It can be really difficult to stay motivated when you feel like you’re not improving, no matter how hard you’re trying. With ballet, the steps are small, but they add up. For example, I have always struggled with my lack of turnout. I’ve worked on it every day my entire career, with seemingly no results day-to-day. However, when I look back at where I was even a couple of years ago, the difference is night and day.

Sometimes improvements are too little to see, but nevertheless, these DO add up. It’s frustrating to see a classmate leaps and bounds ahead of you or receive praise from the instructor when they clearly aren’t working to their full potential. Only YOU know if you’re working as hard as you can. It sounds cheesy, but I think that the true satisfaction comes from just knowing that you’re working as hard as you possibly can and learning as much as you can. If you can do that, you just have to have faith that you are growing.

Remember that everyone goes at their own pace and everyone has their own path. I remember when I was a teen; I would obsessively compare myself to the 9-year-old freaks-of-nature-prodigy-children from competitions like YAGP. I would watch videos of them successfully executing ridiculous feats–ten pirouettes, 32 fouettés peppered with quads, crazy extension, and other tricks. I couldn’t get past the fact that these kids were younger than me and they could do so much more! Now that I’m older, it’s so much clearer to me that there are so many ways to measure an artist. Artistry, experience, stage presence, finesse, etc. are all also important pieces of the puzzle that are often overlooked in competitions. Another reality is that a lot of these “competition kids” are blessed with a large amount of talent at a young age, but everyone else sort of catches up with them as time passes.

I’m not here to put down successful competition dancers; I’m just using it as an example of how you can get caught up in over-analyzing one aspect of another dancer and feel inadequate in comparison. Again, it comes back to the idea of not comparing yourself to others. It’s definitely easier said than done. When it comes down to it, comparing your career or path to anyone else’s is going to do nothing but drive you crazy. Everyone has their unique struggles and everyone has their own unique way of getting to wherever their destination may be.