Have you ever watched a child dance? She’s full of joy and doesn’t care what she looks like. We do, so we try to dance ‘properly’, with the correct posture, the right sequence of steps. We do the same in life, trying to live ‘right’. To find joy again, we have to dance like nobody’s watching.
This article isn’t really about dancing, though I do love to dance the lindy hop. It’s about living life on your terms. Find the courage to be yourself, instead of trying to be the person others want you to be. How can we let go of our self-consciousness and dance like nobody’s watching?
1. Know who you are not
Most of us have tried to please others so much that we became somebody we don’t like. Women dress like dolls to please their men. Men give up their hobbies to please their women. Children study subjects they hate to please their parents.
None of this is wrong, of course. Life does require some compromises. But you’ll know when it has gone too far. You look at yourself in the mirror and don’t recognise that sad person anymore.
The good thing about having gone through this phase in your life is that you’ll know who you are not. It’s like trying on a shirt that looked good on the hanger but is all wrong on you. Or taking on a few jobs that we realise we’re not cut out for. Most of us aren’t born knowing who we want to be. Life would be boring if we did. It’s the search for identity that gives the journey meaning.
2. Do what brings you joy
Recall times in your life when you felt pure joy. If you have difficulty remembering, take a day or a week to go somewhere quiet with nothing to do but reflect and journal. What were you doing when time seemed to disappear? What kept you awake at night, too excited to sleep just thinking about it? When did you jump out of bed in the morning before the alarm clock went off, excited to start your day?
Start doing those things again, even if just for a few minutes a day. I loved to read as a child. I’d hide storybooks inside my schoolbooks so I could read while pretending to study. When I started working I stopped reading. There just wasn’t enough time and I was exhausted even if there was.
It took me many years to get back to reading. At first I could only manage newspaper headlines at first. Now I can spend entire afternoons just sitting in a cafe reading a novel. Life has never been more enriching.
Your thing may be collecting insects, or cross-stitching, or cooking, or bungee jumping, or strumming a guitar, or doing woodwork, or raising a child, or hosting parties. Go ahead and do whatever it is. You don’t need my permission, nor anyone else’s.
3. Understand that nobody’s watching anyway
When you’re in your twenties, you worry what people think. In your forties, you don’t care what they think. When you reach your sixties, you realise they weren’t thinking about you anyway. They were busy thinking about themselves. Just like you are.
The sooner you realise this, the happier you’ll be. I used to think people pitied me for my solitude. “Poor girl, sitting all by herself in a cafe reading. She must have no friends.” Then I realised that they were unlikely to ponder a stranger’s life. They were probably just looking to see if I would vacate my table soon.
And even if some people make a comment about you, think about this: They spend perhaps one minute of their life judging you and making a disparaging remark. You then spend years of your life changing yourself and doing things to please them. But they’ll probably not notice anyway because they’re busy thinking about themselves most of the time. Let them go.
So dance like nobody’s watching… now
So don’t tiptoe through life, trying not to step on others’ toes and backing off when someone stands in your path. Don’t apologise for being alive and being you. Claim your role in the great human story. Move freely over the space that the vast universe has alloted to you.
Dance like nobody’s watching… do it now while the music still goes on.