Tango is physically challenging, but the greatest obstacles are mental. Here are five common ones that can really trip us up…

Failing to accurately gauge our progress: Our perception of how improvement should feel is almost never congruent with how it actually happens. If we’ve been dancing regularly, then chances are we’re improving. But the process is gradual, and we don’t notice it right away. Don’t succumb to frustration, or the belief that we must be doing something wrong if we’re not getting better in the exact way we imagined. Every now and then, we need to step back and think about how far we’ve come since our first lesson.

Comparing ourselves as a way of determining how “good” we are: This is also a common issue in many non-tango activities, and it’s natural to feel insecure every once in awhile. But comparing ourselves is the wrong way to address it. For every dancer we envy, there are probably many who wish they could be like us. And the dancers we envy probably wish they could be like someone else. This rabbit-hole leads to nothing but negativity, and a distorted perspective of ourselves. Let’s avoid it.

Putting too much pressure on ourselves to attempt, or remember, new figures right after learning them: Practicas are better places for trying new stuff. At a milonga, it’s best to stick to the figures we know (especially for leaders), even if they’re basic. For both leaders and followers, it’s ok if all we can remember are a few basic technique points. It’s better to do a few things well, than to be sloppily mediocre at a bunch of them. By repeating the few things we are good at, we’re solidifying a foundation for progress.

Equating lack of experience with bad dancing: Of course we’re not going to glide across the floor like a professional if we’ve only had a few lessons. But hanging our heads in shame and calling ourselves bad dancers shortly after starting classes is like criticizing a 9-month old kid for being bad at walking. Let’s have some patience with ourselves!

Thinking that you don’t belong: This state of mind is extremely unpleasant, and certainly feels real. But it’s not. There’s no exclusive “cool crowd” in tango. It’s worth noticing the variety of people who participate in this dance. Everyone belongs, yet no one needs to “fit in.”



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