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Building Confidence #1—The Way You Think Matters

Ariel Bennett, ADCRG, is a teacher and judge who has been Irish dancing for 30 years.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 1.32.32 PMIn the “What Do Irish Dance Judges Look For?” series of blog posts, we talked about the physical aspects of Irish dancing and how to improve your form. In this new series, we’re going to be talking about the mental aspects of competition and how you can improve your confidence. Having confidence—believing in yourself—is essential to achieving your dance goals.

The first step to improving your self-confidence is understanding that the way you think—about yourself, about your dancing, and about competition—affects how you perform.

Try this exercise: take something small and heavy with a hole in it, like a ring or the nut from a nut and bolt, and tie it on the end of a piece of string (about a foot long). A long necklace with a charm at the end could also work. Sit down cross-legged on the floor and hold the other end of the string in one hand. Hold your arm out in front of you so that the ring or nut is dangling on the end of the string but not touching the floor. Try to keep your arm and hand still.

Now think to yourself, “Ring, swing side to side.” Repeat this in your head over and over for 15-30 seconds while you keep your eyes on the ring.

Now think to yourself, “Ring, stop swinging.” Repeat this in your head.

Now think, “Ring, swing forward and back.” Repeat this for 15-30 seconds.

Now think, “Ring, stop swinging,” over and over.

Now think, “Ring, swing in a circle” for 15-30 seconds.

Now think, “Ring, swing the opposite way.”

For most people, the ring will move whichever way you are mentally telling it to. Why does this happen? Is it magic? Are you psychic?

Actually, the ring moves because your brain is sending subconscious impulses to the muscles of your hand and arm. Subconsciously, your body is trying to carry out whatever you’re thinking, even though consciously you’re trying to keep your arm and hand still.

This experiment shows you that there is a powerful connection between your mind and your body. In this case, the result is harmless: you’re making a ring swing back and forth.

But what if you were thinking something like “I’ll never get this step right” over and over? Your body would get that subconscious message from your brain, and it would be much harder for you to perfect the material because your body would actually be fighting against learning the step.

If, however, you tell yourself, “I will get this step,” your body will receive that subconscious message instead, and you are more likely to perfect the step faster. When your mind and body work together in a positive way, success comes more easily.

So try this the next time you are practicing at home or dancing in class: whenever you are doing a step or move that you have trouble with, think to yourself, “I will get this step,” or, “I love this move.” Maybe at first you won’t really believe it, but you will still be sending positive subconscious messages to your body.

The more you tell yourself that you can do it, the more your mind and body will start to believe, and the faster you will be perfecting that difficult material—and feeling more confident.

Photo credit: Flickr User Meg Willis 

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