Tag Archive | self-improvement

Weekly Challenge for 7-16-12

It’s Monday, so it’s time for this week’s challenge!

About a month ago, we worked on weaknesses.  If you are new to the challenges or missed it, take a moment to read through this post because we’re going to use this again.  Last time we picked something–just one something–that needed working on and challenged ourselves to improve in that week.  Usually a week is not enough to show much improvement, but it does depend on what you are working on.  So, this week, we’re going to continue our work on weaknesses!

Working on weaknesses II

Hopefully you have continued to work on your weaknesses even if you haven’t been challenged to do so!  But I know it’s hard to work on things that are difficult for us, because we get frustrated or lose hope that we’ll ever get to where we want to be as dancers.  But this attitude won’t get us anywhere.  We need to work harder on what is difficult for us, and allow ourselves room to fail and be challenged (for followers of my blog, this should sound familiar!)

So, we’re going to check up on ourselves this week.  Rewatch that video you took of yourself and go through your list.  Now film yourself again and take another look at your list.  Did you improve?  Were you happier with the one identified weakness area or was it about the same?  Now think about how much time you spent on improving that weakness.  Did you do the challenge every day?  Did you continue to practice even after that week was over?

Even professional dancers must practice the basics over and over again, so you should not take the attitude that once you master something, you’re done with it.  If you did improve over this time, good for you!  Keep it up! Your challenge this week is to work on that same weakness again.  Drill it, think about it, whatever you need to do to keep improving.  Don’t think of it as going over stuff you already know; think about it as a chance to keep improving and to nail it!

If you did not see improvement, use this week to work on it again, but first sit down and think about what went wrong.  Did you not work on it as much as you wanted?  Did you get frustrated and stop?  Is the move/concept/idea/whatever just too dang hard for you right now (be honest with this one)?  Reevaluate where you want to be with this one weakness.  Did you set your goal too high last time?  That’s okay…reset your goal, but don’t think about it as failure.  Think about it as taking smaller steps towards your goal.  Now work on that weakness this week, at least for one whole song (or session, whatever time you have for it), and don’t get frustrated!

Enjoy your challenge!

What Are You Afraid Of?

Failure?  Looking silly?  Too fat?  Too skinny? Not pretty enough?  Not skilled enough?  Performing?

What am I talking about?

These are all reasons people have NOT taken my or other teachers’ belly dancing classes.  I’ve heard it all.  I’ve been told that people are scared to take my classes because they know they will never be able to do what I can do.  Seriously?

How can you know until you try?

Let me tell you a story:

There once was a lady who was a bit overweight.  She had asthma (or an equivalent that caused similar problems), she hated exercise, and had no self-esteem.  One day, a friend suggested getting some exercise videos instead of moaning over yet another missed day at the gym.  This lady found three belly dance videos on sale and, on a silly whim, decided to buy them and try them out.   She had heard of belly dance, but had never actually seen a performance before, so didn’t know what to expect.  Would it be hard?  Would it be silly?  But try them she did, and she found that belly dance was actually a lot of fun.  It was hard, sure, but there was a deliciousness in the challenge of trying to make her hip move this way instead of that way.  Ever so slowly, the lady’s body began to change.  Awhile later, bored with the videos and not sure where to go for more, the lady decided to see if there was a teacher in the area.  Surely, in a town this size, there would be a teacher, right?  Lo and behold, there was.  Scared, unsure what to expect, and feeling extremely self-conscious, the lady went to her first class.  She stood in the back, away from the other dancers who seemed skinny and flexible to her.  But surprisingly, the teacher was no yoga-hard-body, and the class was fun.  However, the lady still felt self-conscious, and would not bare her belly for the class.  But she resisted the natural urge to wear T-shirts as large as tents and picked up a few work-out tops that were more form-fitting.  She went to class after class, and soon, rolled up her shirt and bared that belly to the world for the very first time.  It was scary.  But she did it anyway.  To her surprise, the teacher asked her to move into the intermediate class, and before she knew it, she was in the performance class.  A new world of costumes, makeup, and performance lay ahead of the lady.  It still was scary, but she enjoyed it.  Sure, being part of a troupe was hard, but it was fun.  The other ladies in the troupe became her friends, and they had fun together.  Soon, it was time to strike out on her own.  Now the quiet, overweight, scared lady became a professional belly dancer.

And now I’ve said it…that lady was me.

I NEVER in a million years thought I would want to perform in front of other people.  I NEVER thought I would get good enough in belly dancing to perform it in front of others.  But you know what: I did.

