outcome goals, goal setting, achieving goals

Performance vs Outcome Goals: The Role of Each in Productive Goal Setting

Goal setting is a tool people have been using to achieve hard things for a long time. But as more and more studies about goal setting are released, the more types of goals there are to learn about. Today we’ll be talking about Outcome Goals and Performance Goals and why we need both of them. 


First things first, let’s take a look at some working definitions.


Outcome Goal: 

Outcome goals focus on the final point of an event. For example: winning a game or booking a job. These goals depend on not only how you perform, but how those around you perform, or (in the case of booking a job) what casting has in mind. 

You can perform to the best of your ability and still may not achieve your outcome goal. That’s why it is so important to have other goals that support this goal to help keep you focused. 


Performance Goal:

Performance goals do outline the end product of a performance, but they are mostly focused around personal acheivements and therefore compared to previous performances. 


For example: Consistently nailing a triple pirouette with a clean landing. Or, achieving higher extensions and easier kicks.


These goals are generally a bit more flexible and within your control. Bonus, statistically speaking, these types of goals are associated with less anxiety and greater performance when compared to outcome goals. 



personal training for dancers



So, practically speaking:

You may have an outcome goal of being cast in “A Chorus Line.” 

You might then have a performance goal of nailing the turn combo in the audition combo. 


Now, there is a third type of goal called a Process Goal that can help us achieve performance goals.

Process goals are focused on improving the strategy, form, and anything else needed to achieve performance goals. 


So, using our earlier example. If you’re performance goal is to nail that turn combo, a process goal may be working on maintaining a stable and neutral spine in a forced-arch-passé. 


As you can see, each of these types of goals work together to help you acheive your desired outcome goals. Keeping this in mind when you are goal-setting will only help you on your journey.


Now, if you really want to start achieving your goals write them down. 

Studies have shown that people who write down their goals were 33% more successful in achieving them than those who only set goals in their heads. 

Want to take it a step further? More studies have shown that 76% of participants who not only wrote down their goals (all three types), but also provided weekly progress updates to a friend, successfully achieved their goals. 


This shows the importance of accountability in goal setting. Having someone you trust to report your progress to is an incredible motivator. This person is not only there to be reported to, but also to encourage you when the work toward your goals starts to feel long and arduous. 



A Challenge for You…

Take a moment right now and write down two of your outcome goals. 

Now, write down one or two performance goals that might help you reach those outcome goals. 

Next, write down two or three process goals  that will help you acheive your performance goals. 

Finally, (and this is the hardest part) write down someone you trust to be accountable to each week.  Make sure you ask them if they are able to be this person for you. 


Having trouble with the last one? If you’re a member of Dancers Who Lift, ask your trainer if they can be that person for you and add it to your weekly check-in. 


Not a member of Dancer’s Who Lift, but don’t have anyone to be your accountability buddy? Reach out to us at info@dancerswholift.com or on instagram or Tiktok @dancerswholift. If we aren’t able to help, we’d love to connect you with someone who can!  

Ready to dive right into accountability? Check out our Body Mechanics program. Not only will you have access to trainers for accountability, but also the entire Dancers Who Lift community of dancers working together to reach their individual goals. 


food guilt, healthy eating over the holidays

Kick Your Food Guilt to the Curb: 5 Tips for Enjoying Your Food This Holiday Season

Talking about enjoying your food during the holiday season can bring up a lot of stress for people. Especially if you’ve been working hard to meet certain fitness goals or creating a healthy relationship with food. Fortunately, kicking your food guilt to the curb can actually be helpful in both of theses endeavors.

That’s why we created this list of 5 tips for enjoying your food this holiday season. Because food freedom can bring you so much more than just chocolate cake and pasta. (Although, those two things are definitely worth it!)


Stop Believing There are Good and Bad Foods

The belief that there are “good foods” and “bad foods” has run rampant among society for years. Statistically speaking, snacks, candies, and sweets tend to be labeled as “bad”, making food guilt when eating these foods much more prevalent. 

This is a real shame because studies have also shown that those who associate guilt with certain foods, rather than celebration, report unhealthier eating habits overall. On top of that, they perceive themselves as having less behavioral control over healthy eating. 


What does this mean?

It means that food guilt brought on by eating sweets, treats, or snacks, does not help you eat healthier. It actually leads you to feel more overwhelmed by the idea of eating healthy.


