I was just about to leave for my first big tango festival when a message popped up on my phone. It was from a skilled dancer raving over the amazing followers and how every dance was the “best one ever”. Then he said how excited he was to dance with me that afternoon.
My excitement shifted – without a clutch – to anxiety. Was I going to be totally out of my league? I had been working on my tango but I still had much to learn. I didn’t want to disappoint any kind-hearted, unsuspecting leads who took a chance on an unknown girl. First impressions matter – especially in tango.
That weekend, I felt this anxiety pulsing through my body with every guy who asked me to dance. Sure, the dances were amazing for me, but were they amazing for my partners? Because I truly cared about that.
My focus when dancing is on giving and creating. I seek to give perfect balance, timing and responsiveness. I seek to create a moment with my partner that leaves them feeling awe over what just transpired between us and the music.
That level of giving and creating takes time and work to master. Meanwhile, I wrestle with the insecurity of knowing that I’m not there yet.
When I began tango I discovered something terribly awkward. With it’s complex technique, requisite intimacy and demand for total vulnerability, tango makes people insecure. Could I get truly comfortable with being raw, vulnerable and (gasp) – imperfect in this unforgiving dance?
I could handle being raw and vulnerable – hey, I was once naked on stage. But the idea of people politely suffering through dances with me while making mental notes to avoid me for the next decade was unacceptable.
I am secretly obsessed with how I feel to my partner. I never want a lead to feel burdened by a lack of balance, or thrown off by bad timing or wonder how to control something that doesn’t listen and moves on auto-pilot. The insecurity is a result of how much I care about how I affect my partner and what we are collaboratively seeking to do.
Insecurity drove me to action.
Therefore, I work regularly with a pro. I insist he is brutally honest when training me. I attend weekly practicas (and probably annoy the leads with how much I ask how something felt or what would make it feel better). I ask for specific feedback. I assume nothing because I’ve been surprised in the past. Insecurity has kept me open to growing. It drives me to root out and fix everything that doesn’t feel good to a partner. Insecurity drives me to take an experience and seek ways to make it better.
This all served to help build greater confidence. However….
Confidence carries an ugly risk – assumptions. Sometimes we get so comfortable or confident that we get sloppy over time without realizing it. Or we think we know more than we truly do. A “good” embrace isn’t the same as a “phenomenal” embrace. Everything can be done better with new layers of technique.
As I develop confidence in an area, I keep it on my radar to check regularly with practice partners and my pro. I’ve grown sloppy two weeks later on something I thought I had nailed down.
So perhaps a dash of insecurity is a good thing after all… something to keep me humble and driven to stay on top of my game. A few weeks ago, I travelled to a festival out of state and had a drastically different experience. I felt confident. I felt humble. And even though I felt that tinge of insecurity, this time I knew what to do with it. I embraced it.
It’s a major dilemma every time. You see someone struggling and you can see exactly what the problem is. Do you say anything or not?
There is an unfortunate “best practice” of life that says that if you haven’t been asked for your advice, keep it to yourself.
My big struggle is keeping my mouth shut. The more skilled, knowledgable, experienced and wiser we get, the more we want to help the struggling, confused and oblivious ones, right?
*sigh* It’s not our job to tell others how to fix their lives. Not unless they ASK for our help, guidance or advice. And doesn’t it seem like those who need it most are the ones who don’t think anything is wrong?
That’s when I realized the value of asking for guidance even when I don’t think I need it. Even though I usually welcome uninvited feedback, I also actively seek it out. Everyone has something to teach you. Matthew Ferry advises us to find the person you resist most because that person has the most to teach you. I believe he is right.
As a partner dancer, I dance with a lot of people who can give me immediate feedback. Even though I’m pretty confident as a dancer, I frequently ask for input on what I’m doing and how I feel to them. Thank goodness I do that… Shockingly, it turns out I’m not perfect.
If someone out there is living the life (or mastering the skill) you dream of having, ASK them how they do it. ASK for their expertise. ASK for their recommendations. Most people LOVE offering advice and will do so kindly and compassionately. Everyone loves to share their “secrets” to success.
With the exception of this blog, which ironically, is filled with uninvited advice, I’m really working on asking more and saying less. Which can be painfully hard to do, especially when you feel like you’re really starting to figure things out. The reality is that I still have SO much to learn.
The best part? When more people embrace asking, those with a wealth of knowledge and experience can finally offer the help they long to give.