I’m not a great dancer.
When we got married, Trudy and I took dance lessons in preparation for our first dance during the reception. It was a good thing we did, too; I knew nothing about the “proper” way to dance so I needed instruction on my posture, my hand placement and, of course, my footwork. Also, Trudy and I had agreed that we wanted the first dance to be special. It didn’t have to be some incredibly complicated routine, but neither of us were comfortable with just swaying from side to side like middle school kids at a bar mitzvah. So we took the lessons, learned the steps and, if I do say so myself, we looked pretty good doing it.
I remember having an image in my head of what I looked like while I was dancing. My steps were smooth and fluid. I was confident about where I was going. I didn’t trip once. Trudy and I moved together as one body throughout the song. Everything felt right (as it should have, considering it was our wedding). And then, when I saw the video a few months later, I was surprised that the video didn’t quite match the way I’d felt while I was dancing. I looked stiff and controlled. I was smiling – it was obvious that I was enjoying myself – but none of the moves seemed natural. I was calculating every step, planning every beat in advance, when I should have looked like I was losing myself in the music.
I was disappointed.
I had built up this image in my head of how I thought I looked and reality definitely did not measure up to my expectation. It also didn’t help when friends of ours got married a year or two later and, when we watched their first dance, I remember thinking to myself, “Now, that guy is graceful.” There was a moment when the groom danced his new wife across the dance floor, slowly, his steps matching the time and mood of the song perfectly, and I found myself wondering why I didn’t look like that when I danced.
We all do this, in one way or another. We measure our lives against those of the people around us to see who’s making the most progress, who’s the most successful, who’s farther ahead, as though we’re running some race. Social media, in particular, is terrible for this. We see our friends going on dates and vacations, getting promoted and married and having children and we think about how interesting and fun their lives are. Everyone else looks more content, more lively, more talented than we do. Everyone else is having a good time. Everyone else is happy.
It can be a dangerous thing to compare one’s self to others. Everything looks better on social media because nobody is going to purposely broadcast the negative aspects of their lives. We all want to put our best feet forward and present the best versions of ourselves to the world. For one thing, no one really wants to admit that they have flaws or that things are not always going well for them. For another, some people even believe that if they spend enough time and effort creating a more positive image, eventually it might become a reality.
The key is to remember that no one is perfect. Some people live more comfortably and may not have the same worries as others. Some people might smile a bit more; some people might have different body types; some people might look one way or another online. But everyone has their weaknesses, their vices, their guilt and their worries. Everyone has things that bother them.
I fall into these traps every once in a while, as I’m sure everyone does. And, whenever I do, I remind myself of all the things that I have going for me. I think of my family, my job and my home, of course, but I also remember that the things I see on social media are just projections. None of it is really real. Most importantly, though, I remember that looking outward is never going to make me feel as good as looking inward. I will always get more satisfaction out of focusing on my accomplishments, the people who have helped me get to where I am and planning for my family’s future than I will from thinking about what other people have going on in their lives.
It’s okay if I’m not the best dancer. The people I’m dancing with are more important than how I look.
(And they don’t care what I look like when I’m dancing anyway.)