When I’m talking with people about how they might approach developing their personal brand and style, the idea is often met with resistance. I totally get this. Resistance sounds like, “Oh, it’s not so important to me.” “I don’t have to care or think about how I look.” “It’s too expensive.” I don’t give up on people during these conversations. But, what I notice is that people give up on themselves. The fact is that doing what’s awkward forces you to grow.
I was confronted with my own resistance over the weekend. I was out to dinner with a group of friends after synagogue on Friday night. My girlfriend Emily, at the table with all the friends seated, invited me to a dance party at an off-the-hook house in Palo Alto. I was confronted first by needing to give her an answer, and everyone was waiting to see what I would say. Did I really want to go to this thing? Her dance class instructor at Equinox gym in Palo Alto was putting it on. I’ve not ever been to a dance class. I wouldn’t know anyone there except for Emily. Worst of all, I dance like a stiff white boy. Do you think that I was having resistance issues?
So, I did only what a good friend would do. I accepted gracefully – as long as I was feeling okay.
You see, earlier that week, I came down with a nasty cold virus, leaving me with chills, sore throat, blocked sinuses. Even though, by Friday night, I was feeling somewhat better, I was even willing to “call in sick” to this dance thing. I was resisting. Totally.
Sure enough, I honored my commitment, and went to this event. Upon arrival, I noticed that everyone was dressed in totally cool costumes. Clearly, I did not get the memo about that! I showed up in in dark denim jeans, a smart Lanvin shirt, and comfortable Prada boots that I thought I could dance in. So, in other words, I showed up in gorgeous clothes that were as stiff as the dancer I think I am. They’re not stiff clothes in another context. But, in the context of dancing, this is what I thought I should wear.
Well, we get down to the dance floor, and we start dancing with the rest of the group. We joined in on a line dance, followed by free-style dancing. All the while I felt such incredible resistance. “People are totally going to judge how I’m dancing.” “Everyone is going to see how clumsy and uncoordinated I am.” “I look like such a goofball.”
The fact is that no one was judging me at all. They didn’t need to. I was my own harshest critic.
I started to let myself go, trying to feel the music with my body like I do when I sing in my loft or in my car when I’m all alone. It was really fun to feel the awkwardness of dancing slip away. As Emily and I took off, the dance instructor spoke with us at the door. He said, “It’s not about how I move. It’s about how you move.” I loved his inclusive and participatory, nonjudgmental approach. At the end of it all, I felt embraced by the experience that I had resisted so much. Plus, his approach to dance speaks the same language I have about not trying to get everyone to look, or dress, like me. I’m merely the mirror by which my clients get to see their own potential.
This innocent social experience reminded me that doing what’s awkward forces you to grow. We all have some sort of related experience. I have clients who do acting workshops, singing lessons, and other related extracurricular activities as a means of enhancing how they show up in the world.
The thing about dancing is that it’s hyper focused on the body, and moving it. When I’m working with clients, we often have to deal with the feeling of being comfortable in one’s own skin. For me, I am continuing to study and learn about how doing what’s awkward forces you to grow.
My goal is to dance like I’m one of the only white gay guys at an Angie Stone concert: to stand on my chair, and dance like I’m the only one in the room, and none of her typical core fans will even give a damned. Oh yeah, this actually happened when I was recently in New York. So, I need to find a way of repeating that experience over and over again.
Maybe I’ll even take some dance lessons… Can you imagine? Maybe I’ll even work on organizing something like this for my clients. We will all resist. And then, we will all give in to doing the awkward thing, and grow.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and executives discover their personal brands and design their personal styles. Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know “6 Secrets to Success in Silicon Valley”. Need immediate and fast help? Learn about 1:1 private, intensive, and comprehensive 1-2 day VIP program designed to transform your personal brand and style in record time.