Dance is a beautiful medium through which our children can experience personal growth in areas like self-confidence, determination, and perseverance. In fact, studies have shown that activities such as dance and other sports can help children form a more confident sense of self, overcome preconceived limitations, and lead them on a journey of self-discovery that they may not have taken otherwise. But, as we all know, wherever there is opportunity for positive growth and challenging oneself, we can also open ourselves to self-doubt and insecurities.
As the parent of a dancer, one of the areas in which I have been personally challenged is helping my dancer deal with insecurity. Each and every dancer at Colorado Ballet Society is walking a very individual journey. Each will have successes and challenges along that road, and many times it will fall to us as parents to help them navigate their journey.
Not only are our dancers navigating a journey that is physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging – they are also themselves still developing physically and emotionally. Theodore Roosevelt has been quoted as saying, “comparison is the thief of joy”. And in many cases, the natural inclination to compare ourselves with others can be an obstacle from which personal insecurities are born. It is human nature to compare ourselves to others, and I would argue that this doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. For example, if a dancer admires the beautiful turn out of one of their classmates, this can be an opportunity for them to work to hone that skill in themselves. Rather than feeling resentful that a peer excels in an area they are still working on, they can turn this into a positive opportunity to set goals. Many times, you as a parent have the opportunity to turn such a comparison from a stumbling block into a positive conversation. Our reactions, words, and attitudes can have a significant impact on whether we breathe life into our dancer’s very natural tendencies towards insecurity.
Let’s put this into the context of a situation where perhaps your dancer’s peers have all been advanced into the next level, and your dancer was not. It is so difficult to see your child struggling with disappointment, and you may struggle with the desire to make things “right” for them when they are feeling hurt and discouraged (I know I do!). But, here we have a wonderful opportunity to help our child navigate a difficult situation. We may not be able to “fix” the situation, but we have a lot of power in shaping how our child perceives it! Rather than saying: “This is unfair! You’re a much stronger dancer than so and so!” We can say: “I know how disappointing this is, but I see a real opportunity for you here! Not only can you spend some extra time perfecting your technique, you will be able to be a great example and leader for the dancers entering your level for the first time!” This situation can also be an opportunity to promote positive communication between student and teacher, encouraging your dancer to meet with their teacher and ask respectfully what they can be working towards in order to advance.
Most importantly, we are here to encourage our dancer that their dance journey belongs to them alone, and the only measure they should regularly apply to themselves is whether they are giving their personal best – no one else’s personal best counts.
Certainly, there are no “magic words” to speak over your child when they feel discouraged or insecure - but speaking positivity into a situation that is difficult for them may help them see the situation as an opportunity to grow, rather than perceiving themselves as having failed. We have the power to speak life into their insecurity and other negative emotions, or we have the power to encourage positive thinking, goal setting, and belief in themselves.