FO • MO –ˈfōmō/ – a.k.a Fear Of Missing Out.
As the new year begins, so does a new competition season. Professional and amateur ballroom couples will get out their calendars and calculators and decide which competitions they will attend in 2017. Likewise, students will sit down with their teachers to plan out their competition goals for the year. But what if you’re not one of them?
You love competing as a ballroom dancer, but before the year even starts, you know your chances of entering a competition are slim to none. Maybe you don’t have a partner or maybe your competition dreams are a lot more than your wallet can handle. Whatever the reason is, you can’t help but sigh as ballroom FOMO settles on your shoulders.
You are not alone. Limited funds mean I enter a fraction of the pro-am competitions that my fellow ballroom students attend. It is easy to feel left out or even a little jealous when it seems like I am the only one not going to a competition and everyone else is taking more lessons or coachings. I call it the comparison trap. By focusing on what others have that I don’t (or what I think they have), I make myself feel inferior and unworthy. I ignore my own accomplishments and instead only see how I’m lacking or flawed. I lose motivation and start to forget that I’m doing this because I Love Ballroom Dancing. The joy begins to fade.
It’s normal to compare yourself to others. Some comparisons can be good when they inspire, motivate or encourage you to grow and improve yourself. You have to maintain a realistic perspective though. While I still fall into the comparison trap a lot more than I’d like to admit, I have some strategies I can offer to help you if you start feeling overwhelmed by a fear that you’re missing out on the ballroom experience. Here is what I do to combat my own cases of ballroom FOMO.
Remind yourself to not compare.
I know you know it, but like in our dancing, we all need occasional reminders of what we’re supposed to be doing. Unless you meet someone with a life that exactly mirrors your own, it would not be a valid apples-to-apples comparison anyway.
Focus on your own journey.
We are all on different journeys and we are never fully aware of another’s. Maybe another student can afford more competitions than you, but maybe they do it by working an incredibly stressful job and ballroom is their escape. “I am on my own journey” is a mantra of mine. I realized that when I took my focus away from that journey, I was only met with negative feelings of inferiority, jealousy and doubt. I am happiest when my sights are set on my own path and I’m not worrying about what others are doing.
Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments.
We train our brains on what is important by our focus. After a success, however small, if we don’t take the time to celebrate it and instead just jump to the next goal or task, we’re telling ourselves that the success wasn’t that big of a deal. But it is a big deal! You finally figured out that one really difficult dance step. Yes! You performed a spotlight dance at a studio party. Rock on! You entered a competition this year. Awesome! You work hard for your ballroom passion, so you deserve a little celebration.
If you’re going to compare, compare to your past self.
There will always be someone prettier, richer or better than you. We’ve already established why comparing yourself to them isn’t a good idea (unless it’s for inspiration or motivation). Instead, take a look back on your own journey and see how far you have come. Did you ever think you would make it this far? Look at photos or videos of yourself from when you first started and compare them to more recent ones. I think you will be amazed at the difference.
Even if you don’t think you will be able to compete this year, you should still give yourself something to work toward. After I realized I wouldn’t be able to compete for a long time after CalOpen, I started learning a new ballroom style. I also started taking hip hop classes, which provided me a dance class even during those weeks when my teacher was away with other students at a comp. If you’re not sure what goal to set, talk with your teacher and come up with a plan together.
If you know you’re going to be bummed the day of an event that you’re missing out on, plan to do something else! Don’t just sit at home moping. Go out social dancing. Get some dance practice in! If just thinking about ballroom makes you grumpy, then do something entirely different. I’ve had movie marathons with friends, tackled those home projects I’ve been meaning to get to, written two books (true story!), and taken day trips. There were a lot of ballroom events I missed out on in 2016, but I also accomplished a lot.
Don’t give up.
This is my other mantra. No matter how remote the possibility is, I always act as if I’m preparing for my next competition by continuing to save what I can. I also make the most of every dance lesson by giving 110%, so you know, if my fairy ballroom sponsor shows up in the studio and tells me I’m competing next weekend, I’ll be ready. Back in reality, I want finances to be the only thing holding me back from competing. When I do have enough money saved, I don’t want to be delayed longer because I slacked off and my dancing isn’t up to par.
It can really suck to be so passionate about something but be unable to participate in it as fully as you want. It can be frustrating to watch others pass you by. That doesn’t mean you stop trying though. Hold onto that passion and let it fuel your determination to not give up on your ballroom dreams. Maybe you can only afford one competition a year. Maybe you can only afford one round of single dances and a scholarship. So what? You deserve to be out on that floor just as much as those dancing hundreds of entries at 15 competitions a year. And when you do get out there, you’ll appreciate those moments of performance more because you’ll have worked so much harder to get there.
I hope to see you out on the competition floor soon!
Author: The Girl With The Tree Tattoo
Exclusively for Dance Comp Review