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Ways to buoy dd's self-confidence


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I'm looking for any advice I can get here! My 14 year-old dd has become plagued with self-doubt this year, and I can't decide if it is a normal teenage thing that I just have to endure or not.


For a little background, we moved to a new state about a year and a half ago. DD loved her old ballet school, teachers etc... and felt mentored by the teachers, principal, and AD. I loved her ballet school too. It offered exactly the kind of schedule that is always recommended here for a pre-professional dancer. Obviously, it was very hard to leave. Even worse, we haven't been able to find a similar program in the new state. The first school we tried, though acclaimed by YAGP with several ABT National Training Scholars, did not suit her at all, and she was miserable. We switched schools a year ago, and it seemed like all was well. While not ideal, the school does offer 2 hour technique classes (with a reasonable amount of pointe) six days a week. They have trained countless professional dancers including a new principal dancer at NYCB. Every year their students are accepted to SAB, PNB, etc... and usually at least one gets accepted year round. So, it sounded great. At first she was much happier and attended ballet eagerly for the first time since we moved.


Unfortunately, this totally changed this year. She now thinks she's the worst dancer in her whole class and is always down on herself. She was always happy with herself before and knew she had talent as a dancer. When I ask her what is wrong, she says she can't do anything right. While everyone else is easily doing triple turns, she barely mastered doubles etc... even worse, she says her teachers hate her and are always saying, "you've got the body, the turn out, beautiful feet, amazing flexibility and hyper-extension but you don't use it!" I try to reassure her. She's always progressed slower than others. She also finally grew in the last couple years which totally threw her off too--and she still growing! She's extremely flexible and hyper-extended and has to fight to gain any strength, but she's frustrated and upset. Now I'm frustrated and upset, because I don't know what to do or say either. Any advice about how to get her through this rough patch so she doesn't just give up??

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Her teachers are the ADs. It's a small school, but a meeting with them might not be a bad idea, especially since dd's current feeling is that they hate her. I think everyone is frustrated because she's not progressing faster. I don't think she wants a break, though. She wants to go to class, and she's planning which schools to audition for summer schools (she wants a smaller program where she can get some personal attention). She's just frustrated and down on herself. :nixweiss:

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She also finally grew in the last couple years which totally threw her off too--and she still growing!


This could be a big part of her issues. Especially if she started her growth spurt later than others (I'm referring here to your "finally"), and they are settling back into their new bodies and she is not yet accustomed to hers. Your comment about her teachers saying "you've got the body, but you don't use it" makes me focus on this. With the added growth -- and adult hormone levels -- comes additional strength, as well as changes in balance. She may be facing the changes in balance but not yet developing her muscles. I would think it would be the teachers' job, in this case, to help her learn how to use her new and changing body to best advantage.


I would also not discount the general effects of moving, and changing studios (twice!).


In short, there's a lot going on for your DD. In your place, I might just gently remind her of that, and also keep in mind that 12-15 is generally a time of upheaval and uncertainty in a girl's life. If you think the teachers will be supportive and encouraging, then by all means go ahead with a meeting with them.

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The best cure for self-doubt, if it's not warranted, is right around the corner - SI auditions and acceptances. Sometimes, until a "stranger" tells you you're good, you cannot believe it! Focus on small programs like she wants, and she's bound to get a nice fat envelope sooner or later. Failing that, when my daughter got the studio blues - "I'm the worst, I'll never be good enough", we would spring for a "master class" or a visiting class at some out of town place. Getting new corrections, getting new feedback, and simply being in a different class for a day often gave her just the jump start she needed. Sometimes, she just needed to feel in control, and bringing that outside feedback back to her home teachers gave her the control and input she needed to forge ahead. Hang in there. This is a very common feeling, and from experience, only a teacher can help with the self-esteem. Mom praise just results in eye-rolling and "how would YOU know?!"

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Like Treefrog said, growth and strength is really the problem plus all the recent life changes! I understand why she's struggling, but it's hard to watch--and I feel helpless! I like the advice Dance1soccer1 gave about auditions, but I'm worried about how she'll do too as a result of her poor self-image right now. I really like the idea of a master class too. That's an interesting idea, and it's one I hadn't thought of doing. I'll suggest it to her because there's one coming to town in two weeks. She definitely needs to hear from an adult besides me that she's still got it in there somewhere.

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Freespirit - this is a tough one. My DS went through this for a few years, and the frustration/comparing himself to others really started to hinder his technical development. Unfortunately it becomes a circular conflict, the dancer is frustrated which leads to worry and feelings of lesser talent or ability, which leads to poorer performance in class, which leads to more frustration. I understand your frustration as well! It appears that she has the physical attributes, now she needs to believe in herself and her abilities. I know from my experience, it took my DS close to 2 years to work it all out in his head. He also had a teacher who was extremely supportive. And, he did go away to an overseas SI for a few weeks, which provided him a glimpse of other international dancers, contact with new teachers who gave him unbiased feedback. I think when he came back he realized that "Hey! I'm doing OK."...


