Squashing Self-Doubt in the Studio
Without a doubt, the biggest obstacle I've had to face during the choreographic process for my new work as Mocean Dance's Emerging Artist in Residence has been my own self-doubt. I consider myself a pretty confident person.I know my strengths (and weaknesses) and self-doubt doesn't usually take up a lot of real estate in my mind on any given day. This was not the case, however, during my first professional choreographic experience.
Early on in my process, I questioned every move I made. I would have an exciting idea and then lose all my steam by wondering what others would think of it. Would my boss approve of it? Would my peers would like it? Would it blow up on Instagram? How will it resonate with my future audience? Not only did this relentless self-doubt severely impede my choreographic process, it also dampened my confidence and hurt my vision for the piece. I began this residency by doing so much research and cultivating very specific ideas for the piece that I wanted to make. By letting self-doubt live rent free in my mind and trying to create movement that others would approve of, I got further and further away from my initial, special vision for the work.
A conversation with one of my mentors really changed the way that I work in the studio. I was telling her about my struggles with self-doubt and how I kept trying to create movement that I thought everyone else (my boss, my peers, the internet, an audience) would like and approve of. Of course I knew that rationally this goal was impossible. But that didn't stop me from constantly evaluating my choreography against what I thought others might think of it. My mentor told me a phrase that I have repeated to myself many times since hearing it: "I am the source." It sounds simple enough, but she encouraged me to have confidence in myself and know that no one else could create the same piece that I was making. Art is subjective, so people will of course have their own preferences and opinions. However, remembering that I am the source for my work gives me the confidence to present a work that is entirely true to myself and my vision, and let others form the opinion that they will.
One of the most valuable things that I have learned through this residency is that the only way to create choreography that is my best work is to squash my self-doubt by investing in my core ideas and knowing that I am the source of my work, this piece, and my ideas.