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How Confronting My Fear of Dancing Helped Me Love Myself

thriller fest

I consider myself to be a creative person. I was a choir head in high school; I can get hair and makeup to look just like they do in YouTube videos; my DIY home designs are Pinterest-worthy; and my friends and families are treated to multiple foodgasms each time they sit down at my dinner table. In fact when people find out that I spend my daily 9-5 as an accountant, the typical reaction is, “Why are you an accountant? You are so talented!”

Am I self-absorbed, you ask? Probably. But that’s not why I just spent 150 words talking about my not-so-humble self. With all the creative outlets that are such an important part of my life, there is one thing I have always admired but never seriously considered doing.

Dancing.

I am quite comfortable with my passion and ability to succeed at my many other hobbies, but I have always assumed that dancing isn’t in the cards for me. The little teapot and I have a lot in common; short and stout are just not the physical attributes conducive to dancing.

READ: Orthodox Mother Challenges Convention With Her Own Dance Studio

I grew up very insecure in my own skin. I did anything I could to avoid drawing additional attention to my body. Dancing is all about feeling comfortable and relaxed in your body; it requires you to let go and use your body to form majestic fluid shapes. For a chubby kid—and now shlubby adult—like me, that is a recipe for embarrassment, the very definition of torture. I can’t sway my hips from side to side; they are side to side. In short, dancing gives me the sweats. I’ve always avoided dance floors like the plague, so much so that I dreaded dancing at my own wedding.

Confession: I did take one dance course in college to fulfill graduation requirements. I was 8 months pregnant at the time, and thankfully my professor took pity on me. I got an A for effort, even though the final exam required us to dance Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Don’t I look thrilled?

I spent the last year working on making positive changes to my mind and body, so my next step was to find a calm environment to unwind and disconnect from my daily stresses. I scoured the Internet for the right fit, considering perhaps meditating or yoga. And that is when I stumbled upon a local dance studio. Of course, I intuitively opted for the stretch class. No dancing for me! Instead, I was trying to flex my limbs and touch my toes twice a week, conscious of the fact that compared to my classmates, I likely move as much as a potato.

But in the dark, with my eyes closed, I had begun to be at one with my body. And it gave me pure joy.

READ: Courageous Woman Dances to Beyonce Pre-Double Mastectomy

Sometimes on my way to or from my stretch class I would peek in to watch a crazy cool hip-hop session or graceful ballet lesson. I gazed, wishing I could do that, too. But I couldn’t. My body doesn’t do that.

But then one day everything changed. During my lunch break at work, I read an article encouraging readers to “shed light on their shame.” It got me thinking: What am I hiding for? I go to a dance studio twice a week and don’t dance? Grow a pair, girl, and let yourself out of this self-conscious prison.

I realized that as strong as I’ve grown in my body acceptance this past year, I am weaker for every time I avoid a dance class. I had to dance now, in a way that would expose myself and my body to others as never before. I would be vulnerable; my anxiety level rose just thinking about it. But it was decided: I would take ballet.

Standing outside the classroom, I wanted to chicken out. The butterflies were intense. Why should I be a lab rat for someone else’s social experiment? But this was for me, I reminded myself. I needed to do this.

READ: Teaching My Sons to Tap Dance with the Help of Michael Jackson

My feet were in first position (“pizza slices”). As the music started playing, a wave of relief washed over me. Everyone in the class was focused on their own body; no one cared about mine. I was able to tune out the people around me and focus on myself. I allowed my body to feel the music, and the sensations of strength, power, grace, and beauty washed over me. I was having fun!

As I watched my body move, my mind was amazed, not really sure who this person was and why she spent her whole life saying “I can’t dance.” I finally gave myself the gift of feeling normal. No more hiding in a societally-induced box where girls ashamed of their bodies need to sit and watch the regular girls have all the fun.

Breaking free of the rusty chains that weighed me down since childhood allowed me to discover and develop my heart and soul. The initial fear was real, but nothing is as crippling as living life afraid. I am telling you: Take the plunge. Go to those scary dark recesses of your discomfort zone. Imagine how free you’d be if you just move past your fear.

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