Avoiding Crisis

dance like no one is watching

with 7 comments

Do you think it’s possible for someone to be, on the one hand, a very outgoing and social individual and yet, on the other hand, be plagued by feelings of extreme embarrassment and, at times, overcome by fear of unknown social situations?  My husband doesn’t think that it’s possible for one person to be both these things.  I do.  And you?

I took a hip-hop dance class yesterday at the gym. I had taken this particular class once before. It was fun. I thought I’d give it another try.  I used to dance and recently find myself wanting to get back into it.

Now, when I say that I used to dance, what I mean by this is that for 13 years of my life — between the age of 3 and 16 — I spent many many many hours dressed in a leotard and tights with my hair neatly pulled back into a bun held up in a dance studio taking classes.  Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Tap, Modern. You name it, I’ve studied it and danced it.  But that was many years ago.

So, getting back to the hip hop class…

I took a spot in the back of the class. Slouching. Hiding. Minding my own business. Trying to just blend in and not stand out. Trying not to look too much like a dork.

I watched and followed the teachers moves. Step by step she went through the routine. We mark the steps. We put it all together. I worked it out. It wasn’t an overly hard routine. Basic moves and easy to follow. It felt good to be able to pick it all up without too much difficulty.

After we went through the routine a few times, it was time to, well,  dance.  I don’t really know how everyone else around me was doing, I wasn’t paying much attention.  I was trying to concentrate so that I wouldn’t forget the steps or the timing.

During the second go of it, I looked up and noticed the teacher motioning for me to come forward.  She was asking me to come up to the front of the class and dance.  I balked. I ignored her attempt to get my attention. But she persisted. I shook my head and waved my hands making it perfectly clear that I didn’t want to go up there. She made one last attempt to get me to come up. I shot her a terrified panicked look that was sure to get the message across. She dropped it.  I wanted to hide.

Here’s the thing. Back when I used to dance. I would have jumped at the opportunity to be in the front of the class.  I would have loved for the teacher to take notice of me.  I danced carefree with abandonment.  But not now. No way. No How.

Back then, I didn’t get embarrassed when I danced. I easily lost myself in what I was doing and didn’t care that there was anyone around watching me. It wasn’t about them, it was about me, my body and the music.

What happened? How did I go from that to this?

When I was a child, I was a bit shy. I was shy, but at the same time, I was loud and outgoing. I’m not even sure if that is possible. But it’s how others have described me. In one moment I’d be hiding behind my mother’s legs another dancing and singing commanding attention. My daughter is like this.

Most people who know me, and know me well, wouldn’t really call me introverted.   Actually, they’d probably laugh at at anyone who would even suggest that I’m an introvert.  I’m social. I’m talkative. I’m approachable and I easily approach people.

What my family and friends don’t know, or what they often forget, is that I’m easily embarrassed and often terrified of dealing with new (and unknown) social situations.  Which, in extreme cases, causes me to have panic/anxiety attacks.

Years ago I would deal with this in a rather unhealthy manner. If I was in a situation in which I got embarrassed or felt out of place, I would pull at my hair, run the chain of a necklace that I was wearing across the back of my neck, bite my nails jagged and dig at my skin or find something else to start cutting with.  And actually getting myself into a social situation in which I might then become embarrassed was an entirely different beast, one that usually involved the use of alcohol or some other sort of drug to help with the process.  I can recall a number of parties during my freshman and sophomore year in college where the only way I even got out the door was to have a some pre-party cocktails.  Which, really is my way of saying that I had to be drunk before even going to a party where everyone was going just to get drunk.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done these types of things to handle dealing with social situations. I have other tricks now to help me get through the rough spots.  Much more healthier ones.

But how I wish to be that 10 year old girl again who not only has no problem dancing like no one is watching, but wants to dance while everyone is watching.  Where did she go?  Have you seen her?  Can you tell her to come back and see me sometime?  I’d really like to have a word with her.


Written by nicolemarie

July 12, 2007 at 10:57 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Dancing is an ideal adventurous activity. Free mind and soul. =)


    July 13, 2007 at 2:14 am

  2. Nicolemarie – it is great you are back at dancing! Once you get your dancing stride back, become more confident – well you’ll probably have a second wind of dancerly freedom. And at thirty, what have you to lose? Hip hop sounds like tremendous fun, so goof around with the moves and dance everywhere, including with your daughter.
    I understand what you mean by being outgoing and yet reticent in certain social situations. Use your shy moments to observe people and how they interact, that is enjoyable, quite often. G


    July 13, 2007 at 3:07 am

  3. I think the situation is the key thing. Some of the most outgoing, sociable people I know go to pieces with nerves when it comes to certain settings – job interviews for instance.

    Then another guy I know is very introverted. I think most shy or introverted people don’t like being that way, and would love to be more extroverted, but he seemed to be completely content and at ease just being himself. Because of that he found things like job interviews a breeze – he’d just go in and say his piece.

    Good luck with the dancing – will we see you in the background of any music videos in the future? 🙂


    July 13, 2007 at 8:38 am

  4. I can (sortof) relate – although I was shy and totally introverted until I got to college. The alcohol definitely helped me at that point – but more than that I just somehow adjusted and got comfortable in my own skin. These days I could generally give a rats ass what people think of me…although there are moments where I revert. I hate that FEELING…that self-consciousness, pit in my stomach feeling. Wish I had words of advice – but all I have is just confirmation from my end that you’re not alone…


    July 13, 2007 at 11:17 am

  5. Yes, it is possible to be both. Why does your husband think not? Human beings are complex creatures. It all depends on the situation I think. My son was diagnosed with selective mutism which is a social anxiety disorder. He talks normally in some social situations but is completely frozen by anxiety in others.

    And while you’re looking for your 10 year old girl keep an eye out for mine too.


    July 13, 2007 at 11:53 am

  6. I think often people use being outgoing as a defense mechanism precisely because they are nervous. Kind of like “the best defense is a good offense.”

    The girl is inside you. You guys should hang out sometime. I’m not really the right one to talk because my number one fear in the world is dancing…


    July 13, 2007 at 12:26 pm

  7. Thanks everyone for the comments. they’re great.

    P – not likely to be in any videos anytime ever 🙂

    dawn – my husband just likes being a pain in the ass and disagreeing with me. it’s interesting about your son. how are you dealing with that? And I’ll keep my out for the 10 year old you!


    July 14, 2007 at 5:31 pm

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