Are you one of those people that trade social gatherings for movie marathon evenings because it’s a safe bet? Do you often turn down night-out party invitations for they make you nervous and uncomfortable? Finding it hard to start a conversation? Do you prefer talking to your four-legged buddy than the guy next door? I get it, dogs make lovely companions. But don’t you think you are sabotaging your social life? Maybe it’s time to fight your demons; mainly the ones that get between you and life. What if I told you overcoming shyness through dancing is possible?
Wait, I know what you’re thinking: “What is she saying? Dancing? Me? No way, that would be too embarrassing!” But here is what. The only way to wave goodbye to the things that are holding you back is to actually f-a-c-e them and grab them by the… well, you get it. Perhaps you need to put yourself in embarrassing social situations a whole lot of times to finally stop giving a [insert your own suggestion here] about how other people see you.
And of all the challenges that you could intentionally and consciously run into, dancing seems to be the most agreeable when it comes to overcoming shyness. Not only is it terrifyingly addictive and fun, but it is good for the body too. I would say it is a pretty elegant way of getting your insecurities to shrink down until they become so minute, you can’t actually see them. So they can make way for your confident self because you do have one too.
Warning: This Isn’t a Guide on Overcoming Shyness and Social Anxiety
This is a story about how a simple hobby can make you self-assured. Before you continue down the paragraphs, I’d like to warn you that the process is not easy. Note that I’m not suggesting any fast cures. There are no shortcuts to gaining social confidence if you are a shrinking violet. What I’m going to do is talk about overcoming shyness through dancing the way I’ve come to experience it over the years. So, it’s my experience that I’m going to share with you, telling you how it helped me to build confidence and become the opposite of shy. Or how it made me believe that I have the potential to achieve anything, as far as I’m persistent, disciplined and hard-working. By and large, dancing has transformed my life in so many ways that I still can’t make sense of what happened.
For the most part, I’m now a person that likes chitchatting, hugging people, and just being around folks. I approach them in a less diffident fashion. That wasn’t always the case. I used to have only a couple of friends and a few family members that I could act freely around. It’s not like I was socially isolated, but I was very picky and, also, I couldn’t talk to just anyone.
By overcoming shyness, I’ve had the chance to grow my friends circle immensely. I’ve come to know people that totally changed my perception of the world around me. Not to mention, I learned a host of valuable lessons. And I will be thankful for all that for the rest of my life. That plus, I’m no longer blank-faced and nervous when I have to use my communication skills with a stranger or engage in small talk. That’s certainly a big plus.
It hasn’t been a complete transition to a new self, though. Let’s say I’m at an 85%. The other 15% of the time I’m still that timid person on the inside that sometimes prefers to stay home with only the four walls for company. Yes, there are moments when I shy away from the world, but I’m much more comfortable around human beings these days than I was 7 years ago, and my social skills have improved. This is all thanks to dancing. I will be forever grateful to myself for making that smart decision to join a dance class one October evening in 2010. I remember the date as clearly as if it was a few hours ago. It has stuck in my mind like gum bits clinging to hair. This marked the beginning of a new era in my life.
What Really Happens During a Latin Dance Class
(from the viewpoint of a shrinking violet)
Overcoming shyness doesn’t happen overnight. No, no, I’m not going to sugarcoat the process of parting with your old introverted self to become an outgoing fellow… The way it worked for me, it necessitated getting out of my comfort zone hundreds and hundreds of times. It also involved lots of sweat and frustration, and fear of ridiculing myself, as well as seeing myself fail over and over again.
I mean, no matter how enjoyable and liberating dancing seems to be, it’s different when you are doing it in front of someone else or with someone else for that matter. There is always a bit of hesitation when you walk into the club and you see all the people, those shiny mirrors stretching across from wall to wall, and the gleaming floors that totally resemble the ones they boast on Dancing With The Stars. If you are normally uncoordinated and clumsy, you surely don’t want to be featured on a TV show, do you? Or even feel like you are on a show for that matter. I mentioned it earlier that overcoming shyness may be painful, but that doesn’t mean it has to be suicidal.
