Apa’s Ace Advice – How to Build Confidence Using a Dance Mat

You may be wondering when exactly a DDR website suddenly became a self-help blog. And while that may be a tempting direction to take this website, what I’m proposing is not entirely out of left field. That proposal is that DDR is a great way to learn how to build confidence.

DDR is a game that requires the player to be sure of themselves when they play; there is little room for error at the high levels of play. Nothing quite saps your energy like uncertainty and fear. You have to know how to tackle those emotions and push forward, regardless of what you may otherwise think.

Most importantly, however, is the fact that DDR promotes a confident sort of thinking both  on and off the mat. What am I talking about? I’ll explain in a bit. First off, I gotta say that change comes from within. You can’t expect to improve yourself without having the courage to put yourself out there. This is true in DDR and in life!

Understanding Whispers of Uncertainty

Whispers of uncertainty. That’s what I like to call the nagging little voice inside your head that actively explains why you shouldn’t do something. Sometimes, this is a good thing; it prevents people from doing stupid things. Though more often than not, it is the voice responsible for generating self-doubt and hesitation, such as: 

“I would look silly doing that.”

“There’s no way I can do that!”

“That looks fun! But I don’t want everyone to see me mess up and fail.”

Being an active DDR player at home AND at the arcade, I can definitely tell when that voice is doing it is work in other people’s minds. I see it when I’m taking a water break or when I step off the pad for a bit to let someone else play. I tend to see people look at the flashy game and entertain the thought of playing it, only to shuffle off to play something else. I’ve also had people directly reject my offer to play. When I ask why, I usually get these responses:

“Oh, I could NEVER do what you did!”

“I would just embarrass myself playing on that.”

“People would laugh at how bad I am. That’s how bad I am!”

“That’s waaayyy too hard for me! I would trip over myself and fall just trying!”

At one point, I would usually just awkwardly laugh it off, shrug my shoulders, and keep on playing as they walked off. But now, I try to list reasons as to why their fears are unfounded.

I try to explain that there are different difficulties (like, REALLY easy ones) and that it would be fun to at least try. That just jumping onto the mats and picking a good song is more than worth the credits needed to do it (which was cheaper than to play some gambling game).

Some entertained the notion, but most people had made up their mind to not play a really fun game because they were afraid of how they would look. The game was automatically disqualified due to whispers of uncertainty.

I realized that there was little chance that the everyday person would make up their mind to play on a busy Friday. There’s no doubt that it was intimidating. It’s almost funny to me because I had definitely been there myself once; I too watched people play, but I would never play myself due to a fear of how I would look.

As time passed, I noticed that there were two groups of people that would play with little to no hesitation. They both share a distinct trait that allows them to bypass any sort of perceived embarrassment. And interestingly, they are on opposite ends of the age spectrum.

Children and Drunk Adults – The Champions of Dancing!

It’s kind of funny, right? But it makes complete and total sense!

Children are, well, children. They tend to lack social awareness and social clues that would pop up in the minds of most adults. They also tend to have no shame and depend on their guardians to compensate for that.

At the arcade, it is not uncommon for me to see an unsupervised child run onto the dance mats and start hopping all over the place…even when there is someone DANCING!

Children are fearless and, by extension, have a brimming well of confidence that they pull from on a daily basis. Those bundles of energy are the ones who will play DDR because it looks fun and not even worry about playing the game right! While it can be distracting for any player to have these kids stomping next to them unannounced, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

They clearly know how to have fun!

Drunk adults, on the other hand, tend to love DDR because of that good ol’ “liquid courage”. They don’t care about what other people think of them because that area of the brain is usually disabled the more alcohol they consume. The “courage” they use to drown out that fear is what enables them to play DDR and have a good time with friends.

That being said, I don’t endorse notion that you need to consume alcohol in order to have a good time, nor do I think that kids should be allowed to run amok. The point is that both of these groups of people possess the ability to say “screw it, I wanna have fun” and then actually have fun. Those whispers of uncertainty don’t even register. That brings me to my next point.

Confidence Starts from Within – Train it!

So where does that leave everyone else? How do they build courage authentically?

Developing the confidence to put yourself out there is something that requires a sort of catalyst. Something that can get the ball rolling and keep you from growing stagnant.

As it just so happens, DDR is a fantastic way of doing this.

