The Crippling Fear of Looking Dumb

Soft red light filtered through the door of the dimly lit warehouse party. I was in downtown Los Angeles with two of my best friends; it was late, and we were here to groove.

Green lights beamed from the disco ball at the front of the room and yellow candles lined the DJ’s table like a mountain range of fire.

The setup was epic; we entered with some flair. Yet, when I looked around, everybody seemed to just be standing, bopping, watching, trying to look cool.

How many, I wondered, longed to break free of their own restraints and let their freak flag fly?

One woman had the courage to do so, and she was groovin’ at the front of the room in front of the DJ as if nobody was watching. She was dancing alone, having the most fun at center stage.

My inner voice kicked in: Get up there. You can’t let her dance alone. But what will people think? Shouldn’t you blend in, keep it cool?

I love to dance. Not in any particular style — I just like to move. This is a relatively new discovery of mine, emerging in the last year or two. This recent passion coincides with the dawn of my present being.

At the beginning of Covid, I officially embraced and took full responsibility for my passions — writing, sharing, creating, learning. This, I decided, will be my life, and everything else, jobs or career moves I may undergo, will contribute to following my dreams.

I began to share my voice. Despite having little experience in this grand scheme of life, I know I am on my path. I have faith in this journey. I’ll get to where I’m meant to go — exactly where I am.

Not because I’m doing things correctly or following somebody else’s guidelines for success. But because I believe through experiences in the world I’ll become more attuned to what I feel, what I love, and what I’m really here to do.

Embarking on this journey has given me confidence in myself. Not a cockiness, I hope, or the notion that I’m better than anyone — in fact it’s the opposite. We’re in this thing together. I’m gonna do me, and I hope you do you, whatever that might mean.

Yet so often, we’re afraid.

Afraid to be ourselves. To take a chance. To look dumb. To fail. So we do what everybody else does. We succumb to the noise, the crowd, the path of least resistance, usually nothing at all.

I fear that things won’t work out on my journey.

I fear that I’ll let myself down by not accomplishing my goals; I fear what might happen to me out there in the world. I fear looking dumb, naïve, foolish. But what I fear more than anything else, is regret.

This thing called fear — a perpetual hesitation to go for life in its totality. What darkness lurks in the unknown has more sway — a stronger grip on our soul — than the possibility of things working out.

We can never know what will happen for sure.

Yet our default thought process is to expect the worst. Why is that?

What if every time we felt that fear we challenged it, pushed through its flimsy wall, felt that life bursting through our chest and stomach, and used it.

What if we dared to be our authentic, real, bold self against the odds, against what people might think, and perhaps most importantly, against our inner critic?

What might life become if we dared to face our fears in the little moments and the big, like dancing your heart out under the spinning disco ball because you want to, or quitting your job to embark on your own hero’s journey?

What if when you passed that stranger and thought, damn those shoes are fire, you told them, instead of holding it in for fear of embarrassment?

What if you moved to another country despite your friends and family thinking you’re crazy.

I believe if we foster that courage, if we try and we fail and we sincerely interact with the world around us, we will discover that we’re more than capable of living an extraordinary life.

We will learn about the intricacies of being, about people, about ourselves; we will see that we’re worthy of living a story, our story, one without regret.

That decision starts today. It starts every day at any time we choose. Fear is an indicator of what we must do, what we long to do, what we feel deep within our soul will change us in ways we can’t imagine.

Send it.

I made my way to the front of the room; if I gave myself any more time, I think the fear would have won.

I consistently fall prey to overthinking — so when I hear those thoughts starting to roll, when I can feel the opportunity slipping away and I secretly wish it to because it’s easier not to do the thing — that’s when I know I gotta go.

I let loose and let my freak flag fly; slowly but surely the rest of the dance floor inched closer to the DJ until the open space came alive.

If you’re having the most fun, who cares what other people think. Live the life you’re meant to live, and let others live their own. When you decide to take a chance on yourself, it’ll inspire others to do the same.

I learned that on the dancefloor.

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