One of the most common things I hear from clients is, “I just don’t want to make a mistake,” or “I don’t want to f*** up,” or “I don’t want to mess up.”
Another friend in our Joyful Ballroom Facebook Group asked how to get over a bad performance.
The reason we are terrified of making mistakes is because of what we are making the mistakes mean. Some people make mistakes and it’s no big deal and they get over it. But some of us grab on to the mistake, inflate it in our mind, declare failure and infect the rest of the performances. This tells us it isn’t the mistake that is the problem, but what we are making it mean.
We might be making it mean that everything is ruined. Another reason is we believe that one mistake leads to another so it’s like we’ve started a domino effect and if everything isn’t ruined, it will be soon. We also might be making mistakes mean something about us and our worth or value as a dancer or a person in general. If that is the case, your performance just became very high stakes. A mistake would spell doom.
To get over mistakes, I recommend a couple of things. First, just commit to having a short memory. Forget it. Immediately. That moment is gone and the only way it infects the next is if you bring it along. Shelf it. You can always come back to examine and make improvements. But it will do NO good to dwell on it.
Secondly. make the mistakes small in your mind. Minuscule. Make them mean nothing. They don’t mean anything about you. Depersonalize them. Diffuse them of their power over you. All that happened was you expected one thing and something else happened. That’s it. It was a fraction of a percent of 2 minutes and you’re declaring a failure. Even if we messed up 10 percent, 90 percent was still as expected. Why is that a failure again? Mistakes are no big deal.
Lastly I recommend that you DO NOT make a flawless performance your expected standard. That is impossible and you are setting yourself up for failure. Plan for a performance that is better than last time. Plan to minimize mistakes and do all the preparation you can to minimize them. But don’t plan or expect you won’t have mistakes. Everyone has them.
Here’s the best news I can give you. The less power and focus you give to mistakes, the less of them you will make. Focusing on them and making them big increases the chances you will make more of them. So let’s just let it go, shall we?