So ditch the idea that foods are good and bad and instead look at food as fuel! Making this shift allows us to recognize that different foods fuel our bodies in different ways. And when we accept this we can release the guilt we feel after eating those “bad foods.” 


Recognize that Food Guilt is NOT a Motivator

Food guilt will not motivate you to eat healthier. Take a look at  this study that revealed participants who associated eating chocolate cake with guilt did not have stronger intentions of eating healthy than those who associated it with celebration. 

What’s even more interesting, participants with weight-loss goals who had food guilt associated with chocolate cake were LESS successful as losing weight over a three month period than those who associated chocolate cake with celebration. 


Why might this be?

Well, some studies have shown that people who associate anxiety and shame after eating certain foods have a greater impulse to binge than those who don’t. This is because food deprivation leads to an increase cravings of those foods. 


On top of that, when you stop feeling guilty about eating foods it’s much easier to eat them in moderation because you no longer limit how often you can enjoy your food. If you can have Oreos whenever you want, you’re less likely to eat an entire sleeve in one sitting. 



Free energy estimator - macro calculator for dancers



Remember that Days or Weeks Will Not Undo Months or Years   

I get it. You’ve been working hard consistently for the past eight months. You’ve done a complete body recomposition with your trainer. You feel strong and sexy and you absolutely do not want to impede or, worse, lose your progress. 

One thing we know is that once you’ve been eating a balanced diet of proteins, fats, and carbs, consistently for along period of time you will start to naturally balance your plate that way. Consistent habits die hard. 


Another thing I want to discuss is the apple seed theory. Did you know that apple seeds are poisonous? It’s true, they are literally arsenic. Luckily, we aren’t sitting around eating apple seeds like peanuts and cracker jacks, Instead, we maybe consume or two here and there when we are munching on an apple and it’s fine. No tummy aches, no accidental death by apple seeds.  

The same is true about our meals. If one, or even four of our 21 meals during a week aren’t *perfect* it’s not going to affect us in the long run. Especially if after your holiday you return to a more balanced diet. 


Consistency will always pay off! But celebrating life will always be worth a deviation. 


Eating Mindfully Ensures that You Will Enjoy Your Food

A very important part of enjoying your food is taking the time to enjoy your food. 

I’m not kidding. 


Take time to notice how your food smells. 

What’s the texture like in your mouth? 

Notice all of the flavors.

And finally, chew your food completely.


This is important to do anytime you’re eating a meal. But, when we are eating foods that trigger food guilt, or that we have labeled as “bad,” we have a tendency to eat them quickly. As if eating them fast minimizes our choice to consume them. 

Unfortunately, this often leads us to over eating and can start to reinforce a “scarcity mindset” around these yummy foods that bring us joy. 


These special foods are just that, special. So take the time to really enjoy them! You deserve it! And, when you take the time to eat your food, your body will have time to send your brain full cues, making you less likely to over indulge. 


Plan Ahead 

We’ve all been there. We had a friends giving last weekend and arrived home early on this been week. We’ve enjoyed some drinks. Eaten out. And snacked on our favorite holiday snickadees all week long. 

Then, you wake up on Thanksgiving morning and the smell of cinnamon buns waft through the air. Someone greets your with a mimosa and a coffee and everyone settles into the couch to watch the parade.

After eating a cinnamon roll and some bacon your heart sinks because you know you not only have the meal this afternoon, but pumpkin pie tonight, and leftovers tomorrow. You start mentally calculating the entire week and the anxiety starts to seep in. 


First, take a deep breath and re-read number three. However, if a week of indulging tends to leave you feeling sluggish or you’re finding you’re feeling sick after each meal, try planning ahead. 

If you know there are certain foods around the holidays that tend to be triggering, take some time ahead of time to ask yourself, why.  What about this food pushes you to eat past the point of enjoyment? Understanding why certain foods trigger us can help us feel like we have more control around those foods. 


Another tool to make sure you’re not indulging past the point of enjoyment? Plan a couple meals that you are choosing to prioritize protein and fiber.

 I don’t know about you, but after three or four days of decadence, I often find myself craving salads, fruits, and veggies. Planning ahead to ensure our bodies are getting nutrient dense foods throughout our vacations can really help us listen to our hunger and full cues throughout the week! 



Have you tried any of these before? Will you try any of these in the future? Remember, the goal is not to limit your enjoyment of special holiday foods. The goal is to give you tools to remove food guilt from your holidays so that you can spend time enjoying your food with your family and friends. 


