In Defense of Fear

Dear Ms. Jimenez,

I have a problem with having/ showing confidence. I worry that I will be ignored during the year because all these new students are coming into my level and I doubt that the teachers are going to pay much attention to me. There are some people who are really competitive coming and I don’t think I will stand a chance… I don’t really know how to explain this but I hope you catch my drift. Thanks 🙂

First of all, I want to thank and applaud you for reaching out to me. That took some courage. Learning how to ask for what you need is an important first step.

What you are feeling is perfectly normal. Everyone who dances feels this way at some point. Whether in a school or company, we are constantly adjusting to energy shifts because of people coming or going. For example, a dog that is alpha in one group may not be in another. Dogs tend to adjust quickly to their change in status. For us, it’s not quite as easy…

Or ego gets involved. We project all kinds of fear onto the situation. We perceive a lowered status as a loss, as opposed to the natural order of things. We forget to approach our art with love, gratitude and curiosity. Girl, trust me. I been there. On both sides of the issue: the displacer and the one who got displaced.

So, what’s the solution? I think the solution lies in hard work. Realize that whatever your status in a group, it is your hard, consistent work that pays off in the long run. Hard work can be an anchor in the shifting tides of the group dynamic. When you find fearful thoughts clawing at you, re-center yourself with the next breath, as they say in yoga, or the next tendu. This re-centering takes a lot of practice and is just as important to your success as the physical work you do. And by the way, even the most successful Principal Dancer has to contend with this. You never stop having to fight for roles. I don’t mean fight other people, lord no. I mean fight with yourself. The fight to make yourself worthy of the honor of dancing. That’s the real fight.

In the meantime, with regards to boosting your confidence and making yourself seen, there are some practical steps you can take. But first, I want to point out two kinds of fear: the fear based on assumption, such as the fear expressed in your letter, and the fear that calls us to move forward. This second kind of fear is the one I want you to deal with in these practical steps. It is the fear that precedes a breakthrough. When dealing with this kind of fear, I’ve found it useless to attempt to push it away. Just try to accept its presence as a kind of sign-post. Try to get to the point where you can say to yourself, “This is me having the experience of fear.” Once you accept the fear in this way, you create a little space between it and you. You will see that the fear is not the truth of you. It is an experience that You have. The only way past this kind of fear is to go through it.

So, here goes…

1. Stand in the front. I mean front and center. I know this is scary. You will feel vulnerable initially, but make yourself do it. You dance differently when you are standing in the front.

2. When going across the floor or moving forward line-by-line, be in the first group. In other words, assume leadership sometimes. I’m not saying to be an aggressive asshole. But if you melt into the background and the teacher doesn’t notice you, you have no one to blame but yourself.

3. Remember that the teacher is just another person like you. You make up half of that relationship, so do your half. Ask questions when you have them. I am not telling you to become an ass-kisser because that’s annoying and the teacher will see through that. I’m just saying that you can’t expect the teacher to always come to you.

4. Be willing to take chances with your movement. Make your movements bigger and take up more space. Shine your inner light, whatever that means to you. Doing that is not showing off! It is the opposite. It is making yourself humble enough to be in service to the demands of the art form, especially when those demands require you to move past your comfort zone. Remember that the fear that comes up is pointing you in the right direction! Move towards it! The more you do, the easier it will get.

5. Try to put self-judgement on a shelf when you enter the studio. Check out “The Inner Game of Tennis.” This short book will explain in greater detail how to let go of the constant critical judgement that impeeds improvement. You can find it cheap and used on amazon.com.

6. If you still feel like you need more support and attention, find someone to study with privately or semi-privately. If doing a private class is too overwhelming, get together with a few other students and have a semi-private class. Seek out a mentor in someone you trust. In other words, it helps to have a teacher who is really in your corner. A place, a class, that feels like home.

Trust your self. Have faith. You can do it.

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3 responses to “In Defense of Fear

  • Erica Robinson

    I wish I would have had you as a mentor in ballet class. What beautiful, true, and inspiring words you had for your student. This are the wise words that people should not only hear for dance class, but for challenges and journeys in life. If you were to ever consider motivational speaking, or self-empowering workshops, I would love to have you at my new yoga studio in Harlem. It’s not opening untill later this fall, but perhaps we can organize something.
    All the best,
    Erica
    http://www.asaliyoga.com

  • charles

    iiiiiiiiiii absolutely love reading your blogs and this was was really good ..
    : michael baa

  • Claudio Sandoval

    beautiful words of encouragement!

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