Last Updated on December 26, 2023
“Eww, you stink!”
Growing up, I had severe social anxiety.
But I was able to overcome it in my 20s.
In fact, I went from shut down to charismatic!
Healing Through Dance
I transformed my social anxiety by going out dancing.
Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, I’d go out to bars and clubs.
I didn’t drink alcohol, but I did want to learn how to dance.
Most of the time though, I was frozen in fear.
I couldn’t get myself to actually get onto the dance floor!
After all, I grew up an uncoordinated, autistic kid.
For several years as a child I was basically mute, never speaking at all.
I was often stuck in my head, overthinking everything.
So I envied people who could just freely express themselves.
But I didn’t want to rely on alcohol to do it.
I wanted to be able to express myself anytime, anywhere.
That meant no substances!
Exploring the Edges
With practice, I got better and better at facing my fears.
When I could get myself to dance, it was ecstatic!
But I also noticed there were still things I was afraid of.
One day I noticed I was afraid to dance with my arms over my head.
So I challenged myself to do it.
For whatever reason, it felt risky!
Like Water off a Duck’s Back
I also felt deeply afraid of “being rejected.”
I wanted everyone to like me.
One day I overcame that though.
I was dancing wildly for a long time, sweating like a pig.
A woman came up to me, clearly interested in me, and wanting to dance.
When she got close, she suddenly said, “Eww, you stink!”
I watched all that happen in a detached way.
I was just enjoying dancing!
In that moment I realized something powerful:
None of that had anything to do with me!
I mean yes, I almost certainly did stink, as I had been dancing for hours already.
But neither her attraction nor repulsion had anything to do with me personally.
People’s opinions of me don’t really have much to do with me!
We are all just responding to our own preferences, biases, and so on.
The same thing is true when I put out a blog post, a video, or a product.
Neither praise nor blame, attraction or repulsion is personal.
It’s not a statement about me, it’s a statement about the other person’s opinion.
And that might or might not be relevant to what I choose to do!
Now I’m not always immune to criticism or rejection by any means.
But because of thousands of hours of dancing, I’m a lot further along than I used to be.
And there are always edges to my own self-expression too.
In fact, it is these edges that create our “box” that we think inside of.
If we don’t regularly explore our edges, we end up trapped inside a smaller and smaller possibility space.
Where are the scary edges to your own self-expression?
How might you approach them incrementally, so you can bravely expand your comfort zone in 2024?