Leaping into the New Year: Isabella Boylston, photo by Gene Schiavone

Love it or hate it, this is the time of year when people start talking about New Year's Resolutions. While it's exciting to think about what you want to work on in 2017, it can also feel daunting—especially because we often set unrealistic goals for ourselves, and wind up frustrated a few months in. Breaking resolutions down into small, attainable steps can help keep you motivated, and seeing positive results. To get you started, we pulled together a few tips for tackling some common dance-related goals.

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Marisa Trapani of Ballet Academy East. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

Today, she's a confident Miami City Ballet soloist, but Emily Bromberg wasn't always so self-assured. As a teenager, she withered under the weight of self-doubt. Even being cast as Kitri in her first professional production of Don Quixote, at Festival Ballet Providence, didn't bolster her confidence—instead, she convinced herself she was too immature for the role and nearly melted in tears midway through her debut. “I was constantly double- and triple-checking myself, wondering what other people thought, wondering if I was good enough," she recalls. “It's the nature of the dance world, but there were moments when I was really at the edge of giving up."

These kinds of self-confidence issues, fueled by endless criticism, high pressure to succeed and a flood of intimidating images on social media, can plague dancers for years. It's easy to start questioning your worthiness in comparison to the latest Instagram star, but in the competitive and uncertain dance world, belief in yourself is crucial to reaching your goals—and your full potential.

A Healthy Sense of Self

The basis of innate self-confidence is recognizing that you're a human being with imperfections like anyone else, while understanding that your shortcomings don't define you as a person or as a dancer. “Self-confidence is having an accurate view of yourself and feeling good about it," says Dr. Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with Atlanta Ballet. But being pleased with yourself does not necessarily mean that you have an overblown ego. “It's not arrogance or narcissism. You know you're not perfect—but you feel good about yourself."

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Isabella Boylston, photo by Gene Schiavone

From competitive auditions to performances to the challenges of mastering each technical and artistic feat, dancers face many nerve-wracking situations. Sometimes, though, confidence eludes us when we need it most. But there are ways to practice giving yourself a boost when you need it. Here are a few of our best tips for beating self-doubt and holding your head up high, no matter what the situation:

Watch your stress levels. In high-pressure, competitive situations like auditions, your stress levels tend to be heightened—and a Swiss study found that that this could lower your confidence and affect your decision-making skills. When we're feeling uncertain, we tend to take fewer risks in an effort to avoid feeling like we've failed. It's worth making stress relief part of your typical audition and performance preparations, so you'll be empowered to really go for it.

Strike a pose. Sometimes simply acting more confident is all it takes to give yourself a boost. Research shows that holding a high-power pose for two minutes can increase your confidence and lower your cortisol levels (making you feel less stressed).

Know your worth. It's no secret that dancers are perfectionists, but make sure you're taking the time to acknowledge your accomplishments too, from getting a role you wanted to finally nailing a tricky turn sequence. Remember: If you're doing well, it's the result of your hard work.

Dress for success. Though it may sound silly, even your outfit choice can do wonders for your confidence. Whether you need a flattering audition look, or just want to perk yourself up for a difficult class, choose comfortable pieces that you feel good in.

Know you're not alone. Take it from ABT principal Isabella Boylston: "I don't necessarily consider myself the most confident performer. Like everyone else, I deal with nerves, anxiety and self-doubt. But over the course of my career so far, I've learned how to work with those negative emotions—and even how to use them to my advantage."

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