Do What Scares You
Teaching my husband about anxiety treatment officially backfired last week. Let me set the scene:
I’d been debating going to an adult beginner dance class at my aerial studio for weeks. I always wanted to dance growing up and never got the chance. That’s one of the reasons I gravitated toward aerial arts in adulthood - it granted me all of the creative, fly through the air goodness I always wanted as a kid.
When I learned that my studio added beginner classes that actually fit into my weird private practice schedule, I got excited and immediately anxious.
What if everyone was better than me? What if I couldn’t remember the combination? Who exactly defines “beginner” and what if this studio chockfull of semi-professional dancers who’ve been twirling about since birth uses a horrifyingly different definition of “beginner” than I do?
“Whatever!” I said, “you’re an anxiety specialist. Tell your anxiety to STFU and sign up for the class.” So I did! And then I canceled my reservation an hour before class started…
This is when my years of telling my husband to confront his anxiety and talking about the wonders of exposure therapy smacked me in the face.
On the phone with husband:
Me: “I feel bad about not going to this dance class tonight.”
Him: “Why aren’t you going?”
Me: “…it makes me anxious.”
Him: “Go to dance class.”
Me: “But I don’t feel good!”
Him: “Do you feel sick? Or is it your anxiety?”
Me: “…my anxiety…”
Him: “Don’t give in to your anxiety. Go to dance class. I’m hanging up the phone.” *click*
It was a humbling moment.
So I went to dance class. Everything about walking into the studio was awkward. I compared myself to every student class. I didn’t know where to stand. I thought about how my outfit choice was different than the teacher's and if I looked like I belonged.
And then class started. And everything I always tell my clients turned out to be true. Doing it was WAY easier than showing up. Anticipatory anxiety is almost always worse than the action itself. Plus, the movement was so mindful! The teacher did all these awesome eyes closed exercises where she would cue movements verbally and we couldn’t look in the mirror (or each other). I loved it.
I felt kind of dumb for being so nervous about it. And I promptly labeled that thought as an unhelpful self-criticism and decided to sign up for class the following week.
It was such a great reminder that the activities that give us the most anxiety are often the ones with the greatest payoff. I’m super excited to go to a weekly dance class. And now I have additional proof that confronting anxiety really works ;)