(adapted from the article about self confidence article at http://www.pickthebrain.
Self confidence is the difference between feeling unstoppable and feeling scared out of your wits. Your perception of yourself has an enormous impact on how others perceive you. Perception is reality — the more self confidence you have, the more likely it is you’ll succeed.
As dancers, we must believe we will succeed at what we are doing - otherwise, we will not effectively improve at technique and flair.
Although many of the factors affecting confidence are beyond your control, there are a number of things you can consciously do to build self confidence. By using these 10 strategies you can get the mental edge you need to reach your potential.
1. Dress Sharp
Although clothes don’t make the man, they certainly affect the way he feels about himself. No one is more conscious of your physical appearance than you are. When you don’t look good, it changes the way you carry yourself and interact with other people. Use this to your advantage by taking care of your personal appearance. In most cases, significant improvements can be made by bathing and shaving frequently, wearing clean clothes, and being cognizant of the latest styles.
This applies to dancing in a huge way. For males, wear a clean shirt that fits well, put some cologne/after shave on, carry a hand towel with you to wipe away excess sweat, and a spare shirt to change into when the dance floor becomes steamy with body heat. For females, a gorgeous dress or outfit and some lovely comfortable dance shoes, fragrance, and a little makeup goes a long way. These are simple ways to boost your confidence on the dance floor - when you look your best, you feel good and it emanates in your dancing. Furthermore, the confidence of knowing that people are not averse to dancing with you (because you smell and look good) is a huge boost to allowing you to enjoy social dancing!
Of course, you don't always have to be dressed to the nines. Most importantly, always be clean and neat, always make sure you smell good. Dancing is now a way of life for most of us, so pack a deodorant/fragrance in your bag/car, pack a spare shirt and a hand towel for mopping up sweat, wash your hands before and after dancing.
2. Good Posture
Good posture is integral to dancing - when slumped over, a myriad of problems are created. Your moves don't look sharp or stylish, it is difficult to execute certain moves due to restrictions in your shoulders, your muscles in your torso and back get weak, and your airflow in breathing passages get obstructed. Many dancers are surprised by how much simply changing their posture lifts their dancing.
Similarly, the way a person carries herself tells a story. People with slumped shoulders and lethargic movements display a lack of self confidence. They aren’t enthusiastic about what they’re doing and they don’t consider themselves important. By practicing good posture, you’ll automatically feel more confident. Stand up straight, keep your head up, and make eye contact. You’ll make a positive impression on others and instantly feel more alert and empowered.
If you have bad posture, even minutely, make a change in your lifestyle. Whether we are amateur or professional dancers, dancing is a lifestyle choice and what better way to make ourselves improve our health, vitality and also our dancing skills by changing a simple thing throughout our daily rituals of walking, driving, work and play?
When you focus too much on what you want, the mind creates reasons why you can’t have it. This leads you to dwell on your weaknesses. The best way to avoid this is consciously focusing on gratitude. Set aside time each day to mentally list the improvements you have made in your dancing, and marvel at those steps made. Most of us stumbled into dancing as an adult entirely by accident, or it's something we always wanted to try, but never thought we'd be any good at it.
The fact that we have taken the jump and effort to do something we love is reminder enough that we are lucky to have a hobby and passion. If you have done better at dancing than you ever thought you would before you started this hobby, it is blessing enough - for now.
Recall your past successes, unique skills, relationships made in this sport, and positive momentum. Think about those times you didn't want to perform but did a great job, didn't think you'd ever do a spin like Michael Jackson but did, the times you did a class and found it easier than normal. You’ll be amazed how much you have going for you and attain the confidence to take that next step towards success.
4. Compliment other people
When we think negatively about ourselves, we often project that feeling on to others in the form of insults and gossip. To break this cycle of negativity, get in the habit of praising other people. Refuse to engage in backstabbing gossip and make an effort to compliment those around you. In the process, you’ll become well liked and build self confidence. By looking for the best in others, you indirectly bring out the best in yourself.
