Dear American Girl,

Gymnastics is one of my favorite things to do. But every time I try a new move, I choke. I'm afraid that I'll do it wrong or look clumsy in front of my friends. I want to improve as a gymnast, but my nervousness is holding me back. How can I get over my fear of failing?
-Nervous gymnast

Here's your advice:

When you try a new move, imagine that no one is watching you. You might be surprised by how well you do! That trick helps me a lot in figure skating, and it could help you in gymnastics, too.
-Heather, age 12, Georgia

Think of it this way—this is probably the first time your friends are learning the move, too, so they might be just as nervous as you. You're probably not alone in your jitters!
-Sarah, age 11, Tennessee

Talk to your gymnastics coach. Tell her about your nervousness, and ask if she can give you extra help for difficult moves.
-Maria, age 10, Illinois

Before you try a move, think about something that makes you happy, such as your puppy giving you a kiss or going for a walk in a pretty park. Thinking about something cheerful might calm your nerves.
-Annie, age 9, Tennessee

You've already said the solution: "Gymnastics is one of my favorite things to do." If you love to do it, who cares what your friends think? During practice, focus on yourself. There will be plenty of time for friends outside of gymnastics.
-Bria, age 11, Wisconsin

If you do make a mistake, crack a joke. Say, "Don't try this at home," or, "Wow, I'm so graceful!" Being able to laugh at yourself is a great way to show off your confidence.
-Alex, age 12, New York

Hardly anyone does something perfectly on her first try. Don't put so much pressure on yourself, and allow yourself to make mistakes. That's the best way to learn how to do something!
-Tessa, age 10, Florida

Stand still for a second before trying a move. Take a deep breath and imagine yourself doing the flip and landing it perfectly before a cheering crowd. Then, go for it! Positive thinking can have a big impact on how well you perform.
-Alexis, age 11, Ohio

I'm in gymnastics, and I used to be really scared to try new moves. My friend told me to imagine that I was a famous gymnast. I ended up doing a lot better! I hope this tip will help you, too.
-Selena, age 12, Washington

Maybe you should try out your moves outside of gymnastics practice. Perform a couple of moves in front of family, friends, or even your stuffed animals. By the time you get to practice, you might be feeling a lot more comfortable. Just be sure to try the moves in an area that's open and safe.
-Rachel, age 11, Wisconsin

Don't doubt your abilities. If you think I'm going to fail before doing a backflip, you have a bigger chance of doing badly. If you think I can do this, then you will probably do better.
-Rory, age 12, Michigan

Ask a gymnastics pal to give you some pointers. Is your leg in the wrong position? Are you not putting your arms above your head correctly? Believe it or not, it might be just one thing (not a million things) that's preventing you from performing a perfect move!
-Sonya, age 11, Wisconsin

I'll let you in on a secret—to get better at something, you have to make mistakes. It's the only way you'll learn. Just be free and let go of your fear of failure.
-Kamiya, age 12, Washington

When I have to give a big speech or perform in a recital, I imagine that the whole audience is standing up and cheering for me. It really boosts my confidence!
-Heaven, age 11, Texas

Don't focus on what you can't do—focus on what you can do. You might discover that you can do more than you think you can, which could give you a nice big boost of confidence. As long as you practice and keep a smile on your face, you'll do great!
-Leah, age 13, New Jersey

I recently had a piano recital. I was really scared and I messed up a few times. After watching the whole recital on video, I realized that everyone messed up— even my piano teacher! Everyone makes mistakes. No one's perfect, so just be yourself and give it your best.
-Paige, age 12, Utah

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