7 types of boundaries

Honor Your Limits: 7 Types of Boundaries and How to Set Them

Learning how to set boundaries can be really hard. Especially when you’re setting boundaries in relationships that’ve previously gone unchecked.

But whether you’re setting boundaries at work, or in interpersonal relationships, boundary setting is an important part of self-care. It aids in protecting you from burn out and resentment, and boosts your emotional wellbeing and sense of autonomy and identity.

Today we are going to discuss 7 types of boundaries that are worth looking at when building relationships with others and deepening your relationship with yourself. But before we dive in, it’s important for us to understand exactly what boundaries are. 


First, It’s important to understand what boundaries are

Boundaries are clear, communicated guidelines established to help communicate the behavior you will accept from others and what behaviors they can expect from you in all types of relationships. 

These boundaries will vary person to person and situation to situation. For example, appropriate boundaries in an audition room might seem a bit stifling at movie night with the girls!

What’s important to keep in mind here, especially as we get into the 7 types of boundaries below, is that boundaries are all about you. Not about controlling the other person.

 For example: If you send me a text at work, I won’t answer it until I’m on my break or work is over. 

See how this puts all of the power of boundary maintenance on your shoulders rather than being dependent on the other person’s ability to change their behavior? 

This also allows you the freedom to be in control of how that boundary is maintained. 


Visualizing Boundaries in Relationships

You see, boundaries are often viewed as walls. But instead, I’d like you in imagine a boundary as a large fence with a locked gate. Then, when you come up against things that test your boundaries in any given relationship you have three choices:

-Be pushed over the fence. 

-Choose to unlock the gate and walk through the fence. 

-Choose to stay put next to the fence. 

Thinking of boundaries in this way allows for relationships to grow, ebb, and flow based on the level of trust built up in those areas. 


The 7 types of Boundaries

Boundaries will vary relationship to relationship. They can also change depending on the setting; i.e. if you’re one on one, in a large group, or working professionally. 

That’s why understanding the different types of boundaries can be helpful. So that when you feel imposed upon, resentful, or angry, you have to tools to deduce which of your boundaries was infringed upon and how you might go about communicating your needs. 



Boundaries around our time can be very challenging for people in our industry. Because we love what we do, it can be very hard to protect the need for us to have “off-time.”

Personally this might look like having one day a week that you don’t take class, don’t practice, and don’t submit to auditions, etc. 

Relationally this might mean setting a time limit of availability when helping others with self-tapes. For example: “I’d love to help with your tape, but I have to leave by __ time.”

It could also look like protecting your “free-time” so it actually remains free, giving you the opportunity to incorporate rest or even spontaneity in your life. 



mindfulness to examine boundaries




Emotional boundaries require us to be in tune with how we are feeling emotionally and psychologically. Ask yourself, “How emotionally available am I right now? Do I have to capacity to help in this way?”

This one comes up a lot during audition season. Sometimes we’ve recently been dealt a big rejection and at the same time a friend of ours is asking for help on a final callback. 

It’s okay to communicate your need for space and say no. It might sound like this,

“I am so happy for you and I am rooting for you, however I don’t have the capacity to help you with this right now.”


This also comes up around the holidays when family members are talking about political issues you have a personal tie to, or even asking you questions in an effort to understand your choices. But again, It’s okay to communicate your needs and ask to change the subject. It might sound like this, 

“I love that you want to understand more about me, but emotionally I don’t have the capacity to explain it all right now. Thanks for understanding.”

Remember, like Brené Brown always says “Choose discomfort over resentment.” The momentary discomfort you may feel expressing your needs, is way better that letting a relationship deteriorate because of resentment or anger. 


“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice” -Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection



Mental boundaries represent the freedom to have your own thoughts, values, and opinions. Mental boundaries are excellent around the holidays. Debates surrounding politics, religion, morals, etc. can become heated very quickly when our loved ones find we disagree with them. 

But sometimes these debates become less about understanding one another and more about changing your mind. At that point, it’s time to set a boundary.

Setting a mental boundary might sound like,

“I respect your perspective, and I understand how you might feel that way, but I do not agree.” 



Physical boundaries are one of the most often crossed out of the 7 types boundaries we are discussing today. And that’s because a lot of people assume others’ physical boundaries based on how they like to be touched. That’s why it’s a good rule of thumb to always ask before hugging or touching someone. 

