When a competition is approaching, my friends will ask me, “Are you excited for your next competition?” And while I am usually excited, it is mixed with a hefty side of “I don’t feel ready.” I kind of laugh and say, “I don’t feel ready, but I’ll take what I got and see how we do.” Truly I am not too upset about this. I used to think it was a problem to not be “ready.”
I finally decided one day that I will probably always feel not ready. I don’t feel ready because in the back of my head I always know that there is more to be done. I am not done developing, and so I will always know there is room for improvement. In fact, I will never bring a fully ready, fully polished, complete dancer to a competition. I will always be a work in progress. I am certain that even the pros feel they have areas they can improve upon and are striving to reach them.
So I like to think about dance competitions like track meets. Kids who go to track meets are never “ready.” They always have a short amount of time to prepare and then just go and compete with whatever they have. The track season is only 2 months long around here, 3 at the most, and can you imagine if they just prepared for 3 months and then had one meet? That kind of doesn’t even make sense. They get way more benefit out of competing every week as they go.
So it goes with us. We prepare in whatever time we have, and then we go to a competition. We bring whatever we have. Your brain will tell you all the things that you don’t have, but your job is to redirect to what you do have. What has improved since last time? What are your strengths? In what ways are you prepared? And also, remind yourself that it’s okay that there are some things that haven’t fully developed yet. That is the way of it. That’s to be expected.
After you compete, you have a whole new set of data you can use to inform your next steps. There are some things that you can only learn in competition. Some things cannot be replicated in a lesson or any other environment. And the only way to get better at competing is to compete. You take that data, you apply it, work some more, gain some new skills, and then compete again. Just like those track kids.
You don’t need to be ready. You probably won’t feel ready. But that means you are right on track. Don’t let “I don’t feel ready” be the reason that you hold yourself back. Honestly, in my opinion, competing is where you will gain the most improvement the quickest. It’s the best teacher there is.