Let me just start off by saying that I am a straight-up horrible dancer. It’s not for lack of trying; plenty of friends and family members over the years have noticed that I don’t have an ounce of rhythm and tried to teach me a few moves. Unfortunately, my poor coordination means it’s basically impossible for me to make anything look graceful.
Somewhere around age 8, when we all become hyper-aware of what other people think about us, I started to feel pretty damn self-conscious about how I looked on the dance floor. I didn’t want to dance at my fourth grade father-daughter dance. I didn’t want to dance at my sixth grade Halloween dance. I didn’t want to dance at homecoming or prom or high school parties. And I sure as hell wasn’t about to make a fool of myself dancing in front of all my new classmates when I got to college.
So I spent the first semester of my freshman year standing near a wall and maybe bobbing my head a little while most of the people around me had fun. That all changed last January when I reluctantly went through sorority recruitment and met the sisters who would gradually turn me into less of a headcase and teach me how to actually enjoy myself in the depths of a frat basement.
I credit my sorority for a lot: personal growth, leadership opportunities, all the usual jazz. But perhaps most importantly, they somehow turned me from an anxious corner-stander into the girl who heads straight for the middle of the dance floor. I think part of that change was the general self-esteem boost that comes from having 100-plus girls who love me no matter what, but I also learned by example how to live my best life on the dance floor.
At our first social event, I spent a lot of time with the girl who would eventually become my big. She’s the kind of person who wows everyone with her upbeat energy and ability to party hard until the sun comes up (or at least until 2a.m. when it’s time to go home and order Domino’s). I mean, the girl never stops moving, and it makes her a blast to be around. And you know what? She’s not a good dancer either. But the secret is that nobody really notices or cares about bad technique or poor rhythm when you’re smiling and having fun and not giving a fuck about whether you look dumb.
Now compare that to how I used to be, the girl who just kind of stands awkwardly while her eyes dart around the room to see if anyone is looking at her. I didn’t have fun at parties, and I probably wasn’t a whole lot of fun for other people to interact with either. So I made a conscious decision to put myself out there even though I was low key (okay, fine, high key) terrified of other people’s judgment, and I’m really glad I did it.
It took me a while to get over my irrational fear of dancing in public. I second-guessed myself and over-analyzed every move I made and wondered if I was doing it “right” or if everyone was secretly judging me. Over time, I realized that I had built up all of these problems in my head, because the reality is that no one cares when or if or how I dance. If anything, people were happy to see me come out of my shell. And it makes sense, because when I see someone else out letting loose, I don’t think about whether their dance moves are good or not. I think, “Hey, that person is having a good time and that’s great,” because people who can act open and enthusiastic and ridiculous instead of constantly trying to avoid looking stupid are definitely some of the most fun.
So it turns out that dancing more might make other people think you’re a ~fun party girl,~ but that’s not even the point. Going out to parties is about you enjoying yourself, and if you genuinely would rather stand on the sidelines, then I won’t stop you. But if you secretly kind of wish you could be the girl who dances like nobody’s watching then I’m here to tell you that you can.
You don’t need skill or rhythm or coordination or grace; you just need to own what you’ve got and decide that your happiness is more important than strangers’ opinions. As someone who’s always been a little neurotic, I get how hard it is to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone, but I also know how good it feels when you can finally stop caring so much and let yourself have fun. So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that you can catch me dancing (very badly) out on the floor this Friday night, and I hope y’all will be right there with me.