It also means that physical boundaries are super important to communicate early on. I find that people are more than happy to observe physical boundaries once they are communicated, so don’t be afraid to voice your needs. 

That might sound like, 

“I don’t love giving hugs unless I initiate them.” 


“I know physical touch is important to you, but I don’t feel comfortable with it, is there another way I can support you, right now?” 



Conversational boundaries exist so you can communicate topics that you do and do not feel comfortable discussing. Now, this is not a get-out-of-tough-convos-free card. This is a way to protect your peace when triggering, upsetting, or hurtful conversations arise. 


Setting a conversational boundary might sound like,

“I would rather not be a part of this conversation. I’m going to go to another room.”

Or (in the event that this conversation is also crossing a mental boundary)

“I appreciate your perspective, but I do not agree. And while I love learning more about something your passionate about, I’d like to take a break from this subject.”




Material boundaries exist to help you protect your autonomy surrounding monetary decisions, giving, or lending to others. 

If you’re a girl, you’ve likely had someone ask to borrow a piece of clothing. I, personally, do not like sharing clothes. As that was an anomaly in our college dorm I had to set a boundary. It sounded like this, 

“I don’t like to lend my clothes out.”

Or, if I had the time,

I don’t lend my clothes out, but I’d be happy to be a set of fresh eyes on styling something in your closet!”


Material boundaries are also helpful when it comes to lending money. 

I’m not able to lend you money right now.”  



Finally we have arrived at the last of our 7 types of boundaries: Internal boundaries. 

Internal boundaries are all about self-regulation and how we expend our energy on ourselves and on others. 


Setting an internal boundary might sound like this, 

“I have been social all week, I need to weekend to refill at home with myself.”


“I feel really low after making that mistake, I’m going take a moment and breathe before I jump into my next task. 


How to Set Boundaries

Now that we know 7 types of boundaries. Let’s talk about how to set them

It’s surprisingly simple. 


First, you define what you need and what boundary will help you fill that need. 


Then, you communicate your need and boundary. Boundaries are best received when stated in terms of what you’d like rather than what you don’t like – keep this simple. You do not need to over explain or apologize. 


Finally, you need to set consequences. These are not punishments for crossing boundaries, these “consequences” are focused on communicating how crossing these boundaries makes you feel. 


For example, 

“When you don’t respect the boundaries set around my free-time, I feel like you don’t value my need for rest.”


Remember, boundaries can always be adjusted. You can always open the gate, close the gate, or communicate a new boundary. 

But boundaries, despite their name, give relationships freedom. 

Freedom from resentment. Freedom from anger. And freedom from unintentional hurt. When we communicate our needs with others, we learn more about ourselves and them. 


So, if the person does not react well to these boundaries or pushes back, don’t be afraid to stand your ground and restate your need and your why calmly. 


Remember, “Discomfort > Resentment.”

What do you think?

warming up for dance

The Secret to Warming Up for Dance Auditions…The Right Way!

I get it. Warming up for dance auditions is challenging. You’re squished into a tiny holding room that’s basically a landmine of dance bags, water bottles, and feet. 

Half the room is doing their makeup, the other half is waiting to find out if they’ll be seen. And everyone else is being very particular about “the line.” 

It’s noisy, cramped, and definitely not an ideal space to warm up for dance. Especially if you are trying to actually warm up – not just sit in a deep second while you catch up with your friends.


But despite its challenges, studies show that warming up before auditions (or any physical activity)  improves performance. 

Active and passive warm-ups ensure your muscles are supplied with oxygen and are at the at optimal temperature for flexibility and efficiency, and it  helps to minimize stress on your heart. Because of this, warming your body up for dance also helps reduce the risk of injuries to muscles and tendons because they are already stretched and warmed.


Think of it like turning the air conditioner on. At first, the AC has to work extra hard to bring the temperature of the room down. But once it’s cooled, you can change the setting to “energy saving” which simply “maintains” the temperature by working at a lower energy level. 


So what should I do when warming up for dance auditions and classes?


A good warm up exercises bring the body temperature and heart rate up without over exhausting your system. 

The biggest thing is we want your warm up to be dynamic; consisting of an active cycle and a passive cycle (post warm up when you keep your body warm while waiting). 


A great way to do this is to have a consistent, active warm up that you do every time you are warming up for dance. That way, whether you are auditioning, taking dance class, or doing pre-production, your body is prepped to do what it needs to do. 


Then, after your active warm up, keep your layers on and stay warm. 