In a small community such as dancing, this is doubly important. No matter how crap, always thank someone for the dance they had with you. Notice when someone is wearing a great outfit, or are looking great. Be interested in what other people are saying, and when someone has made improvements in their dancing, or danced beautifully, TELL THEM. No matter how much of a pro you think they are, they have off days like everyone else, and a measure of kindness is never unnoticed or unappreciated.
My personal rules for creating a pleasant dance atmosphere:
always say yes to a dance with someone less advanced than you. It takes a lot of courage to ask someone better than you for a dance, and your dance with them might make their night, or week, or month!
if you think someone dances/has danced beautifully, tell them. As you get better at your dancing, less and less people tell you that you're doing well because they think you "know". Good dancers have off days like everyone else, and being supportive can go a long way in your friendships and their lives.
at the end of the night, when saying goodbye to people, always say thank you for the dances you've had with them.
if you didn't get to dance with someone you know, always end the night by saying "we have to have a dance next time" (and mean it!). Sometimes feeling of insecurity and hurt can happen from not being asked to dance all night, and saying this ensures that person knows you meant to have a dance with them but circumstance may not have allowed it.
instill confidence in any way you can: when a particularly shy or beginner dancer does something sexy/showy/extraordinary, even something small like remembering to smile when they dance, compliment them on it. Always wish performers luck and let them know you enjoyed an aspect of their performance, and be sincere about it. if you've enjoyed a class due to a teacher or fellow student, don't forget to tell them.
5. Sit in the front row
In schools, offices, and public assemblies around the world, people constantly strive to sit at the back of the room. Most people prefer the back because they’re afraid of being noticed. This is no different in dance class where people try to hide up the back of the class.
By placing yourself in the front row, you can get over this irrational fear and build your self confidence. You’ll also be more visible to the important people from the front of the room. There is the added benefit of being able to better see the teacher's movements up the front, and understand what is going on in the class.
Always position yourself so you can see what the teacher is doing, and so that he/she can see you and correct you if you're doing something wrong. Your dancing will improve by leaps and bounds just by doing this, scary as it may seem.
6. Do Your Best
Always dance at your best. Whether you are at a casual social, or in a group class, or attending a beginners class for fun, or at a huge important event, always always dance the best. By this i don't mean show off as much as you can, but instead applying all the technique you've acquired at its finest level.
If you can apply your firm techniques conscientiously whilst social dancing, no matter who you're dancing with, you will be well on your way to becoming an effective dancer. The added benefit is that you will become more confident as you will be dancing at a better level than normal!
It will take some getting used to, to dance properly all the time is no easy task, and remembering things you've learnt in class is not always the most fun way to spend social dancing time - however, becoming an effective dancer is part of the hard work we put in to learn our craft, and when you start doing it on a regular basis, you will enjoy your dancing tenfold through the improvements you've made. I promise.
7. Goof Up
It is always ok to goof up, to make mistakes, but sometimes it's even more fun to revel in these moments of hilarity. When i've missed a lead, or a lead has failed in executing a move, a simple giggle or smile lets your partner know that it was ok, and the dance is still enjoyable.
Sometimes, goofing off on purpose can be overwhelmingly fun - when a dance is getting overwhelmingly serious, i like to pull out a daggy dance move like the running man in a shine, or ham it up by doing a sexy move in a clown like manner. Sometimes that's all it takes to relax you and your partner to make a dance fun and memorable.
The willingness to not take it too seriously is always great too, for when you do goof up for real. If already acclimatized to not feeling embarrassed or watched, when you do make a mistake it's easier to quickly apologize and get over that agonizing moment. Goof up. It's fun. Seriously.
N/B: When goofing up for real, DO always apologize. Apologizing profusely is bad. My preferred method is to touch my own collarbone area with my fingertips and mouth/say "My Bad". This is effective, undisruptive to the dance, and a gracious way of letting your partner know you understand.
