Dancing Social Anxiety Away: How I Became a Salsa Dancer
This is a post about me.
Me! Me! Me!
It can also be a post about you if you take it to heart.
If you suffer from severe anxiety, you may want to read this.
One of the things I usually recommend to lonely and socially awkward people is get into some social hobbies involving a lot of physical contact. My favorite examples are martial arts, dancing and acting.
This is precisely what I did to overcome my own social anxiety. I tried lots of things out, and one stuck – salsa dancing. This is something that profoundly changed my life, and I’d like to share this story with you. Here it goes:
A few years ago, I found myself in a hapless situation. Without going into detail, let me just say that I was quite unlucky with love. I had become angry and bitter, and at the same time was painfully shy and insecure.
It is no surprise that I spent a lot of time in internet chatrooms – trying to avoid the contact I craved, but also feared so much.
One day, while chatting, I ended up clicking on an ad that promised to change my love life. I subscribed to a newsletter, but the info wasn’t helpful at all. I wasn’t willing to buy the product they were pushing at the time. Before long, I had a few dozens of subscriptions. I was still spending a lot of time in chatrooms, testing those proven techniques I was learning – with disastrous results.
Fortunately, one day a newsletter gave me the great advice I really needed: learn dancing.
Being a smart cheapskate though, I hated the idea of paying for dance classes. So I started going to the local clubs and watching people dance, trying to figure out what they were doing. Go and try this if you want – it may work for you.
Well, for me it didn’t work.
Needless to say, I started searching the internet for info on salsa, and I actually found some nice stuff. I didn’t learn to dance from it though.
One day, I finally gave up and signed up for a salsa course. Then for another. And yet another …
These are some great songs.
Check them out.
The beginning was awkward. While I did have a musical talent and a sense of rhythm, my social skills were nil. I hated one of the courses, because the partner I had to dance with and I couldn’t stand each other. The hate was mutual, and we had no other options at the time.
I kept attending though, because I was determined to learn.
With time, things started to change.
During all this time, I also kept reading the newsletters. I got familiar with many new ideas. Some were crap, but others turned out to be useful. I also ordered a few products.
Gradually, my interest shifted from learning techniques and lines to changing my attitude. This was a slow process, but I’m now glad I went through it.
An important part of salsa dancing is learning to lead (if you are a man) or follow (if you are a woman). I cannot comment on following, but learning to lead is hard at first. You are responsible for two people while hardly knowing how to control your own body alone. The good new is, that if you persist, you learn and get good at it.
I had the ambition to get good. At that time, my self esteem was very low, and I desperately needed something to feel good about. Being a good dancer became a kind of a crutch to me. I devoted myself to learning and put my heart into it.
As you develop some skill, dancing becomes very pleasurable. It engages the body and mind on so many levels. The experience is hardly describable. Before long, I was hooked – and I still am.
In order to dance salsa, you need partners. At first, I was terrified at asking women to dance with me. My social anxiety had a profound effect on my body language and face expression. I guess I crept many women out with my vibe – and had to face a lot of rejection. During this time, I also tended to take this personally – and felt humiliated and angry every time I got a NO.
I kept on trying anyway.
On top of everything else, I used to feel uncomfortable with physical touch. Due to the crappy upbringing so many of us get, I had internalized the belief that women would feel offended if I touched them. Dancing let me experience a completely different reality. I’m smiling right now as I think of it …
As my skill level improved, I also became friends with one of the salsa teachers. When I first met him, I had my guard up about having to pay too much. He was cool about it. Before long, I ended up being a regular student.
He started inviting me to repeat the levels I had already completed for free – while “helping out” as a male dance partner. Life was starting to get good …
While attending all those events, I had the opportunity to observe some really cool people and see how they behave. I learned a lot from them, but gradually the pressure to learn started to dissolve.
While at first I needed to prove to myself and everybody else that I’m this great dancer, this is no longer the case. Yes, I do have some skill. I do get compliments, but that’s no big deal. There are many other dancers that are better than me, and that’s OK. Sometimes I still do screw up and that’s OK, too. I do have my fun anyway.
I no longer identify myself with my popularity. There are women who refuse to dance with me, and I don’t mind. I still have some social anxiety, but it no longer rules my life. I’m enjoying life anyway.
I’ve had LOTS of fun already, and at no particular moment do I need to prove anything.
Apart from dancing, I also tried quite a few different kinds of sport, as well as some practices that I intend to blog about.
The result is, that I love living in my body. As I sit, or walk, or do whatever I might be doing, it feels like a dance. I’m quite aware of how my body moves, and it feels really good. I’ve got a steady pleasure source 24/7.
Does this sound like bragging? It might – but that’s not my intention. I just want to share with you what’s possible. I used to be awkward and clumsy and depressed – and I changed. You can change, too.
How long is it gonna take?
As long as it has to. While it’s OK to have a great goal, learn to love the process. You’ve probably heard this before – because it’s true, and it’s important.
Learn to love what you are doing. Make it feel like a game and not hard work. Make sure you can’t wait to get moving again. Don’t consider it a chore, consider it a game, a celebration. This is the attitude that will not only help you succeed, but will also keep you happy all the way.
You don’t have to choose salsa dancing. Not everybody falls for it. It just happened to be the thing I fell for. Find your own thing. Then do it.
If you are feeling too afraid, there are things you can do to handle your fear. Practice those techniques in the comfort of your home for a while first – then start applying them in social situations:
Do you feel ashamed of yourself? Do you consider yourself broken in any way? Are you afraid, people would find you out? Then watch these videos carefully. Watch them as many times as you need to:
Do you believe you can’t do this? All those people who can, are different? You can’t? There’s that one thing about you that makes it impossible?
Are you lacking the motivation? Do you consider yourself lazy? The following two posts are very different, but are both very important:
You’ve got a bunch to learn now. Take it to heart. Go through it as many times as you have to – and your life will never be the same.
“I disagree. This is wrong. I feel offended.” I am sorry about that. Your opinion is important to me, so please write down all your objections in a comment below. Thank you.
BTW, I also love praise, so be sure to give me some If you feel like it.
Thank you for reading this far. Did you find this article helpful in any way? If you did, maybe you could think of somebody else who could benefit from it, too. Be sure to help them out by bringing them here.