This story originally appeared in the June/July 2015 issue of Pointe.
I've been receiving soloist parts in my company, but I just don't think I'm as good as my colleagues. I know I wouldn't receive these opportunities if my director didn't think I deserved them, but I can't get my confidence up—and I'm afraid I'll seem ungrateful or that I have a poor work ethic. Should I talk to my director? —Lizzy
I feel you. I struggled with low self-confidence during my early career, and it definitely had a negative effect on my work. Your self-worth can only stem from one person: you. Personally, I think it's unwise to go to your director seeking reassurance and sympathy—he or she obviously trusts your abilities. Besides, allowing others to define your self-worth creates an unstable source of security. If your director senses that you need constant encouragement, he or she may grow impatient and eventually lose confidence in you, too.
Practice acknowledging and feeling thankful for your talent. Make time to recognize three or four accomplishments you achieve each day—write them down in a notebook so you can physically see (and reread) them. When a rehearsal goes well or you receive a great role, don't write it off as a fluke. Consciously remind yourself that it's a result of your skills and hard work. And if someone pays you a compliment, listen. Acknowledge that you've made a positive impact and say “thank you."
Secondly, try to get out of your own head. If you start getting discouraged, interrupt those negative feelings by distracting yourself, before they consume you. Talk to a friend who makes you laugh, take a trip to the water fountain, focus on the music (instead of the mirror). Take pride in your other qualities, such as your intelligence. And have some perspective. I used to grow so frustrated with myself that I'd quit halfway through combinations. Finally my teacher said, “Amy, it's just ballet. It's not going to feed the homeless." And he's right: In the grand scheme of things, ballet isn't worth getting so worked up about.
Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor in chief and former dancer Amy Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org.