What is it that is preventing me from trying something new? I’ve been asking myself that very thing over and over for a while now. My first thought was that it was fear – fear of the unknown, fear of looking stupid, or fear of making a fool out of myself. What I recently discovered though, was that it wasn’t actually fear that was holding me back, but rather something that can be just as strong as fear and can impersonate fear sometimes as if it’s a villain in disguise. The culprit keeping me from expanding my horizons was vulnerability.
For those of you who don’t know, I used to teach Zumba for Gold’s Gym for almost six years. Sure, it was a lot of work, but, even to this day, the music and moves just makes my heart happy. Now, I didn’t just start off my Zumba experience by teaching my first class. I started by stepping my vulnerable ass into a class for the first time, stood at the back of the room, and just tried to keep up. At the end of the hour, my face was beet red and I was exhausted, but I was shocked how quickly that hour went by! I didn’t feel nearly as awkward as I thought I would, and after that first class, I was hooked.
I quickly became a regular, and as time went by, others in the class realized that I looked like I knew what I was doing. Turns out, routines just come easily to me, so I pick up on them fairly quickly. Others in the class started asking me to stand in front of them. They figured if they couldn’t see the instructor due to the large classes, they could at least watch me to know what to do. It didn’t take long for me to move from the back of the class to the front. Then, after taking a class from a disappointing substitute one day, I realized I could do a better job, so I got certified, auditioned, and was hired on the spot. Later on, I would become the instructor of the very class I used to take.
Now, the first thing I did before teaching each class was to ask if anyone was new to Zumba or just new to me. It always gave me a thrill to get be someone’s first experience with Zumba or even a more positive experience if they’d taken classes previously. I did my best to make the choreography challenging for the veterans but easy enough to follow for the newbies. After all, if someone didn’t feel successful or that they at least knew what they were doing, they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s hard enough to get people to come to the gym. I didn’t want to be the reason they stopped coming altogether.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot lately, as I’ve been thinking of finding a Zumba class again. I’m nowhere in as good of shape as I was when I was teaching, but I just miss it – the moves, the music, the people. I think about how the newbies felt in my class each time and realized that I’d sort of be the newbie now. That idea makes me feel very vulnerable, and so I kept putting it off. I mean, hey…I can’t be vulnerable if I don’t step foot in a class. But…but then I realized I’m missing out on the music, and the moves, and, most importantly, the people.
Oh, the people!! They were the absolute best part of it!! Just two weekends ago, one of my very best friends came up for a visit with her two kids. How did we meet? In Zumba! She happened to recognize my college alma mater shirt, ASU (Angelo State University), which most people confuse with Arizona State University. Turns out, she’s from San Angelo! We were instant friends. During her visit, I remembered how easy it was to meet new people that way, which I seem to have trouble doing now, and I really needed to figure out how to re-incorporate that into my life.
After a bit of research, I found a gym nearby that offers Zumba classes, along with many other class formats I’ve previously taken. Sure, my office building and my apartment complex both have gyms that I can use, but they don’t have those classes. In the end, I want to meet others who have similar interests, so, despite there being a small membership cost, I signed up.
Even then, the vulnerability monster popped up. I mean, how could I go to a class, let alone a gym, when I feel like others will be judging me and I might not stack up to their standards? I quickly internally slapped myself across the face because I KNEW that was stupid and it was just the vulnerability talking, and I needed to shut it up…HARD!
I walked into the bathroom to get my “game hair” ready. For me, that means hair in pigtails. Now, I know what you must be thinking, but there really is something to this. The ladies can back me up on it. When you put your hair up in a ponytail and have to lay on the floor, a bench, or up against a high seat back at the gym, it’s not very comfortable. That doesn’t happen with pigtails. Because of this, anytime I worked out, and, yes, every time I taught Zumba, I wore my hair in pigtails. My class came to expect that, and many wouldn’t recognize me in public most times when my hair was down. There are some funny stories about that, including an inebriated class member at a karaoke bar who said I looked just like her Zumba instructor…when, in fact, I was her Zumba instructor.
Just the act of putting my hair in pigtails was almost like flipping a switch for me. If you’ve ever seen the Sylvester Stallone movie, Over The Top, it’s sort of like what happened to him when he put his cap on backwards. It was like hair muscle memory, if that’s a thing. I hog tied the vulnerability monster and drove to the gym for my first workout.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a Zumba class today, but, as I remembered, most people at gyms couldn’t care less about you. They’re focused on themselves. I had a good laugh with a lady in the locker room because I couldn’t get one of the lockers to work. She has had the same issue, so it was no biggie. (See vulnerability monster…you’re powerless!!) I spent an hour, did some cardio, free weights, and even a bit of rowing. It was fun to people watch, especially one of the group classes that was going on, as I know what they’re like.
I finished my workout, gathered my things from my successfully locked locker, and headed out to run errands before going home. During my workout and again while I was making my stops, I thought about what else the feeling of being vulnerable has prevented me from doing. One very big thing it stopped me from doing and that I really need to do is find a way to make new friends. Being single requires me to always put myself in situations that test my immunity to being vulnerable. That can be daunting to think about. The thing is though, if I don’t overcome that feeling, nothing will ever improve or change.
So, my readers, this is my commitment to embracing my vulnerability. I will not let that stop me from doing the things I want to do. Now that I recognize it, I will consciously look beyond it to view the things I really want and that I wouldn’t achieve otherwise. I challenge you to do the same. What are you missing out on that you’ve always wanted or needed? How will you make that happen?