Excellence Vs Perfectionism in Dance”

Excellence Vs Perfectionism

Trying to strike a balance between achieving excellence and avoiding tipping into perfectionist tendencies is a fine line.

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralising” Harriet Braiker

As a dancer we are hard working individuals and keen to work towards our dreams and ambitions. Yet how far are we willing to go and when does it become unhealthy? It can be difficult to recognise the signs of perfectionistic qualities, whether it be in regards to yourself as an artist, by a teacher, choreographer or as a friend. Perfectionism is the setting of very high standards of performance and normally works in collaboration with persistent inner voice being tough and super critical about every move. Excellence is a more favourable mindset and allows for more fluidity in approach and artistic freedom, in contrast to a perfect mould or ‘right way’ of doing something.

Dancers striving for excellence, set challenging yet attainable, healthy goals. It gives a positive sense of challenge, increase in motivation and job satisfaction. Perfectionists set unrealistic goals that are unattainable and therefore will always see a huge, unsatisfying gap that leads to negative thoughts and emotions.

Perfectionism is complicated and combines several different elements. On the one hand it can lead you to have very high standards, be highly driven and determined and a need to be organised and structured. However, this can lead to an unhealthy mindset and give a sense that nothing is ever good enough, feeling disappointed, worrying about making mistakes, ruminating, feeling guilty and feeling critical of yourself and others.

Dancers who aim towards excellence have very high standards but are not so easily affected by criticism, drama or feeling like a failure if something hasn’t worked out first time around. Perfectionism tends to come with the heavy baggage of self doubt, inadequacy, low self esteem/confidence, anxiety and this can in turn have a negative impact on the physical body through disordered eating and injury.

Self Confidence
Perfectionism can cause an unhealthy relationship with yourself and those around you. Sometimes being a dancer can take over your life and if you feel you have failed as a dancer you can sometimes feel as if you are a ‘bad’ person. By working in the ‘excellence’ mindset, you are more likely to be able to differentiate between the two. Low self confidence can create stress and make training and performances feel like a mountain to overcome, rather than a joyful, exhilarating experience.

Disordered Eating
Perfectionism can be an instigator of eating disorders caused by a mindset of not only the dance performance having to be perfect but also the body. This in turn heightens stress, which can cause more attention to body weight and shape, obsession with thinness, over exercising and self restraint with particular foods.

By having perfectionist tendencies and unattainable goals, this can create anxious thoughts and depressing feelings. It can make you feel as if you are out of control, unable to make changes and improvements. The more anxious you become, the lower your self esteem.

Perfectionists tend to go crazy and overwork, training for long hours, which creates physical and mental exhaustion and not pacing time or energy. This overworking mentality will cause perfectionists to push until they are a heap on the floor.

Early indicators suggest that those who push themselves, create injury to a greater extent, are more likely to suffer with fatigue and will force themselves to return back to dance from an injury too early on.

Perfectionism can also lead to procrastination. It can create confusing feelings of not feeling ready to start a project, not feeling qualified enough or questioning if you have anything to offer to others. There is the excuse of I’m not good enough yet, or not perfect enough yet, or I don’t have enough training …. The list of excuses is endless…These fear based excuses, caused by perfectionism can be a distraction to avoid living up to your full potential.

How do we draw the line between excellence and perfectionism?

Good question! Here are some suggestions to help gain perspective….

1. Remember why you began to dance in the first place.
2. Is your life in balance and does it combine other activities other than dance?
3. Try out other art forms that inspire your dance life.
4. Do normal things outside of dance to gain perspective and give yourself a breather. This will help to re-energise you and give your creativity a fresh approach.
5. Talk to others about how you are feeling. Perhaps they are experiencing the same worries, doubts etc.
6. Try and take a step back from your dance work to gain some perspective. Try and see if you can approach it from a Birdseye view and as if you are looking down on it. What does it look like from another point of view and not being in it?
7. Meditate to gain a positive outlook and stay calm.
8. Write thoughts, ideas and worries in a journal.
9. Find a mentor who is experienced and can help you to set realistic, yet challenging goals. They may be able to help create achievable steps into manifesting these goals.
10. If it scares you a little, go for it. Try to not be afraid to look silly for a bit or make mistakes.
11. If it doesn’t work out the first time, thats fine. More than fine. Just try again. Figure out what didn’t go quite right and see how you can improve it for next time or it might just be a question of timing.
12. Talk about how you are feeling with friends and family or those who really champion you.
13. Be realistic and honest with your capabilities.
14. Have fun and be joyful!


Try out my personal training programme, RAISE THE BARRE http://hannily.co.uk/raise-the-barre/

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