Come on. Seriously. No one’s enjoying this thought-jail we’ve built ourselves. We’re so worried about being judged that people have stopped enjoying life. Now we have symbols for enjoyment, like new clothes or cars, or an expensive or exotic vacation, but even that is only 2 or 3 weeks out of 52. That’s not many experiences in a lifetime of experiences. I propose you let yourself out of that jail by simply not building barriers every time you want to do something.
Why don’t most people like to dance? Because they’re worried about being judged. But for them to feel the neuro-chemicals that collectively translate to worry, they have to pre-think the judgmental thoughts before they even know if they’ll actually exist. So it isn’t the judgments themselves that are crippling your dancing, it’s your own thoughts about the judgments. All you have to do is stop talking to yourself, and dance instead. You have no idea what other people are actually thinking.
And forget that idea of dancing like no one’s watching. Dance as crazy as you want in front of whoever. What possible difference could it actually make? Do we think we’ll permanently cut ourselves off from potential happiness if we express ourselves through dance? Do we seriously think that? Stop thinking there are so few sources of happiness in your life. Stop being attached/addicted to such limited sources for your happiness. You are surrounded by potential happiness. But you have to go and get it.
Maybe it was because of the accident itself, or maybe it was how I thought because I experienced the accident, but for one of those reasons or another unknown one, I just don’t ever really remember giving much thought at all to what other people thought about me. Of course I did care about some things. But I had no idea my classmates were so tortured. I learned 25 years after high school that other kids used to comment on my dancing. Some liked it, some thought I was crazy. But the important part was that I never wondered about that. I never thought potential judgmental thoughts about my dancing. If I was dancing, I was just dancing. It never occurred to me that I should want people to like my dancing. Life isn’t a competition. Dancing’s fun. I do it for me not for you.
You stop yourself from going to parties. You stop yourself from talking to strangers who interest you. You stop yourself from asking people on dates because they’re too young, too old, too cool, too smart, too too too. Can’t you see that those are all fences in your head? That none of that actually exists, and nor does whatever price you think you’ll pay? Where is this price exacted? In your consciousness. These are all events in your consciousness that only you experience.
Your view of you is not other people’s view of you. Everyone else looks at you and every single one of them will see their own unique individual within their own unique consciousness. So there’s no way to control other people’s view, nor do they have control over yours. They’ll have harsh opinions, uninformed opinions, and smart, incisive opinions. But none of those opinions-floating-in-consciousness should ever stop you from dancing. Or writing. Or singing. Or trying a new job. Or meeting new people. Or any other thing you feel compelled to do.
You have impulses toward joy and excitement but you don’t pursue what you feel. Again, you are surrounded by potential happiness, but you cannot experience it because you are worried about being judged for experiencing it. But you really do need to stop and think about where this judgment leads. Because the only place it leads is to a life of regret.
No one laid on their death bed and thought, gee, I wish I wouldn’t have danced in front of those people. People on their death bed know very clearly that all of that worrying was a silly waste of time—life would still end the same way whether you danced or not. Whether you got laughed at or whether you didn’t, your life—like every life—will simply be a short little dash of experiences. So the point isn’t to be judged a good dancer. The point is to enjoy the dancing.
Have a wonderful day.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.