Dancing like Everyone’s Watching: The Impact of Competition-Contingent Self-Worth and Belonging on Dancers’ Mental Well-Being




Cary, Grace

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The professionalization and competitive nature of the dance world today poses mental health risks behind its allure. Eating disorders (EDs) and perfectionism are pervasive and debilitating for dancers; however, broader factors within dance environments that inform their development have received less attention. Competition-contingent self-worth (CCSW) and sense of belonging remain relatively unaddressed within dance literature. This thesis explores pressures upon dancers amidst a culture that prioritizes an aesthetic and technical ideal, with CCSW proposed to enforce patterns of proving and altering oneself, and sense of belonging proposed to alleviate these demands and affirm individuals’ worth. A literature review, mixed-methods survey, and evaluation of data through correlation, regression, and qualitative analysis were conducted. CCSW and sense of belonging had a negative but non-significant relationship. However, CCSW had a significant negative relationship with body appreciation and a significant positive relationship with ED risk and perfectionism. Perceived belonging had a significant positive relationship with body appreciation, a significant negative relationship with perfectionism subscales, and a negative but non-significant relationship with ED risk. Qualitative responses emphasized specific environmental factors shaping dancers’ experience of belonging. While further research is needed to clarify the role of CCSW and belonging, implications were discussed regarding how these constructs inform dancers’ self-concepts and responses to environmental pressures.



Dance, Mental Health, Eating Disorders, Perfectionism, Competition-Contingent Self-Worth, Sense of Belonging