I’ve let fear make a fair number of decisions in my life. As I share in Is Fred in the Refrigerator? Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life, when I was in high school “I dismissed activities where I didn’t already have skills or where I could fail, even if I thought they would be fun.” My anxiety didn’t want me to do anything where I might not be good enough.
But no more.
In 2016, I started doing Zumba©. I’d never taken a dance class in my life, even though I love dancing.
And I was terrible. I didn’t know the moves. Couldn’t keep up. I went left when everyone else went right.
Nonetheless, I kept trying. I watched my teachers (Betty, Noemi, and Tecla, who are all amazing), I followed dancers in the front row, I asked people after class to show me how to do moves. After a few years, I finally figured it out.
Fear gets a voice but not a vote*
Am I now perfect in Zumba? Nope, I’m average, and I still make a ton of mistakes. But I love it! Every class gives me the opportunity to practice the exposure and response prevention (ERP) skills that I teach my clients who have anxiety disorders or OCD:
- Put your shoulders back and face your fears: I now position myself in the front row because it’s a challenge to dance alongside such talented people. I put my shoulders back and act as though all the noise in my head about how I can’t dance is garbage.
- Stay in this moment: If I’m lost in my head, I’m guaranteed to be lost on the dance floor, too!
- Let go of control: I trust that I’ll know from the music what to do next. Overthinking, in contrast, just leads to messing up.
- Go toward what matters: Over the years I’ve introduced myself to the dancers around me, and I’ve made great friends as a result (two of whom, Lindsey and Noemi, are in the picture with me on this page).
- Take care of yourself: I cannot overstate the benefits of exercise for mood and for health in general. I can go into Zumba super grumpy and come out exhilarated.
Don’t let fear make your decisions
Is there something you’ve been wanting to do that fear has vetoed? Why not tell fear it doesn’t get to make decisions for you anymore and give it a try? You might be terrible, but it also might be the most fun you’ve ever had.
Want to see what a Zumba routine looks like? Here’s Tecla & Crew dancing to one of my favorites:
Want to learn more about taming fear?
Those of us who’ve tamed OCD have a black belt in managing FUD: fear, uncertainty, and doubt. People who have untreated OCD, unlike the popular misconceptions about the disorder, have a pathological fear of uncertainty. Learning to tame OCD gives you above average skills in managing everyday uncertainties at home, work, and life … like what to do about a $10,630 bill from a hospital for a vaccination, for one memorable example from my own life. For a fast-paced read about my journey into the heart of fear to reclaim my life (including what I did about that hospital bill!) and how you can use the lessons of OCD to reclaim yours, check out Is Fred in the Refrigerator? Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life.
*Elizabeth Gilbert created this wonderful metaphor of allowing fear to ride along but not allowing it to call the shots in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, a book I highly recommend.
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FredTalks are not a replacement for therapy, and I encourage all readers who have an anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder to find a competent ERP therapist. See the IOCDF treatment provider database for a provider near you (many OCD therapists treat anxiety disorders as well). And never give up hope, because you can tame OCD and fear and reclaim your life!
[…] by the guidelines we’re now trying to follow as a world society to manage the pandemic. I went to Zumba this morning and noticed as we were dancing that there was exactly six feet of social distancing […]