A Few Good Words

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I got a different push to get me to attend the upcoming Medal Ball. It seems like they see some value in having more experienced students attend events like this. There are newer students doing a check out for the first time and the feeling was that having a few words of support from a more experienced student has value.

Lots to unpack around that thought.

As I’ve said before, most of us come to ballroom when we are older and more established in some type of career. It can be tough to go back to a stage where you are learning something from scratch. Plus, ballroom is so different from what a lot of us do that there are all those awkward moments when you really don’t feel like you know what you are doing. Not a great feeling.

The instructors are always quick with the positive feedback and there are times when it can be hard to accept. When the feedback doesn’t align with your feelings, then you can start to believe it isn’t real. After all, the instructor wants to keep you in the studio and spending your money so they aren’t going to tell you that you suck. Right?

Well they are going to tell you what you need to do to get better and that can also be hard to hear at times. There’s a certain amount of vulnerability in learning something like ballroom dancing. You have to put yourself out there to be critiqued and judged even when you know that there is so much you don’t know. Plus, for most of us, the feedback is coming from someone younger and that just adds a whole other layer to it.

Is it better to hear it from another student? I would guess that depends on the person. Would my words carry a little more weight just because I’ve been doing this for so long? I’m not totally sure that they would. I guess there could be some value in it although you soon learn that dance studios are full of supportive people so if you were prone to being cynical, you might be able to reject all positive feedback.

It is strange that you can end up trapped in two different modes of self-sabotage. Getting so crushed by “negative” feedback (which is really just more of a suggestion for improvement) that you don’t feel like going on. But rejecting or minimizing positive feedback because it doesn’t align with your own internal perceptions of your dancing. And, yes, I’ve done both things. Neither is good.

It is most common to see students doubt themselves and so many will be quick to point out their flaws when you try to give them a compliment. Been there myself. It is kind of a defense mechanism where you put the negative stuff out there first so maybe it softens the blow coming from someone else. But it totally sabotages you because you then only focus on what went wrong in an activity where perfection isn’t possible. It blinds you to what you did well. And it also is just a bit disrespectful to the person offering the feedback. I mean if I tell someone I thought something was good and I get a laundry list of all the things they thought sucked, then I’m going to think twice before offering any more positivity.

Getting crushed by feedback might be a little tougher to accept. Ballroom is going to require you to check your ego at the door. You are going to screw up and you are going to be told how to fix things. As the first couple of quotes suggested, you have to learn to accept the feedback for what it is.

The space you have to get to is where you can acknowledge your skills and abilities but still understand there is always something that could be improved. Nothing wrong with taking a critical look at what you did but only if the focus is on isolating what didn’t feel as good and could be a possible area for improvement. Now, I’m not saying I’m there but I know I’m much closer to that then when I started.

Problem is that you can’t force someone to walk down that path. We all have to get to a point where we recognize the self sabotage and actively work to avoid it.

And it brings up one of my main issues with assuming my words might make a difference and the following quote summarizes it.

So I could go and offer up some kind words but if someone isn’t open or receptive, the words will just bounce off them and drop to the floor. Is there any value to them?

Well that’s not really the right question. There certainly could be value in them. I’ve certainly been in situations where a few kind words or positive praise made someone feel important and valued. As usual, I’m probably overthinking this.

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