And Finally, don’t forget to warm up your mind. 


Studies have shown that athletes who prepare their minds before working out feel less stressed and more mentally ready use mental skills to exercise than those who did not.

Imagine walking into an audition room feeling less stressed, mentally focused, and ready to work physically?

A dream.


Want a sample of what warming up for dance should look like with all this in mind?

I thought you’d never ask.


Warming Up for Dance Auditions- Holding Room Approved!

Before we even start, I want you to first find a little space. In all my years as a professional dancer, I have learned that if you claim space people will give it to you. 

Now, don’t be a jerk, but find enough room to warm up, and people will respect that. Usually an acceptable rule of thumb is, enough room to do a plank will give you enough room to warm up. 

Let’s get started: 


  • Good Mornings:

Now that you have room, stand with your feet hip width apart and place your hands on your hips. 

Now, soften your kneels and gently hinge your hips back, keeping your core braced. You should feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings and a contraction in your glutes as you stand. 

Repeat this about ten times to “wake-up” the backs of your legs. 


  • Lunge with a Twist

For this one you’ll want to lunge forward, keeping your hips square. 

Then, slowly twist your shoulders toward your front leg,  and reach your arms in opposite directions. 

Finally, return to center and step back to parallel. 

Repeat on the other side, alternating for a total of 12 reps (6 on each side). 


  • Runner’s Lunge with Flexion and Extension

This warm up is wonderful for kicking on your glutes and core while also opening up your psoas muscle. 

To set yourself up, get into a lunge with bloth legs bent. For high intensity, place your hands on your hips rather than the floor. (If you choose to keep your hands on the floor, make sure your hips maintain a straight line with your back and remain square). 

Next, slowly straighten your back leg by pushing through your heel. Then, slowly bend back to the starting position. 

Repeat this for ten reps on each side. 


*Tip: the slower you move, the more challenging this exercise will be!


  • Kneeling Hip Tucks

Stay in your kneeling position for this one! Place your hands on your hips and, keeping your spine neutral, tuck your hips then return to neutral. 

You should feel the stretch in the front of the back leg, so long as your hips remain square, and your glutes stay engaged!

Repeat for 12-15 reps on each side. 


  • Kneeling Hamstring Hinges

You may want to place something under your knee for this one!

To set up, you’ll simply extend your front leg from your lunge so that one leg is straight in front of you, while your are kneeling tall on the other. 

To relieve pressure from your knee, make sure you are pushing into the shin of your bent leg and engaging your glutes and core. 

Place your hands on your hips and, maintaining a braced core, hinge your hips backward. 

Squeeze your glutes (much like a deadlift) to push your hips back to neutral. 

Repeat this for 8-10 reps on each side.


  • Hamstring Slides

For this next one, use your dance bag to rest your hand on for balance if you need! 

This warm up has the same starting position as our Hamstring Hinges, except, instead of hinging, you slowly slide your foot forward until you feel a stretch. 


Then, activating your hamstring, pull your hips backward to return to your neutral position.

(To add some extra range of motion, you can pull all the way back into a hinge before returning to neutral if you’re in need that day)!

Repeat this on each side however many times you need until you reach your maximum range of motion. 


  • Eccentric Push-ups (Standard or Kneeling)

Warming up for dance would not be complete if we didn’t warm up our upper body as well!

For this exercise, you’ll want to get into a plank position. (If that is too challenging for you, this also works from a kneeling position as well!) Your hands should aligned with your shoulder.

In your plank remember to gently pull your shoulder blades together, and brace your core. 

Slowly lower yourself toward the floor as low as possible with control. When you’ve reached your max, gentle let yourself down to the floor and reset in your plank. 

Repeat this for 6-8 reps. 


  • Mountain Climbers

Now, that our bodies are warm, let’s raise that heart rate a bit. 

Get yourself into your plank position. Shoulders down, core activated. 

Start slowly, and without letting your hips shoot up to the ceiling, pull your right knee into your chest. 

Then, shoot it back, while your other knee pulls in. 

Repeat this slowly for 4-6 reps, then pick up the pace for 8-10 more. 


Warming up for Dance Auditions, Mentally: 

Warming up for dance mentally is especially important for auditions. 

There is so much chaos around you in a holding room, getting centered is incredibly important. 


A mental warm up also gives you the opportunity to tune into your body and make sure you have enough layers on to stay warm passively. 

