Dancing to Conquer Fear
This article is about how we can use a budding interest in dancing to grow more comfortable with being uncomfortable, but it can be applied to virtually anything that pushes us out of our comfort zone. Dance just happens to be especially good at doing that in today’s rather un-dance-centric society.
From any perspective but a dancer’s, dancing is a pretty weird activity. We throw ourselves about to music we hear, swinging and swaying in ways that that make little practical sense, often with audience or team members who’ve bought into our collective insanity.
For the poor souls – like myself – who enjoy partner dancing, there is the added pressure of doing all this silliness in the presence of someone else, often a romantic partner, or at least someone whose opinion we value. This is especially intimidating to the average male ego.
None is this is meant to belittle dancing – just to say that it has come to be viewed by most people as something of a frivolous activity, and for those wanting to dance, choosing to go against those views carries a certain anxiety.
Let’s return to the idea of the comfort zone. Your comfort zone can be dictated by many external factors, like the social norm stated above, but ultimately is a product of the barriers you set up for yourself. Those barriers exist to protect you – after all, trying anything new can be risky – but they also hold you back.
One of my favourite writers, Don Miquel Ruiz, had a lot to say about the comfort zone, even if he didn’t use those words exactly. As children, we were taught what was “good” and “bad”, “right” and “wrong” from those around us. As we grew older, those rules became more sophisticated: What to wear, how to act, which activities to engage in.
And as these lessons became more and more ingrained, we eventually stopped needing others to remind us and started policing ourselves. We even judge and punish ourselves if we step out of line. Have you ever given yourself a verbal lashing for forgetting an anniversary, or messing up an interview?
I’m not here to argue for or against how we were raised. The point I’m making is that we’ve learned to behave in a specific way in society – even if that behaviour goes against our own instincts at times – because it makes us feel safe to do so.
Let me say it explicitly: It doesn’t matter if the lessons we’ve learned are good or bad; we follow them because doing so makes us feel safe. And THAT is the comfort zone.
So if you want to engage in an activity like dancing but feel you’re holding yourself back, ask yourself: Am I not dancing because of my own rules, my own beliefs? Or because of beliefs that have been passed to me by others, who prefer the safety of the status quo to challenging themselves and those around them to grow beyond their perceived limits?
And if you do decide these beliefs were given to you by others, the final question is, what’s more important to you, pursuing the things that bring joy to your life – or fitting in?
Think about that for a moment.
Pushing out of your comfort zone is never easy – “easy”, by definition, is always inside the comfort zone. But you CAN push through, by taking little steps that aren’t too difficult by themselves:
- Watch a dance video on YouTube.
- Play some music in your room and try swaying to it a little.
- Read an article about a dance studio.
- Look at pricing for dance shoes online.
- Go to a dance social, and just sit and watch.
You may not actually take a dance lesson for years. And that’s okay. This is YOUR journey, and it won’t look like anyone else’s, so stop comparing. Remind yourself you can do this, and take it a day at a time. I wish you courage and luck.
About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.