How? I’ll explain.

It’s fairly easily to just pick up a dance mat and plug it into a console/PC. After playing for a bit, you’ll notice immediate improvements. It can be difficult to notice how you are getting better in other things, but DDR’s scoring system makes it very clear when improvements are made. Just seeing yourself getting better in real time is a HUGE self-esteem booster. It’s a feeling that quickly becomes addicting.

That feeling sticks with you as you continue to improve, tackling harder songs and demanding more complex movements from yourself. There will definitely be times when you come up short and fail, but there is a drive that grows strong from within as you continue to try. Eventually, you will conquer your challenges and boost your confidence even more so. After all, if you can do that really hard song, it is proof of how far you’ve come!

Soon, you’ll be ready for the big leagues. The arcade awaits.

You now have the confidence to play knowing that you can perform reasonably well. You hop on the machine and choose a standard difficulty song. Nothing too crazy, just something to get the blood pumping. But as you play, you notice people start to watch you. You’re doing things with your feet that they can’t imagine ever doing themselves. At this point, it is okay if you start wanting to show off.




What I had just described is simply one road towards building confidence. There are a multitude of ways something like this could’ve turned out. The key things to note are:

  • Starting something and improving
  • Recognizing one’s own achievements
  • Experiencing growth
  • Developing persistence against failure
  • Public acknowledgment of skill and ability

You can transition these principles to anything, but it works especially well with DDR since it is such a flashy game. It’s fun to watch players who are just starting out and even more fun to watch players who put in the time and effort.

The fear that was initially defining your enjoyment of a game is no longer a big deal. You’ll also find that it becomes easier to tackle your fear on other subjects as well, like public speaking. Being able to recognize that fear can be conquered makes it much easier to tackle down the road.

It makes sense, logically speaking.

My Story – How DDR Helped Build Confidence Within Me

As I mentioned earlier, there was a point in time when I was someone who didn’t play DDR because I was concerned with how I looked. I wasn’t young enough to be blind to embarrassment, nor was I old enough to rely on “other means”. I wanted to play, but there was no way I was going to play on public.

But luckily, I didn’t have to. I was gifted with a DDR mat that came bundled with a game. There’s no doubt that it was something that I treasured for a long time and played for years. I developed basic DDR skills, but never really rose to a level of proficiency that I saw in players at the arcade.



Fast forward to college (a big jump, I know!), I started getting back into the game with my buddy Josh. We were roughly of equal skill back then and spent many Friday nights playing until the sun rose. A few months in and we had a bunch of people willing to play the game with us. There’s no doubt that it was a blast having so many people on the dance mat!

Sometimes the room that we would normally play in was taken, so we would play in another room on the bottom floor of a dorm. That room was like a game room and had see-through glass walls that anyone could peek through. There was more than one occasion where people would pass by and say something about us and the game. There’s no doubt that it was a bit embarrassing at first, but I learned to roll with it. The people seemed genuinely impressed and excited.

A few years later, Josh and I discovered a brand new DDR machine located in a Dave&Busters;. I was still in school, so the machine was about 2 hours away from me while Josh was about 10 minutes away from it. I spent a few weekends with him in order to play the game. It was there that I learned how to play with a crowd watching. There’s no doubt that it was the coolest thing ever and still makes me smile today.

One drunk guy and his gang even recorded us shouting “These guys are DDR gods!” There’s no doubt that it was hilarious to me at the time and still makes me chuckle.

I eventually met up with other people who played the game and made friends with them all. Now we try to get together and play when we can. I’m far more social than I used to be and feel as though I can do just about anything I put my mind to. Even public speaking, which scared me to death at one point, doesn’t seem so impossible now.

That’s not to say that I became an extrovert or anything. I’m still a relatively quiet fellow. But now I’m not afraid to put myself out there and improve myself.

Go For It and Don’t Look Back!

That’s the most important thing to understand. Taking the first step and pushing ahead will give you the confidence you want. Even if you aren’t lacking in confidence, it is a great way to feel good about yourself.

Never look back and keep on dancing!

What are your thoughts on building confidence? Do you think DDR is a good way to build confidence? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Dancing!






Ready to Level Up Your Fitness Game?Today's YOUR Day!

Get access to content that's guaranteed to banish the boredom of everyday fitness!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.