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Is Your Body Image Impacting Your Confidence?
By Michelle Loucadoux from Danscend
As a dancer, your body is your instrument. It is also your home for as long as you will be dancing around this planet. But sadly, many dancers have a difficult relationship with their bodies. They wish they had better feet, they wish they were a different shape, they wish they were taller/shorter/thinner/thicker/stronger/faster/more…everything.
The way we think and feel about our bodies, or our body image, can make a huge impact on the way we dance, on how we present ourselves in a class or audition, and how we treat ourselves outside the dance studio. If you think that the way you treat your body inside your mind doesn’t matter, researchers think you’re wrong.
In Applied Social Psychology, Steg et al. write that a negative body image can be associated with self-esteem challenges, anxiety, depression, and yes, disordered eating. But, the good news is that your body image changes every day. Your mind updates your body image with each passing experience. That means you can change it for the better.
Do you think you might be more confident in an audition if you weren’t worried about how your legs look in your dance clothes? Or, might you be more likely to work hard on your technique in a ballet class if you weren’t busy thinking about the parts of your body you don’t like looking at in the mirror? If so, you might want to work on creating a healthier image of your dancing instrument.
Here are three quick and easy ways you can begin to feel just a little bit better about your dancing body.
Practice Saying Thank You.
As dancers, we make a practice of finding things that are wrong with our bodies. Our feet need to be stronger, our backs need to be more flexible, etc. But, have you ever stopped to think about all of the awesome things your bodies are doing?
Our bodies, for the most part, do anything we tell them to do. They work diligently to help us dance, move, and enjoy our lives. But, many of us only see the negative aspects of our bodies.
We can change that! This week, try choosing a body part that you are particularly unkind to (in your mind) and write it a thank you letter. You can thank your arms for helping you hug your loved ones, you can thank your face for helping you show your emotions onstage, and you can thank your legs for helping you jump high.
When we start to notice the good things our bodies do, we can begin to balance out the negative loop of comments that often streams through our minds. And, in turn, we can become more confident in our bodies and more equipped to share our art with the world.
Change your feed.
Our social media feeds often contribute to our brains’ understanding of what is normal. Do the dancers on your feeds look normal? Probably not. In a world of edited photos, makeup apps, and the iPhone burst mode, much of what we see in our feed isn’t what we would see in real life.
The problem arises when our social media feeds shift our ideas of what the dance world looks like. We stare at perfectly edited bodies in technically perfect positions and then we wonder why we can’t look like that in the mirror in dance class. Even when we know social media photos aren’t real, our brain still shifts its idea of what we should look like.
So, what do we do? Well, we can change our feeds. Try making three changes to your social media feed per day for the next week. You could follow three new people who make you feel good about your body and who present accurate representations of theirs. Or, you could choose to hide or unfollow people who don’t make you feel as good. You could even choose to share a part of your life or body that you perceive as less than perfect.
It may seem like a small change, but it will hopefully make a big difference in how you feel when you turn on your phone. And it might just inspire someone else to share something not-so-perfect about themselves or their bodies as well.
Create a body-positive playlist
Music has a powerful ability to influence the way we feel. As dancers, most of us already know that. But, when it comes to how we feel about our bodies, we can use that power to our advantage.
A paper published in Frontiers in Psychology says that research studies have shown “increased activity in brain regions associated with emotion and reward when listening to pleasurable music.” So, if happy music makes us happier, then it stands to reason that body-positive music will help us feel more confident in our bodies.
Do you have songs that make you feel confident and beautiful? Maybe it’s “Born this Way” by Lady Gaga. Or maybe “Perfect” by Pink makes you walk a little taller. This week, put together a playlist of 10 to 15 different songs that make you feel good about yourself and your body.
Then, when you’re about to enter a situation where you think you might be uncomfortable or you might not feel like you fit in, press play and let the power of music shift your mood. Whether it’s an audition, a competition, or just a day when you’re feeling low, a body-positive playlist can help you feel just a little more confident and brave.
Dancers have a complex relationship with our bodies and that might not ever change. But, when we spend too much time beating ourselves up about our physical features, we can unknowingly impact the way we dance and the way we feel.
Your body image, whether you know it or not, can influence your confidence and your overall happiness. So, the next time you are feeling a little down on yourself and your dancing instrument, try the three exercises above to boost your mood and improve the way you feel about your body. And, if no one has told you so today? You are beautiful just the way you are.
Interested in learning more ways to implement mental wellness in the dance studio? Consider joining Danscend’s Council, a community of dance educators, for continued education, support, and resources.
Former professional dancers and long-time dance educators Michelle Loucadoux and Kristin Deiss have joined forces and experience to bring mental wellness to the forefront of the minds of the dance community by providing a virtual safe space for education and connection for dancers and dance educators.
Danscend’s mission is to bring mental wellness to the forefront of dance training by providing a space for education, application, and community to dancers, educators, and professionals. It offers virtual courses in mental wellness-related topics for dancers ages 13 and up and provides education and support for dance educators working to change the conversation in their classrooms. For more, see danscend.com