I didn’t really start dancing until my thirties. I come from a musical family, but not a dancing one. I had little to no exposure to dancing besides church choir choreography (which we all know was not helpful) until I was in middle school, and by that point, regular school dances were in full swing. Terrified of the unknown ways the other kids seemed to know how to move their bodies, I stayed on the bleachers with my best friend and tried to nonchalantly bop my head to the beat. I went to two proms in high school and barely danced at either of them, much to the chagrin of my fun-loving dates!
Y’all, it was sad. I was surrounded by people who were having so much fun, but I was too self-conscious to try to join them. It was just too much. Too much exposure, too much required coordination, too many people watching… I was SO uncomfortable, and it totally showed.
Fast-foward to the small college I went to that seemed to have parties and dances every weekend or so, not to mention my friends who would throw spontaneous dance parties in my dorm room. They all knew that Emily Doesn’t Dance. I’d wiggle my shoulders, I’d do a small step-touch in the corner, but dear God, please don’t let anyone try to put me in the middle of a circle because I will DIE of paralysis and embarrassment! (I could do a mean Electric Slide, though, so there was that.)
Eventually, peer pressure and constant exposure wore me down, and I started to get just slightly more comfortable with actually moving my body. I ended-up marrying the guy who was always in the middle of the dancing circle, but the story that I still told myself, that “I’m the girl who can’t dance,” never stopped running through my head.
A few years ago we moved back home to Memphis, and I joined my local gym. As I looked at the schedule of group fitness classes, I noticed that they offered a bellydancing class, and I was so intrigued. I showed-up to a class full of women of all ages, ethnicities, shapes, and sizes. Many were wearing jingly skirts and exotic clothing, and I learned how to shimmy and roll my hips. And it. was. AWESOME.
In the beginning, I went to every bellydancing class that was offered, and with a lot of intense concentration, I learned the moves and noticed that, lo and behold, I was keeping-up with the pace of the dancing! With every passing week, the story I had been telling myself started to change. I started to LOVE to dance, and with a few moves up my sleeve, this started to bleed over into everyday life. I began having more spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen with my kids, and I danced my heart out with my husband at his company’s Christmas party.
Here’s where I’m going with this, Mamas:
I held myself back for many years and missed out on so many fun experiences because of the narrative I told myself. I was intimidated by dancing when I was an awkward 12 year-old, and I let that define my self-concept for another 20 years. The words we tell ourselves about ourselves are important, and more than we realize, they make us who we are.
What do you tell yourself that you can or can’t do? That you’re “this” kind of person and not “that” kind of person? What if that story was actually not accurate? What kinds of little and big things are we holding ourselves back from all the time because of our deeply-ingrained beliefs about who we are that may have been true once a long time ago or never really at all?
Who knew I would fall in love with bellydancing, kinda random, huh? But, Y’all, I love every little bit of swishing my jingly skirt and how it’s helped to reveal a part of myself that I never knew about, a part that is making me a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled mom. It’s so easy to assume that because we’re adults and moms who are responsible for little people that we’ve already become who we were meant to be… That this right here is pretty much it. Our dreams for ourselves shift more toward dreams for our kids. But I’m figuring-out that I’m still changing. And that even though my daily life as a mom is very full, it’s important to keep challenging myself to try new things. Who knows what kinds of new passions we have yet to discover?
Although I don’t get to go to bellydancing class as often as I would like to these days, it’s something that I do purely for my own enjoyment, and that goes a long way toward my contentment as a mom. To be very clear, I’m not what I would call a GOOD dancer… But I really love it, and it’s a wonderful stress reliever. It’s become something I do now… I’m the girl who loves to dance. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard some of my fellow mom friends say with an eye roll and a laugh, “There she goes again!” when I break-out into spontaneous belly rolling and hip shimmying!
So go try something new, Mamas! Dream big dreams for yourself, but start with a small step. Don’t listen to the voice in your head that will give a list of reasons for why it won’t make sense– create a new story for what kind of person you are. Learn a new skill, start that business you’ve always wondered about, go ride your bike around the block, revive an old interest…. or just come bellydancing with me!