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10 Reasons it’s Hard to Watch Yourself On Video

10 Reasons it’s Hard to Watch Yourself On Video
Watching yourself on video can be painful.

You thought your show went well, and you got compliments from the audience.

You’re psyched that the show was videotaped, because your teacher/mentor/friend/common sense told you that watching yourself on video is a great way to improve your dance.
You’re excited to get started.

But when you press play, your heart sinks. You get that “ugh” feeling in the pit of your stomach. And all that energy and motiviation you had is gone.

And that’s a problem.

Because it’s hard to improve if you can’t critique yourself objectively.

(Okay, it’s impossible to be objective, since this is art, and art is inherently subjective. But you have to at least be fair with yourself.)

And that’s really hard.

You have no problem giving your dance friends kind and objective feedback.

But when it’s you on the screen, it’s a whole different story.

So why is it so hard to be objective when we try to critique ourselves?

There are a lot of reasons why that happens.

But there are 10 that I see over and over again: in my clients, and in myself.

1) Asking “do I suck?” not “where can I improve?”

Artists tend to be sensitive people. We care deeply about our dance, and we want to do it well. So we’re always wondering: “Am I good enough?” “Do I suck?” Those doubts sap energy and attention that you could be using to improve your skills.

2) Holding yourself to higher standards than others

This is my big issue. I will criticize myself for things that I don’t even notice in other people’s dance. That’s demoralizing, and it’s not productive.

3) Judging yourself against the greats

It’s good to aspire to greatness. Just don’t beat yourself up for not being there yet. Every dancer you look up to has been where you are now; they’re just farther along on the journey. Comparing yourself to them is unhelpful, unfair, and just mean!

4) Forgetting that everyone has different strengths

Even when you’re comparing yourself against your peers, remember that you’re comparing apples and oranges. So what if your classmate is better at sword. That doesn’t mean you don’t belong in the advanced class. It just means that you and she have developed different strengths. That’s a good thing – it means that you’re not cookie-cutter dancers. (And she may feel the same way about your drum solos.)

5) Not giving yourself credit for your strengths

Human beings have a strong negative bias: we notice what’s wrong, but often ignore what’s right. That gives you a skewed view of how you should be spending your effort. Developing your strengths is just as important as improving your weaknesses.

6) Fear of bragging

If you’re a woman, then you’ve probably been brought up not to brag. Often, that gets us in the habit of discounting our accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong: humility is a good thing. But it is not the same thing as undervaluing yourself.

7) Judging by your “shoulds”, not your values

Sometimes that “ugh” feeling comes from comparing your dancing with how you think it “should” be. This is especially painful when your “shoulds” are out of sync with your dance values. You feel like you’re being judged for something that you don’t even want. (This especially plays out in your personal style choices.)

8) Not being specific

General criticisms aren’t helpful. “My arms suck” is overwhelming and demoralizing. “I need to maintain more energy in my fingers” is something you can act on.

9) Not having enough distance

Sometimes, you may need to wait a while before critiquing your video. When I watch a video right away, I tend to judge my performance against what I meant to do, rather than evaluating what I actually did. It’s much easier to be objective if I come back to it a few weeks later.

10) Forgetting that the best stuff doesn’t come across on video

Belly dance is best experienced live. Your energy, your smile, and the way you connect with the audience can’t be captured fully on video. (Confession: I though ATS was boring until I saw it live. In person, it blew me away.) So if your video feels a little flat, remember that you’re not seeing the whole picture.

So what can you do about it?

Short answer: if you’re doing anything on this list, stop it!

But that’s easier said than done. So here is a 3-step technique that can help:

Step 1: Observe

Let your pain be your guide. That “ugh, I suck” feeling in the pit of your stomach is a sign. It doesn’t feel like that when you objectively/fairly notice an area for improvement. So take that as a warning that something else is going on.

Step 2: Identify

When you feel that way, review this list, and see if you’re making any of the 10 mistakes.
Sometimes, just knowing what’s going on is enough to disrupt it.
(If it helps, you can imagine me wagging my finger at you, and saying “stop it!”)

Step 3: Turn it around

If the feeling doesn’t go away, replace the unfair thought with a more useful one. Usually, that means doing the opposite of the mistake.

For example:

If you’re not giving yourself credit for your strengths, write down at least one compliment for every three criticisms.

If you’re holding yourself to higher standards than others, pretend you’re critiquing your best dance buddy, not yourself.

Comparing yourself to Aziza? (Or any other dancer you admire.) Remember that she was at your level once too.

Not being specific? Drill down and identify just one small aspect you can improve.


But what if I really do suck?

First of all: you probably don’t. I know that you have room for improvement, because everybody does. But you probably don’t suck.

What you’re interpreting as “sucking” is either:

1) Not knowing what to work on first, or

2) Worrying that you’re performing beyond your skill level
(ex: gigging before you’re ready)

Either way, the solution is to get some input from a mentor you trust. A good mentor can give you expert guidance, and the peace of mind of knowing where you stand. If you don’t have anyone locally, contact a teacher you look up to. Many teachers do remote coaching (me included).


In order to critique yourself effectively, you need to be objective (or at least fair) with yourself. But it’s easy to beat yourself up over your perceived “flaws”, which is painful and undermines the process.

To avoid that, watch out for the 10 common mistakes that dancers make when self-critiquing: asking whether you suck, rather than how you can improve; holding yourself to higher standards than others; judging yourself against the greats; not giving yourself credit for your strengths; being afraid of bragging; judging by your “shoulds”, not your values; not being specific; not having enough distance; or forgetting that the best stuff doesn’t come across on video.

The best cure is awareness, so listen to your pain, identify what’s going on, and replace it with the opposite thought or action.

And if you still think you suck, work with a mentor. They can give you objective, expert guidance on where you are and what you need.

Next Steps

Watch one of your videos, and apply the 3-step process. Pay attention to how you feel, both emotionally and physically. If you get that “ugh” feeling in the pit of your stomach, ask yourself if you’re making any of the 10 mistakes. If you are, turn it around by doing the opposite.

That should put you into a more objective (or at least fair) frame of mind, so you can get out of your own way, and get down to work.

(And if it’s still giving you trouble, check out Torture-Free Critiques, the DIY training I created to help you do just that.)

Your turn:

Which of these 10 issues affects you the most?

What issues have I missed?

Do you have any tips to share for overcoming them?


Share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. As usual your great advice can be applied to many other areas of life. Thank you!

  2. carley price says:

    I did my 1st solo alf leyla wah leyla in 2013 for my christmas hafla, i thought i was ok, my class mates said my moves fitted the music well and i didn’t make any mistakes and i looked great. Everyone was coming up to me afterwood and saying they really enjoyed it!!!!. My teacher even said how proud she was!!

  3. I find it hard to be objective watching myself dance after a show.
    When I watch the video my heart starts to race, I hold my breathe when I know something is about to happen, it’s like reliving the experience of being on stage.
    I can’t stow back & focus on what I just saw because I’m still experiencing it – doesn’t matter if the video is a wee or a year old…

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