At the same time though, dancing has always been so ridiculously terrifying to me.
Admit it. You agree. Dancing is terrifying, especially if people are aware that you are actually trying to dance and not just being a wedding dance floor freak show for comic relief.
See, when you dance, when you really dance with pure enjoyment, you are totally vulnerable. When you are outwardly expressing with your body something that’s inside your spirit, it makes everyone really uncomfortable.
When I started learning how to dance, I unknowingly took a terrible approach. I like how talented people look and being talented myself, so I put on this cover of performance, that in order for me to matter, in order for me to be accepted, I had to dance well. I had to meet their expectations: my dance partner, the crowd, and the invisible camera recording this for YouTube.
And when I messed up? I’d feel shame. My cover was blown. I wasn’t perfect. And I couldn’t let that happen. I needed to keep up the performance.
Otherwise I’d be an embarrassment. I wouldn’t be loved.
Then dancing suddenly stopped being about enjoyment and it became about performance. It became all about me and not about the song.
Messing up was forcing me to be vulnerable.
But I didn’t want to be vulnerable. I wanted to be perfect.
Then a change started evolving. Slowly, gradually. This change started when I began dancing at church.
I just made a lot of you really uncomfortable.
But seriously. This began when I was at a church whose worship was not at all about the people around us and what the expectation or tradition was, but about the One we were worshipping. It was an inside belief and joy that came out in an outward expression. It looked different for each person, but normally there was some sort of physical expression during the songs.
I learned to sing and dance freely because of my vulnerability before God, not because of perfection. Because we always come before Him with our nothing. Perfection is always just a guise. And God always sees through the act. Why hide? He accepts me as I really am, my ugly mess-ups and all.
I don’t perform before God. I worship.
So, this isn’t really a post about dancing. It’s about vulnerability verses performance.
Recently I’ve been having a breakthrough about how many layers of performance I put over myself when expressing who I am to others. Humor, intellect, experience, talent, transparency. I realize now that it is often just an act to cover up the shame of my full vulnerabilities.
Because if people really knew who I was then they probably wouldn’t love me.
And what’s worse is if they do see me for who I am and then say, “I like you this way.” That’s offensive. I can’t accept admiration unless I’ve earned it.
That fear is the root of all the hypocrisy of performance, that I have to come up with an act that the people I love and respect will love.
But I’m learning… I just need to dance. Trip, step on toes, miss a cue, spin the wrong way, fall. Mess up in every way that I mess up. That’s me. The real me.
And you know what? The best dances are when I’m dancing with someone and we each mess up again and again and it just makes us laugh harder. It means the fear is gone. I laugh and not cry because I’m free. I’m accepted and enjoyed, imperfections and all. And I’m free to accept that acceptance.
You may not dance and are appalled at the thought of moving your feet, hands, hips or other extremities to the beat of the music. Fair enough.
But when will you let yourself be vulnerable? When will you let someone see the real you and be okay with their stark observation, “I like you this way”?