And it’s as if this isn’t stressful enough, you have to actually touch other people, usually from the opposite sex. And not just touch them, but gently wrap your arms around them and move to the rhythm of a song you’ve never heard of. Awkward, much?
Let’s add to the equation the fact that you don’t know what you are doing and neither is your partner. You’re standing there, trying to look confident and completely undisturbed by the fact that you’ve just stepped on the other person. But you’re both pretending nothing happened because the fellow just got even with you, unintentionally of course. Truth is, you’ve been pretty consistent about stepping on each other’s feet since the beginning of the song.
What’s worse, the same scenario happens with the next guy or gal that is to dance with you. It’s a never-ending circle of embarrassment and hurt ego in which you repeatedly scold yourself for being so ungainly.
But don’t bother. The other person is probably feeling the same way about themselves – if it’s any consolation.
(I told you that overcoming shyness is no walk in the park.)
Anyway, you keep on trying because the damn class isn’t over yet. After all, leaving the club halfway through the workout would be more humiliating.
But… It Can All Work Out Well in the End
If you do overcome yourself, no matter how many times you actually need to do it, you will eventually begin to feel the prodigious amount of effort you’ve put in paying off. Believe me, I’ve been there. I know.
I think that the best way in which dance can help shy people become more approachable and confident is by pushing them to overcome themselves over and over again. And by that I mean you have to go through something unpleasant – more than once, of course – that may leave you with a bruised ego for good. Whether you like it or not, you won’t go near overcoming shyness if it doesn’t make you feel at least a little anxious in the beginning. If you stick with Latin dance, say bachata or salsa, you will certainly face awkward situations during classes that will turn that anxiousness button on and on.
This is because there are plentiful positions for the man and woman when doing partnerwork. Sometimes the guy is going to be behind you. Sometimes you will be behind the guy. And other times you’ll have your arms crossed behind your back while your partner is holding them. Mortifying, I know. And at times you will dance so close to each other that you will be able to feel their heart beating. Yeah, that close. How is that for overcoming shyness?
If the person you are dancing with is your significant other, that’s certainly going to feel great. But the same thing doesn’t apply if the lead or follow is a complete stranger to you. That may seem like a challenge at first, but the more embarrassing positions you go through, the less shamefaced you will feel in the end.
And don’t get me wrong. In between the uncomfortable moments, there is a great deal of fun and genuine laughter that will be the reason you keep going back to the dance club… Even though you are not the most sociable boy or girl out there, despite the fact that you are more of an introvert than an extrovert, and regardless of your 3,953 fear monsters.
And the best part is that after a couple of months it won’t be a big deal anymore. The different dance positions will not scare you. Gradually, you will begin to feel comfortable doing all the cool moves. And this is when you will realize you are not the unassertive fellow that you used to be. You will find that you can talk to people much more easily, maintaining eye contact. Not only that, but you will no longer associate those social interactions with negative emotions.
The only thing that you’ve got to do is get started. Make the first step. Say no to excuses. Ah, there will be a handful of them. But don’t you pay attention to these disgraceful bastards.
If you feel shy, these steps may seem a little on the extreme side of provocation and that’s perfectly normal. If you only do things that make you feel comfortable, you will never break out of the vicious circle. As you can see, I’m not suggesting any quick, effortless or painless methods of dealing with the stuff that is torturing you. Think of it as the humbler version of an improv class – it will challenge you, confuse you, and throw you into a tizzy; but in the end, it will liberate you.
So, are you ready to send coyness packing? Who knows, this could mark a new era in your life, too.
Let me know what you think in the comments below. Share your stories with me. I’m eager to hear all about it.
If that doesn’t seem like a valid reason to start dancing, here are some more.
And if you need a blog post like that, do not hesitate to contact me.
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