Let me know if this sounds familiar. You’re a passionate dancer. You work hard in your private lessons and your solo practice. You’ve competed in a few small or local competitions and placed well. Your teacher thinks you’re ready for the big one! You do everything you can to prepare yourself to dominate that dance floor. Then you go and compete, and you lose big time. You may have even danced your best, but the results say the opposite. You return home devastated.
My big disappointment came in 2017 when, after years of always placing in the top three at competition, I competed at the World Championships and placed in the bottom three. I was crushed. I questioned whether my previous successes meant anything. I questioned whether or not I was really a good dancer. I questioned whether I ever wanted to compete again. I questioned everything!
Dancesport is both a competitive sport and a subjective art form, so you’re bound to experience disappointing results at some point. Even if you’re not in it to win it, you understand that feeling of working your butt off, only to be disappointed by your performance in the end. It happens, we all have bad days. Other days, the judges just aren’t into what we’re offering.
The important move is the one you make after the loss or disappointment. Are you going to wallow in self pity? Are you going to quit? Or are you going to pick yourself up and keep going?
The first step to bouncing back after a big loss is to acknowledge that it was a big loss. Losing sucks! There’s no way around it, and denying that it mattered to you only makes coming back from it harder. So go ahead and let your ego lick its wounds for a bit. It’s ok to admit that you’re upset or hurt or disappointed. I was all three after the World Championships in 2017!
You have to put a time limit on the ego nursing though. It’s healthy to acknowledge the negative, but wallowing in constant self pity is a different story. Don’t wallow.
Remind yourself that this latest performance is just one stop along your dance journey. You have so much more to learn and experience! Remember why you started dancing in the first place. Remember your passion for the dance, and don’t allow one big defeat to take that away from you.
More recently, when I was struggling to learn new choreography and feeling defeated because of that struggle, my teacher and I decided to take the time at the beginning of my lessons to dance a round of my old, familiar routines. It gave me a chance to get out of my head and just dance. After that, I felt more ready to take on the challenge.
So if you’re struggling to bounce back, be honest with yourself. Do you need to take a step back from the bigger goals like competition and just spend some time dancing for pure enjoyment?
Or do you need to refocus on your own journey and stop worrying about what others think or want of you?
That was my realization after my 2017 disappointment. I realized that part of the reason I didn’t place well was because I was too focused on what others (i.e., the judges) thought of my dancing, instead of just focusing on my dancing. I had to make a mindset shift. I was going to dance for myself, not for the approval of others. After I did that (and put in a lot of solo practice), I returned in 2018 and WON the World Champion title!
So don’t despair, dancer. Even the most successful dancers have experienced some form of defeat. It’s not about the losses. It’s about how you recover from them that matters.