Confidence vs Competence

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Got a nice card and small gift from my instructor last night.  It was her not so subtle way of trying to keep me grounded in the lead up to showcase.  Given our somewhat volatile past, I fully understand her reasons and I know that I will need to prove to her that I’ve moved beyond where I used to be.  Of course, I first have to prove it to myself but I do feel like I’m in a better place than I’ve been two weeks before showcase.

I picked up a book on confidence hoping to get some ideas but, what was interesting is that the central thesis of this book was that increasing confidence does nothing for you and your goal should be to increase competence.  What you project is confidence but what people see and react to is competence.  The problem with too much confidence is that it can blind you to your real level of performance and can ultimately hold you back.  A lack of confidence can be a driver to increase competence which, in the end, is going to be better for you.  One other part of the book spoke to others perceptions of you and the fact that we can’t accurately assess our own performance so the thought was to be conscious of how others perceive you.   If you think you are the best thing going but others think “Not so much”, then they are likely right.  Conversely, if you don’t believe in your own abilities but others keep telling you how good you are, then they are probably more right than you are.  (Yes, the argumentative part of me can come up with all kinds of counter arguments because I’ve been doing that for the longest time when I haven’t wanted to believe what others were saying about my dancing)  The bottom line for me is that I’ve had enough positive feedback from enough different and independent sources that it is time for me to start believing it.  I can dance and people enjoy watching me.

Another part of the book spoke to situations where you have high competence and low confidence (high/low are relative terms) which I now realize describes my dancing.  The advice was to hide your insecurities.  I read that and was thinking back to the party on Saturday.  I did a cha-cha demonstration in front of a large crowd and had some slip ups in the beginning.  Got done and was talking with a guy from our studio who was telling me how good I was and I naturally went into deflection and started talking about what I had messed up.  He kind of waved his hand in front of me like he didn’t want to hear about it.  So, the lesson for me is to just acknowledge the positive feedback.  People are responding to what they see and what they see is good to them even though it may not feel perfect to me.  But what they see is more important than what I feel.

It is not to say that I’m going to totally discount my lack of confidence because that is what drives me to improve and keeps me focused on learning the technique and other things.  The real lesson is to not let it become paralyzing to the point where I’ve convinced myself that I’m utterly horrible.  I may actually be at that point now.

And, what goes along with that is my own self image outside of dancing.  As I’ve said before, I know my body has changed quite a bit but my mind hasn’t wrapped itself totally around it yet.  I look at myself and see the imperfections and places where I could still lose a little more (and I start to understand how one could slip into eating disorders)  I’ve been mostly discounting the positive comments I’ve received from others.  But, in reading this book, I’ve forced myself to see those comments in a different light.  I am no longer the fat man walking around with my head down hating the way I look.  Enough people have said things that I must accept that it is true and put aside my own vision of myself.  Again, the thing to keep is the desire to not go back there.

At this point, we have 15 days left until showcase.  Have booked lots of lessons for the last two weeks because we have to put the finishing touches on the quickstep and get back to the other dances as well.  It will be a challenge to stay in this mindset so we shall see what happens.

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