Mistakes Can Be A Blessing In Disguise

"For Beginners"
(reprinted from ZAGHAREET! May/June 2003)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole

Don't you hate getting caught doing something "wrong"? 

  During the first few months of class I tell students I'll give individual corrections unless they'd rather I didn't; over the years only a very few have decided to forgo corrections. Most students seem to feel they'll get more for their money by hearing how they can improve, and take corrections with a good grace. But sometimes I can tell by body language & expression that some students wish they hadn't..."been caught". 
  Home practice can noticeably accelerate skill development, so if you start taking belly dance classes in September, by April you could be way behind or ahead of your classmates, depending on who is and who is not practicing at home - and that's often when feelings get touchy about taking corrections in class.

  It's not that those who practice at home get LESS correction - they still get corrected! It's just that they and everyone else can see the difference in who is "getting" the move/combination/cymbal pattern, and who isn't. These home-practitioners are more in touch with their bodies, more comfortable moving, taking a chance, trying new things - all of which tends to help them improve constantly. The NON-practitioners are a bit more awkward and unskilled at controlling their body, and consequently less comfortable trying something new. They have less confidence - and that's a big part of success. 

  Students whose self-image is suffering don't take corrections well. What was OK before now feels like being picked on and singled out. It's a time-worn saying, but true: with belly dance, you get what you give. Give it your time & energy, and you'll get much satisfaction back. YOU are the one in control - YOU can decide to invest in yourself, and reap the benefits. 

  But even "the good students" get corrected and don't always like it. Maybe they don't realize they're just getting a chance to develop their ability to fail well.

Yes - fail well.
  Anyone can be nice when things are going smoothly - but when things don't go our way, the mask drops a little. Those around us snap to attention, suddenly becoming hyper-aware of what we do and how we act, mentally taking notes to share with friends later! Everyone loves a good "failure story" when there's an element of "Lo, how the mighty are fallen!"

  Success breeds confidence, it's true - but you can have too much of a good thing. If you're afraid to fail because you're used to being "the good one", that's just as much of a liability as clumsiness. Don't kid yourself - no one here is perfect. Like I tell my students: there's always someone better, there's always someone worse. Welcome the chance to experience failure because it teaches you valuable life-lessons like humility, perseverance, and helps you acquire wisdom - because defeat is the mirror that lets you see "the real you". 

  Learn to fail gracefully! When you "fail" to get something right in class, accept your momentary "wrongness" - admit you were wrong without long-winded explanations of why or what you were thinking, etc.

Forgive yourself for failing, forgive your classmates for witnessing it, forgive your teacher for pointing it out, and go on.

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