I told you my story not for self-aggrandizement, but to help others realize that it’s OKAY to not be skilled in belly dance.  It’s OKAY to be overweight in belly dance.  It’s OKAY to not want to perform.  These things should NEVER stop you from starting a class, or trying a new teacher, or rolling up that shirt.  I started out as a newbie just like everybody else.  Here’s a secret: Rachel Brice was a newbie sometime in her life, too.  So was Jillina.  So was every single person that pops up on YouTube when you search “belly dance.”  You gotta start somewhere!

And if you DO want to perform, how can you expect to get better if you are too scared to even go to class?

Humans, on the whole, are afraid of failure.  Mix in our society’s pathological fear of failure with the ease in which failures and mistakes can make it out to the entire world through the Internet, and you get people who are terrified of trying anything new.  It doesn’t matter that you might never want to perform.  If you want to learn belly dance, don’t let ANYTHING stop you.  Go to class and have some fun.  Think of the difficulties you have in learning it as fun challenges instead.  If you want to perform, don’t let ANYTHING stop you.  Go to class, and improve yourself.

Don’t EVER be afraid of failure.   Failure is a part of life.  Yeah, it sucks, but you pick yourself up and move on.  How can you grow if you never make the move towards change in the first place?  Not good at hip circles?  Don’t just moan about how bad you are at them; put yourself in front of a mirror and work on it.  Or take a class with a teacher you respect.  Never done belly dance?  Try a class (many teachers have drop-in deals or free trial classes) and see how much fun it can be to challenge yourself.  And don’t be afraid of failing.  Don’t be afraid of not being perfect.  I sucked at belly dance when I first started, just like everyone else.  Getting good at something takes a brave heart, a strong mind, and a will to improve yourself…and we can all have those if we just put away the fears we have inside.  NEVER let fear stop you from doing what you want.

Now go out there and take a class!

Another Weekly Challenge!

This week’s challenge is another all-level challenge, but it’s an important one.

Working on weaknesses

None of us are perfect dancers.  None of us ever will be perfect dancers (sorry to burst everyone’s bubble there…).  And you know what, that’s OKAY!!  Being perfect is a burden that too many of us attempt to carry and fail, and so we think of ourselves as failures and losers because we can’t hold up the unattainable.  However, we don’t always need to stagger under all that weight.  Of course, this doesn’t mean we should just all give up reaching for perfection because it is a goal none of us will ever attain.  We can still strive for it, push ourselves, and reach the next level closer.  This post, and another post I am working on, will cover some important issues about striving for improvement.

Dancers can be really hard on themselves, and I’m not immune.  We watch our videos in horror, commenting on how awful that arm was, or “what was I thinking with that costume?” or “Geez, do I really have that many chins when I do a back bend?”  We are all our own worst critics.  None of this is very helpful, however, in improving our dance.  Criticism rarely works.  On the other hand, I’ve also heard of  many dancers who never take classes or workshops, never video themselves, never analyze how well they are doing, and somehow still expect to morph into professional dancers.  This isn’t helpful, either.  You still need to work on improving yourself as a dancer.

So what’s the challenge?

Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the center of it.  In the left column, write, “Things I need to work on” and in the right column, write, “Things I know I’m good at.”  Now we are going to take a compassionate, but serious, look at ourselves and our dancing.  Pick a song you absolutely love to dance to–whatever that may be–and video yourself.  It doesn’t have to be professional, you don’t have to dance in front of your husband or friends, you don’t even have to do any special choreography for this.  Just set the camera up on a shelf and dance in front of it.  Dance the way you would dance if you were in a show, though (you could even put on a hip scarf and some lipstick if that helps), to make sure you dance your best.

Now, sit down with the video and your piece of paper.  Repeat this out loud: “I am going to be compassionate and helpful to my dancer-self.”  This may seem silly, but saying it out loud may just help you fully realize that.  Now watch your video.  For everything you list as “something you need to work on,” write something in the “good at” column.  I try to relate my two columns together.

Here’s an example:

Things I need to work on                         Things I know I’m good at

arms aren’t soft; too rigid                                  hands look nice

figure 8s get lost in the middle                         figure 8s great on right side

Toes aren’t pointed                                            good footwork

You may feel a little bummed about the left column, but that’s why we have the right column.  It’s now a law: every time you read the left column, you MUST read the right column.  Sure, you may have a lot to work on, but look at how much you do right!  And keep this in mind: DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER DANCERS.  Only look at yourself, and how YOU do.  And another thing: if you have nothing in the left column, you may need to reexamine how you view yourself as a dancer.  If you have nothing in the right column, you need to be more compassionate with yourself.

Here’s the challenge: pick ONE…just ONE…of the left column “problem areas” and work on it this week.  Again, be compassionate.  Whenever you feel down about how hard it is to keep your arms soft, just remember that your hands look great.  Now take a deep breath and work on those arms!  Keep this list handy; we’ll be using it again soon!

Happy dancing!