This might mean throwing and extra sweatshirt in your dance bag, just in case the wait is long. But maintaining the heat you generated in your warm up will only help you in your audition. 


So, what’s a mental warm up?

A mental warm up centers your mind on the task you are about to do. It strengthens your mind body connection and preps your muscles and nerves for the quick communication that is about to be demanded of them. This, in turn, reduces the stress and anxiety often assicated with performance.  


Sound like that might benefit someone who’s warming up to dance in an audition or show?

warming up for dance mentally






Let’s try it.

This guided mental warm up recommends that you stand- but you can easily do this sitting with a long spine, attention focused on where your sits bones connect with the floor if preferred. 


So, put on some head phones in, and let’s try it. 


Stand tall with soft knees and your feet shoulders width apart. Breathe through your nose and inhale, filling first the lower part of your lungs, then the middle part, and, finally, the upper part. Hold the breath for a few seconds and exhale slowly, relaxing your abdomen and chest. 


Take another deep breath through your nose and inhale, again filling first the lower part of your lungs, then the middle part, and, finally, the upper part. As before, hold the breath for a few seconds and exhale slowly, relaxing your abdomen and chest.


 Resume breathing normally. (You can use deep breathing to calm yourself as needed.)


Now take a moment to get a clear mental picture of the main thing you want to accomplish in your audition (or show).  Close your eyes as you think about something that is within your control. 


What do you see in this mental picture of what you want to accomplish? 


Do you notice any sensations in your body? 


How do your muscles feel? 


What sounds do you hear? 


Make the mental picture as clear and vivid a possible.


Okay. Now, let the mental picture fade and focus again on your breathing. 

Stand tall with your knees soft and your feet shoulders width apart.


 Breathe through your nose and inhale, filling first the lower part of your lungs, then the middle part, and, finally, the upper part. Hold the breath for a few seconds and exhale slowly, relaxing your abdomen and chest.


Now bring back the mental picture of what is in your control to accomplish in this audition (or show). 


 As the clear and vivid mental picture of what you hope to accomplish reappears, what do you see? 


What sensations do you notice in your body? 


How do your muscles feel? 


What sounds do you hear? 


Allow yourself to fully experience this mental pictur and  fill yourself with the belief that you can make it happen today.


Let the mental picture fade once again.


 Imagine a warm glow forming in your stomach, right in your core. 


This warm glow is full of energy and is slowly starts to spread throughout your body.


As the energy spreads, jump up and land with both feet. (or, if sitting, roll through your spine.)


Shake out your arms and feel the energy starting to surge from inside you. Feel the energy launch you into the air again, land, and shake out your arms.


Keep that feeling of energy and, as you do, bring back the mental picture of the main thing you hope to accomplish today one final time.


 Check your energy level. 


Use the warm glow of energy in your body to raise your energy level or your breathing to find the level of energy you need and get yourself ready to perform. 


You have the appropriate level of energy, you know what you want to accomplish, you believe you can accomplish it, and you are ready to do it. On the count of three, we will clap our hands (or tap your thighs, or inhale and exhale) three times and go do it.


A mental warm up like this can be recorded in your voice memos and played over your head phones, or simply meditated on daily! Why limit yourself to pre-performance success if the same can be applied to workouts and other tasks?


Most importantly, I leave you armed not only with the tools for warming up for dance the right way. But I also leave you with a guide for those days when you’re not feeling up for creating something of your own. 

Let us know if you try it.  We love hearing about your wins!

Negative Self-talk- Dancers Who Lift- Blog

Flip The Script of Negative Self-Talk


Let me tell you a story about the first time I flipped the script on my negative self-talk.

The day I met my Mother in Law for the first time, I was NERVOUS. I had no reason to be, I’d met other boyfriends’ moms in the past and it always went well. But for some reason, I was especially nervous to meet her. Maybe it was because I didn’t have a show to brag about being in, maybe it was because I had just lost my side hustle and felt a little lost, or maybe it was because I knew that *this particular* boyfriend was different than all the others. Either way, when the day arrived I sheepishly admitted to my- now husband- that I was very nervous. He chuckled a bit and assured me that everything would be fine and then he said,

 “Or you could do what I do when I’m nervous and give yourself a high five!” 

Perplexed, I looked at this sweet man and said “What? Like, slap my own hand?” 

“No!” he laughed. “You go into the bathroom, you look at yourself and say ‘You’ve got this’ and then high-five yourself in the mirror.” 

