Saying Hello to Yourself

Written by Devon Adams

As dancers, we know what it feels like to be at our best. We dance for those moments: moments when we feel completely on top of the world, on top of our game, free in our hearts and bodies as we move. Some of us love the thrill of competition, others revel in the deep emotional exploration dance helps us access, and most of us are willing to endure intense physical pain and emotional disappointment to be the best dancer we can be.

But what about those moments when we haven’t been at our best? Maybe we rehearsed our solo a thousand times and nailed it in the studio, but sudden nerves and anxiety clouded our vision just before stepping out on stage, leading to a shaky performance or worse, a total freeze. Maybe we spaced out during a convention and missed the steps to an important combo, spending the rest of the time desperately trying to catch up. Maybe we struggled with our bodies, wishing for just a little more flexibility, or strength, or one more pirouette, or for an injury to finally heal. Maybe we’ve been caught in envy, letting our admiration of the seemingly perfect dancers of Instagram and YouTube shorten our patience with the difficult, failure-filled moments of practice at the tips of our own toes.

These moments all have one thing in common: they come between YOU and YOUR BEST. If you and I can conquer that space, we will be unstoppable. Most of the time, even if our obstacle is something physical, the game of overcoming it begins in our minds. Our minds are incredibly powerful and can help move us forward in a powerful way, or they can powerfully hold us back. Have you ever met someone who often spoke negatively about themselves or others? For example, saying, “Oh I can’t seem to get my leg above 90 degrees,” “Oh I’m so bad at tap.” Think about it—did that person’s dancing issues tend to improve over time or not? Henry Ford said, “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” The amazing thing is that scientists have shown this to be true time and again in their studies of human behavior.  Change begins with how you speak to yourself.

I spent years struggling with issues just like what I described above. It felt like my improvements were slow, I kept getting the same corrections over and over again, and no matter how many nights I stayed up late stretching, sewing my pointe shoes, and obsessively reviewing my choreography, I still struggled with the same old monsters. I spoke to myself in negatives: “your leg is too low” “you’re going to forget the choreography again” “you’ll never be as good as her” “you look dumb in this costume.” Sure enough, the space between me and my best grew wider.

The day someone asked me how I wanted to feel when I danced is the day that gap finally began to close. As I imagined it, imagined myself at my best, with the lights on my skin and my legs flying high, perfectly moving through the choreography with total confidence and joy, feeling the joy and laughter rise up in my chest, I realized I was not just imagining feeling better, I was actually beginning to feel better. That girl in my mind, the best me, she was worth fighting for. She could conquer those monsters, and so could I.

If you are like me and you’ve been struggling, notice how you’ve been speaking to yourself. Maybe it’s time to begin saying hello to yourself in a new way.

Devon Adams is a professional dancer, Integrative Coach and Clinical Hypnotist. She teaches ballet and contemporary dance at Balance, and often works with dancers to help them access their best performances. Learn more about her dancing at devonadamsdance.com and about her coaching and hypnosis practice at uptempoaustin.com

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