ask your partner and your teachers as well, which three qualities they think are your strongest.
Notice the situations when you are making comparisons and notice the thoughts that you are having. When you notice a “comparison-thought” come into your head then say “stop” and say a mantra or sentence to make you stop that thought. Use a mantra that has meaning to you for example “you are great in your own way” “you are unique” or maybe a sentence that focuses on your strength. This will train your mind to stop making comparisons and to refocus when those thoughts come into your mind.
Focus on your journey
As dancers we are all on our own journey. We start as beginners, whether that is as a child or later in life, and then we improve and if we work hard, one day we get to a place of mastery. Whether you are at the beginning of that journey or at the end, you have the same right to be there and it doesn’t make you more or less worthy- you are just a different place on the journey. Every fantastic dancer that you see has once been a beginner. Focus on your journey and enjoy it!
I hope you enjoyed this article and can use some of the tips in your everyday life and practice. If you have any comments or questions feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck in your dance journey!