The Shy Dancer’s Guide, Part Three
Sometimes our fears can get so buried under years of conditioning that we forget they are even there. It’s like a weed with deep roots: You might hack off the stalk, but the root system continues to grow and poke up above the soil in unexpected places. And where it does, you immediately stamp on it, try to push it back down before anyone sees it. Until the next time.
The point I’m trying to make here is it can be very tempting to immediately dismiss our fears, and pretend we’re getting on our lives. The problem is this means avoiding the fears that keep us from growing. If you don’t want to spent your life caged in your comfort zone, you need a way to safely approach your fear-based thought processes, and slowly change them.
The crucial part of this process is recognizing that there is always a benefit you receive from listening to your fears, and this keeps you from wanting to change them. The next two sections help you discover if that benefit is really worth all the trouble.
The Rational Approach: Cost/Benefit Analysis
For those of you who like to quantify every decision and know every detail, try the following:
- Get a sheet of paper and pen, or make a chart on your computer.
- Label the first column ‘Cost’, and the third column ‘Benefit’.
- Under column one, write down what it costs you to hold to your fear of social dancing.
- For example:
I can’t go dancing whenever I want.
It hurts my self-esteem to avoid an activity I enjoy.
I can’t hang out with my dance friends when they go dancing.
- Under column three, write down the benefitsof holding on to your fears. For example:
I get to avoid taking responsibility for my avoidance.
I can comfort myself, knowing I’m facing a challenge that others may not face.
I can spend more time relaxing at home.
- Put a number value from 1-10 to the next column right of each cost and benefit. 1 = Not important, 10 = very important.
- Finally, tally up the total cost and benefit at the bottom, and see how the numbers compare.
It’s important to stay objective, and not try and make one ‘win’. If the costs are higher, time to go back to section two with the knowledge that you’ve proven to yourself it’s worth overcoming your fears. But if the benefits are higher, relax! You’ve discovered this isn’t really what you want to do, which frees up your time and energy for something you would enjoy more.
The Emotional Approach: Talking With Your Fears
If you tend to act based on your feelings rather than your thoughts, you need to separate yourself from your fears, in order to understand them more objectively. Start by giving your fear a name (for example, I call my fear Nemesis, and my life coach calls her fear The Gremlin). Then chose a medium you feel comfortable with to communicate with it:
- Writinga note to your fear, then having your fear write a note back.
- Speakingout loud to your fears, then imagining what the response would be.
- Visualizing your fear as a person or creature sitting across from you, and watch the emotions that come from it.
The goal is to understand why your fear is there in the first place. For example, you might ask when it was first created, how it plans to protect you, and so on. Listen to and respect the response you get from your fear, whatever it is, and be patient.
When you feel ready, invite the fear to rest. Let it know that it is in a safe place, and ask it to let you can take care of it for a change. If you feel resistance, ask the fear why it won’t let go, and continue the conversation until you arrive at a place where it’s willing to step down. If you decide to try the exercises in section two again, continue to watch your fear, and reassure it if necessary.
You’ll notice that in both approaches, I emphasis how important it is to stay objective: You can’t face your fears if you are still being controlled by them. Next week, we’ll wrap up the series with some objective truths that every dancer learns to acknowledge as they grow in confidence.
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 and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.