I realize that this isn't really a solution, but rather empathy for your situation. However, do keep verbalizing your support of your DD and tell her to focus on herself and her abilities (this will seem endless at times, but it became my mantra)...however, she will have to dig deep to work it out between herself and most likely one of her teachers whom she feels gives her support and realistic, positive feedback.


Good luck.

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Well, if I had a dime for every teen that was going through what yours is..... :D


I think it's normal, but I also think it's a problem of the self-focus stage that teens tend to hit. What I did for my son may not work for your dd, but it worked for me. The first thing I did was to say, "I'm not going to listen to you put yourself down. It's a waste of your time and energy, and it's not going to fix the problem. Focusing on the negative will only make things worse. It's called self-fulfilling prophecy and if that's the route you wish to take, so be it".


I tried to stop him from even thinking along those lines and if I heard him talking to his friends about it, I'd step in.


The other things I did were to take him to our local facility for the severely challenged so he could see that there are people who not only can't dance at all, but have challenges that he can't even begin to imagine. He now does their Christmas show for them every year except this one because he had a show on that day.


I also had him set up a meeting with an advisor from our school.


I have little patience for self-pity I suppose, because ballet is not the end-all-be-all of life. There are some real struggles out there and sometimes teens need to be brought out of their navel-gazing to see the forest for the trees. :thumbsup:

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I'll second or third what Treefrog has said. It really does sound developemental. I get teary eyed when I think about DD two years ago and where she's at now. She was a cross between Gumbie and new born Bambi. The change is amazing. DS1 has just gone through his first major growth spurt. His change has been dramatic. He was Sponge Bob. His muscles were so soft and it looked like he was just going through the motions even though he was trying his darnedest. Now people comment on how strong he looks and how hard he is working in class. The only thing that's happened has been the changes from 12 to 13. DD's changes were more gradual and happened from 12-14. Your DD just sounds like she's a little later. Having now gone through this blossoming with two DKs, I can tell you in a year or two both of you will be amazed at her changes. Let her know there are plenty of DKs who go through this.

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My dd (14yo) brought me her journal. It was filled with comparisons to others and self-pity. DD has what sounds like your daughter's body and natural aptitude for ballet. DD is a string bean and strength has developed slowly. I took the journal to the AD. Yes, this is common for the age. No, they weren't concerned. They told me to tell her that she should look at all of her gifts for ballet and concentrate on them. The rest will come. DD also started Pilates once a week...it has been wonderful for her sense of balance and awareness of body position!


I think this calls for more patience and perseverance...our ballet mantra!

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Freespirit, I've read many times here on BTD that the dancers who are the most hyper-extended and flexible gain strength much more slowly than the others. They have to work very hard to learn how to control their bodies because of that wonderful gift of hyper-extension that'll serve them well later.


Your daughter's self-doubt is, as everyone else said, very common developmentally. Compound that with her growth spurt AND her natural flexibility with its corresponding difficulty to control, and it's easy to see how it has thrown her completely for a loop.


Perhaps search this site for those posts about flexibility and lack of strength in dancers her age and show them to her so she can take heart and realize that her flexibility is both a curse and a blessing for her right now. She'll be very grateful for it later, but right now it's simply going to be a little tougher for her than for others. But gosh, what a gift she has!

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Thanks everyone! :) Everything you are saying echoes what I've been telling her, but she's not listening to Mom (I mean what do I know?). I'll have her read the threads about hyper-extension and flexibility too--maybe hearing other people say it will help too.


Unfortunately, I think she's kind of tired of hearing that she just needs to work hard and be patient. It's hard to see others excelling and growing in leaps and bounds while you are crawling along at a snail's pace, and that's the part no one can fix. However, I think all the encouragement and advice will help her feel better.


Thanks again--I think I needed a sounding board too. I feel frustrated and helpless, and it stinks. I'm wishing for the times when she was three and a band-aid and a kiss made everything better.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My DD experienced this when she started at new studio as well. It's hard when the "good" dancers are already known and they tend to be a bit cliquish. Your child ends up "hanging" with the less talented or less committed dancers because they will let her in. However, this further exacerbates the problem.


She was so down on herself saying she had bad turnout, etc. I went in and talked to the director about all the things she had told me were wrong with her and the ballet master assured me she had fine turnout and a great facility for dancing - she had everything she needed, but needed to just work harder. When I told her that he thought this, it boosted her confidence. She assumed that he felt about her how she felt about herself. It's that old adage: I'm not what you think I am, I'm not what I think I am, I am what I think you think I am. Sad, but especially true for teens and preteens.


I also explained to her the importance of believing in yourself - that's half the battle. If two dancers dance exactly the same, but one dances as if she is the most beautiful ballerina on the planet, she will appear to be a better dancer. It's another sad truth - the appearance of confidence is half the battle won.


Just my humble opinion. Take it with a grain of salt.

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