The greatest success requires the greatest risk. Human beings are innately afraid of embarrassment. One of the greatest blocks artists, nay, PEOPLE, face is the fear of being embarrassed. We will do everything possible to avoid the loss of control that accompanies embarrassment. But if we don’t risk embarrassment, how will we ever grow? This aversion to embarrassment can be as simple as not raising your hand in class because you don’t want to give the wrong answer, or as great as holding back your undying love for someone for fear of being rejected.
I’m currently in the unique position of accompanying movement classes at a small private school in Mill Valley, CA. It’s a required course for all students, grades K-8. I observe the students’ embarrassment daily. It seems to start around fourth grade. These students are becoming painfully aware of their egos and bodies. Rather than actively participating in the class, the shuffle about, cross their arms, giggle at every motion that the teacher demonstrates, and chat at every possible opportunity. And NO ONE wants to volunteer to give an example. These classes are frustrating and slow. The teacher is unable to progress and really introduce them to the freedom of movement because the students are so crippled with embarrassment. Heaven forbid that they do anything that might expose them as being less than totally cool and aloof.
So, how do we reach these students? How do we create a safe environment in which they are comfortable with moving outside of their comfort zone. I’ve learned that the greatest personal and artistic successes come from living in the danger zone. It took time and, yes, many moments of embarrassment to learn this. But, look! I’m still standing and thriving today. As far as I know, no one has actually ever died of embarrassment, as the saying goes. Maybe we should make a concentrated effort to change that phrase. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all start saying, “I tried that new step in dance class and fell flat on my bum – and then I blossomed with embarrassment!”
Or should I be embarrassed for even suggesting something so scary?