8. Focus on contribution
Too often we get caught up in our own desires and wants. We focus too much on ourselves and not enough on the needs of other people. If you stop thinking about yourself and concentrate on the contribution you’re making to the rest of the community, you won’t worry as much about you own flaws and inabilities. This will increase self confidence and allow you to contribute with maximum efficiency. The more you contribute to the world the more you’ll be rewarded with personal success and recognition.
The students that I see improve the most are the ones who help the ones more beginner than them. Even at a beginner level, you can offer to help someone who's just started practice their basics. At an advanced level, always offer your help, but also use it as a vantage point to improve your own dancing. Leading/following beginners, or dancers not as proficient as you, is the best way to both help them improve, but also improve your own dancing.
Contribution is your biggest asset and your free way to gaining improvement, and most importantly builds valuable and supportive relationships in our community.
9. Real Life Skills Matter Too
Because we have our own little community, too often dancers forget that habits, manners and life skills we use in real life apply on the dance floor too.
Example: As a female dancer, I cringe when gentlemen who have been dancing with ten different girls (hence sweaty palms exchanging bacteria) touch my face either whilst dancing or kissing hello/goodbye. In addition if you are sweaty and hot, don't make full body contact with someone you're hugging or kissing - tell them you're sweaty and air kiss them instead! I am forever turned off certain guys who have given me huge hugs whilst their shirts were plastered to their bodies in sweat, and when i protested, laughed it off and said I was being uptight "because we're all sweaty"! Firstly, change your shirt if you're that sweaty, and secondly, MY body fluids are largely different to anyone elses, and having someone elses bacteria and sweat on my body is not the reason i got dressed up pretty to go out.
(deep breaths... Rant over. Article can continue now).
Always say hello and goodbye to everyone you know in the room, and never make impolite gestures like rolling your eyes at someone who has made a mistake or is dancing particularly well or badly. Always ASK someone to dance, don't NOD them or pull them onto the dance floor without a word. Always thank your partner for a dance. Never assume that 2 girls dancing together are not dancing together because they want to, and never pull them apart by force to break it up (personal pet peeve!).
Never over dip or over spin someone if not sure about their ability or medical history - many people have minor ailments that manifest themselves in such moves, such as chronic dizziness or neck/back injuries. Never dance sexier than is appropriate, or rub yourself against someone inappropriately. Make sure pertinent body bits are tucked away and do not manifest difficulty during dancing (boobs out, g-strings under short skirts, and guys, TUCK so we don't have to feel it when dancing close to you!)
Ladies (and some men), make sure your hair isn't flopping about and getting itself stuck to other people's bodies, or flicked into people's eyes. If you're not dancing a certain song, GET off the dance floor, don't crowd it up for others trying to dance on the scarce space.
Buy a drink - support your venues! You wouldn't walk into a restaurant and sit and not order a thing, would you? Good salsa venues take lots of work, energy and money to run, don't spoil it for the community by bringing bottles of water with you in your bags.
I like to have a mantra that says, if you wouldn't do it OUTSIDE of dancing - ie, in the office, at home, with your non dancing friends - don't do it in dancing. Dancing is a beautiful sport and art to boot, and people who do it to get away with social inappropriateness ruin it for everyone. If someone does something that you don't like, gently tell them that it wasn't necessary, or show them. And if you've made a mistake or committed a manners faux pas, APOLOGIZE and make note of it for next time.
Most importantly, SMILE.
No one likes a sourpuss, and smiling is a part of life that is undervalued but has HUGE return on investment.
Do yourself a favor, smile at those around you, and feel more confident and happy at the same time. Smiling is the universal gesture for happiness and solidarity between people, and this simple gesture will make your partner and yourself both feel more at ease.
Best of all, it costs you nothing but a few laugh lines.