I used to love dancing. I used to do it regularly and with reckless abandon. In my mind, there was no wrong time or place for a dance party. But at some point in my recent past, the dancing had stopped. My feet and my torso were still and the music wasn’t in my bones the way it used to be. I was troubled -- when had that stopped? It dawned on me: there was a direct correlation between the absence of dance in my life and the profound disconnect with my sense of self and with my body. I made a promise to myself that, starting December 1st of 2015, I would dance every day for the entire month for at least one song. And thus, Daily Dance December was born.
After sharing my first track choice and the idea for the experiment on Facebook, friends and family requested that I share evidence of the dancing. The exploration began to evolve into something beyond me dancing alone in my room to remind myself I had hips and the ability to move it, move it. Posting videos of myself dancing was terrifying for a host of reasons. I was super critical of how I looked on social media, I was nervous about managing my “personal brand”, and I was afraid that having the videos online would hold me accountable to others and make it difficult to back out. However, despite all of these reasons not to, I knew I had to push myself out of my comfort zone to make the most of the experience.
Uploading my first video to Facebook was terrifying. I have a career in marketing, and I knew that my video had none of the calculated elements of a “successful” post. I was fresh out of bed with a zit on my face. I had serious bed head and grubby pajamas. I was standing in front of a white wall in a dimly lit room. Not to mention, it was poorly shot and my dancing was super awkward. (PSA: When you think you’re a really good dancer, there is nothing quite like watching a video of yourself dancing alone to bring you back down to earth). Plus, why should anyone really care about my videos and what I was doing? I felt exposed and vulnerable, but as I clicked “post,” I also felt liberated and absolutely energized. The dancing had given me a rush, and sharing it and letting go of the outcome was so freeing. I decided to commit to posting daily videos of my dancing.
The response was tremendous. Friends I hadn’t heard from in awhile and people I didn’t even know reached out to tell me how happy my videos made them and how inspired they were by my courage to expose myself in that way. I was elated. Not only did the dancing renew my sense of confidence and self-empowerment, but sharing the videos made me feel like it was no longer about just me. I felt connected to those I was sharing my experience with, hoping to inspire and bring them joy.
However, an unintended consequence of sharing my experience, was becoming overly distracted by the videos and the social media aftermath. What was originally about privately reconnecting with myself and my physical body was now a shared experience. I was challenged with the desire for external validation, and began to worry about how my body looked in the videos. There was one day I almost didn’t post a video because I had just eaten and thought my full tummy was sticking out too far. I debated what I was wearing, what song I picked, what my dancing looked like, what others would respond to, etc. My daily posts began to stress me out. I became self-conscious while dancing and was disappointed when I didn’t rack up “likes.”
For several days, I wrestled through this anxiety and engaged in familiar cycles of self-loathing, shame, and frustration. I even regressed to my past eating disorder behaviors of binge-eating and purging more than once. I was also in a lot of physical pain due to a low back injury that left me feeling even more disconnected from my body and quite frustrated and angry. But still everyday, there were those few minutes of dancing that distracted me from the pain and brought me a reminder of why I was doing this. Committing myself to those few minutes of joy and self care in which all I expected of myself was to dance through my feelings, eventually helped me to reset and rebalance. I was able to remind myself that the purpose of Daily Dance December was embodiment and acceptance -- not perfection.
That realization alone would have been good enough for me, but at the end of those 31 days, I walked --or danced, if you will-- away with so many other golden nuggets:
Responding to music through physical movement and feeling connects me to where I am in time and space.
It feels incredible to watch myself belly-roll up and down, and back and forth, and undulate my hips without judgement.
I don’t have the amazing natural rhythm I thought I did and may never be able to be anyone’s backup dancer (Madonna, I guess it’s just not meant to be).
I can observe a general looseness in my body without hating it or needing to change it, where in the past I would have been at the gym trying to exercise it away.
It’s okay for me to be injured, and it’s okay for me to move in new ways that take care of me, rather than in old ways that may hurt me.
Daily Dance December was about all these things and then doing my best to accept them. It was about learning to forgive myself and to love myself while acknowledging and appreciating exactly where I am. When I got back to these basics (but who am I kidding!? these are hard!) I found myself and lost the self-doubt. Daily Dance December turned out to be an incredible journey of coming home to my body and to myself -- not to mention a great way to re-discover some of my favorite old songs.
About the author:
Liz Westendorf is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and yoga teacher in training. She came to NYC by way of Ohio as part of her constant pursuit of adventure. She has a passion for helping others return to their bodies and their intuition to live in a state of freedom and embodied health (but also enjoys hugging trees, voice impersonations, and dancing wherever there’s space). Follow Liz’s Instagram, @intothewestwego for body positivity, love, and ideas for living at your highest frequency.