The Time I Compared Myself to a 90-Year Old Woman to Feel Accepted

Oh the struggle of comparison and scarcity. This is a true story.

An elderly neighbor friend of mine invited me to her line dancing exercise class with the local senior center. Due to Covid the class had been moved to the local VFW which put this in walking distance for both of us. I went because I want to say “yes” in my life and I want to be a good neighbor and I can always use more exercise.

Thankfully I was the youngest person there. That’s my vanity speaking.

My friend told me to move to the front of the class, watch the instructor, and I’ll figure it out. Which I didn’t. I was a left-footed mess. Maybe because I’m left-handed thus left-centric.

After the first disastrous song, the instructor yelled out, pointed her finger at me, and said “Some of you need to learn what a beat is.” I knew she was talking about me. I also knew because her finger was pointed at me.

I wanted to shrink away. I thought this was going to be good-hearted old lady fun. I wanted to shout back, “Do you know the DNA of my family?!” That’s for those of you who know my family. We may be famously too smart thus awkward in the real world.

Thankfully I had enough sense to realize that “justifying my behavior” at this moment would make me look ridiculous. (I wish I always had such clarity about that.)

Instead I breathed. I told myself that being “cool” amongst this crowd wasn’t worth my fight for control of this belittling situation. I told myself that this peer group will not define me. I told myself to try again.

The next song was not much better.

A wonderfully kind lady next to me (not my friend who just left me hanging by the way) decided to take me under her wing and personally teach me the dance steps. She had my full concentration. I did want to fit in and achieve.

My new friend had my full concentration until the loud yelling voice was back complete with finger-pointing at me again. “You of all people in this room need to be listening to me the most.” “Yes, you.” I was “you” as she also knew my name.

This is a true story.

This was when my new friend, in her effort to encourage me, told me that one of the ladies in the room is 90-years old and is here every week. She told me that this is such a wonderful group of encouraging women to be a part of.

This was when I compared myself to a 90-year old woman. I compared my dance steps to her dance steps and tried to make myself feel better. But it was in that silent-to-yourself “mean girl” kind of way.

I realized in that moment that the rejected junior high girl is still inside of me—especially vulnerably exposed on a dance floor.

Scarcity thinking brings up those terrible thoughts of who in this room can I make feel smaller so that I feel bigger? As I’m in a room full of ladies from a senior center!

I kept reminding myself:

  • These senior center ladies cannot define me.
  • This mean instructor cannot define me.
  • Starting every dance move with my left foot cannot define me.
  • I’m capable of learning to start with my right foot.
  • I have other qualities I prefer to define me.
  • I have other people who I prefer to define me—other people who I have intentionally and vulnerably placed in my life. These are my gift of people.
  • I can be mediocre or less than in this one class and be okay in the rest of my life.

This was all swirling in my brain as I was trying to learn the dance steps, start with my right foot, and stay on beat. Because I didn’t want to get called out again.

I was anyway. This calling out happened two more times.

I was exhausted when I was done. That is a lot of mind work. I felt my guilt for comparing myself to a 90-year old lady. It was a good workout.

I have returned to the class. I am learning to start with my right foot. I have not been called out again but I do hide in the far back corner. I’m okay with being mediocre at something because what a group of ladies to be surrounded by when I am being mediocre.

Worthiness is my birthright. The dance floor is not my domain and I am okay at just being okay on that dance floor surrounded by the right people.

(Photo credit: https://www.postandcourier.com/health/these-89-year-old-women-have-been-line-dancing-for-20-years-and-theyre-not)

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