“Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening. Live like it’s heaven on earth.” ~ Mark Twain
Hey guys! It’s dad. You can probably relate to this one.
I’ve heard and seen every iteration of this ubiquitous Mark Twain quote. I’ve seen it everywhere, from social media posts to movies to billboards to TV commercials to book titles to wall art. I just couldn’t figure out why it rubbed me the wrong way, but it always has.
On the surface, I love it. It talks about moments of true, unbridled, uninhibited freedom. But isn’t freedom supposed to be unbridled and uninhibited? Isn’t that what freedom means?
This quote though, just like the golden rule…or the idea of tolerance as it relates to racism and equality something just doesn’t sit right with it. I feel as though there is inherent duplicity or a two-sidedness undermining this quote. I just couldn’t find it until now.
I visualize someone in the privacy of their own home; a house, a condo, an apartment, a trailer. It doesn’t matter. It’s home! They’re in their pajamas, in the kitchen, cooking up some comfort food after a hard day’s work. They’re warm, safe, and out of harm’s way. You know, a kind of let your hair down (‘cuz someone once told us that we shouldn’t let our hair down?) vibe going on. “Friends” blaring on the TV. Using a spatula as a mic…they’re just singing and dancing smiling like nobody is watching. So…what’s wrong with that? It sounds kinda fantastic to me? It sounds free. Healthy. Happy.
Mark Twain’s quote, and the myriad of pretenders to the original, paints a beautiful picture. But can we improve upon it? And if we can, we must, so here we go.
What if we turned that quote on its head? What would happen if we danced like EVERYONE was watching? We, well at least the overwhelming majority of us, would change our dance to something…less…???…impulsive? Less free. Or we’d stop dancing altogether, for fear of being laughed at, or worse…judged.
So here are my thoughts. What if we didn’t have to ‘Dance like no one is watching?” What if we could change our self-esteem? Change the way we see ourselves? What if we could become, inside, so comfortable with who we are that we wouldn’t care if we were laughed at…’cuz heck, we were laughing already anyway! What if we didn’t care if we were judged, because we like who we are…truly…deeply…sincerely?
Psychology Today says that “Our self-esteem develops as we grow from childhood to adulthood. It is affected by the image we build for ourselves through experiences with people and different situations. The things that you experienced as a child initially form a foundation in the shaping of your self-esteem.”
Yes, our “self” esteem is affected by others. Our parents, teachers, coaches, friends, etc. But life is proof enough that those influences are not always fantastic, and we are the only ones who have to power to change those negative and imprisoning thoughts. And we should.
What if we didn’t have to carry the weight of being judged? What if we could free ourselves from the insecurities that prevent us from…??? raising our hands in class when we think we know the answer? What if we could not just walk past, but strut past the inhibitions that stop us from singing our favorite song at Karaoke night…even though everyone else does it…and they’re not very good either?
What if we could go forward in our lives without hesitation. What if “that jacked guy with a beard and tattoos” actually wants to do makeup for a career? For models? Weddings? Actors? What if that petite girly girl really wants to be a diesel mechanic? What if that CEO no longer wants to…do CEOing? What if she wants to decorate cupcakes instead? What if that newly married couple doesn’t want to have kids…’cuz…they just don’t? What’s wrong with a mid-life crisis anyway, other than it’s so late that we now have a quarter-life crisis? What’s wrong with changing horses mid-stream? You might fall? You might get wet? Well..you might laugh! And it might be refreshing.
Lastly, let’s not forget those who might ONLY dance…if everyone was watching. Why not nurture them too?
These things…our unwillingness to be authentically us…all the time, in front of everyone, they come from apprehension, fear, insecurities, inhibitions, the power of stigmas. They come from the societal expectations that we’ve been taught. But I just don’t think they serve us anymore. Yes! Be kind. Be respectful of others. But we can do that and be true to ourselves. Can’t we?
I say…give it a try! Maybe your courage to try singing the theme song from the Titanic gives that waitress at the Karaoke bar the courage to share how SHE thinks cancer can be cured. And maybe…because she didn’t go to med school…she’s the only one who’s right!
Let’s wipe ’em out: apprehension, fear, insecurities, inhibitions, the power of stigmas. They only serve the bullies and those in power anyway. Take the power back. Live your lives…authentically you…and I hope you dance.
I love you guys