I erupted in laughter. No way was I going to high-five a mirror. No way that would help. I am a professional performer, I don’t need confidence tricks like that.


Fast forward to halfway through my gnocchi.

I was starting to get nervous- the kind where it’s going well so you’re nervous it’s going well- I excused myself to the restroom. I needed to stop the negative self-talk. So, I took a deep breath, looked in the mirror, and said “You’ve got this!” looked both ways and gave myself a high five. And I’m not going to lie, despite feeling immensely silly, it worked. What’s even crazier is, this seemingly silly technique is backed by science!

David Sarwer, psychologist and clinical director at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania says that speaking to oneself in the mirror is one of the first tools he uses with new patients. He says that physical transformation is not always enough if a person does not change how their body looks in their mind’s eye. Mirror affirmations are a step toward adjusting the way we think of ourselves. This goes way beyond our bodies too! Studies have shown that positive self-talk can affect how you handle and experience anxiety, improve technical performance, and help us cope with your emotions and mental stress.

On the flip side, research shows that negative self-talk can lead to cycles of self-fulfilling prophecies.

Basically put, if we are telling ourselves that we will never be good enough or thin enough or talented enough, we are less likely to work on those things and then, when we fail, think “See, I knew I couldn’t do it.” Additionally, some studies suggest that repetitive negative thinking is a risk factor for the persistence of depression and anxiety.

Now, before you get down on yourself, it’s important to know that negative self-talk is perfectly normal. Many people use it as a way to regulate behaviors they were taught were “bad” as a child – or even use it as a way to manage their expectations. But it’s important to know how to adjust those thoughts so you can get yourself out of a negative mindset and into a space that’s more conducive to your emotional and mental well-being. 

warming up for dance mentally

For Example…

 A few weeks ago I was in an advanced dance class. The teacher was excellent, the choreo was fun, and I was surrounded by my peers. But those final two counts of eight felt like they were taught at warp speed. I wasn’t nailing the turns, and I couldn’t seem to hit the transitions- making me fumble through the next four counts of choreography. The first time we ran it in groups I made an absolute mess of it. I was embarrassed and as we switched groups I looked around and thought,

“Is this class too hard for me? Maybe these aren’t my peers. Am I in the way? Maybe I don’t belong here.”

I sat in that for a moment and realized what I was saying to myself.  So, instead, I said to myself,

You are a professional dancer. You have a degree in this. You have danced on massive stages. You can get this, but you need to focus.”

 The next round, I nailed both the turns and the transitions.

Instead of allowing my negative self-talk to overwhelm my thoughts and disrupt my focus, I flipped the script. I affirmed my skills without negating the challenge ahead of me and I felt empowered. I had not only gotten the choreography, but I stood up to myself and gave myself the same encouragement I would have given a friend. This brings me to another effective tool for flipping the script on negative self-talk:

Talking to yourself as if you were someone else helps reverse negative self-talk.

Take a moment and picture someone you love. Maybe it’s a close friend, a niece or nephew, or maybe a younger sibling. Once you have this person, take a moment and imagine saying whatever you’re saying to yourself to that person. Odds are, you wouldn’t be as cruel. In fact, you might even be encouraging instead. Using that other person as a filter helps create distance between you and these thoughts.

I get it. Sometimes, mid-pirouette, it’s hard to imagine how you’d speak to your little sister. So what then?

Well, I have a little trick for you.  Studies have shown that using your own name instead of the “I” or “me” pronouns is just as effective at improving emotional regulation and self-control. The research team at MSU’s clinical psychophysiology lab discovered that using third-person self-talk can decrease emotional distress within one second of its use!

I know, SO COOL!

We have the power to change how we feel about ourselves immediately. This is because talking about yourself in the third person leads you to think about yourself as you would another person, creating distance from the situation–just like the visualization exercise above.   


So, next time you find yourself in a spiral of negative thoughts, take a moment and recognize what’s happening. Can you reframe your words to encourage rather than tear down? Now, insert your name and talk to yourself–it may feel silly at first, but once you start to notice a difference in how you feel it might become a daily habit! Have an audition? Have a chat with yourself in the mirror. Feeling the comparison thoughts pop into your head? Talk to yourself about how proud you are for showing up.

And if the thoughts become too heavy or too hard to talk yourself down from, it never hurts to reach out for professional help. In the meantime, these tools can be a big help. So, give it a try and let us know what you find! We’d love to hear all about how you’re cheering yourself on!