When was the last time you danced like no one was watching? I recently found myself pondering this question while at an outdoor concert with some friends. As the music pulsed around us, my friend couldn’t contain her excitement and began to jump up and down in time to the bass. As she grabbed my arm in an attempt to get me to join her, she screamed over the music: “C’mon! It’s okay! None of these people know us.”
She was right. I’d probably never see any of the people in this crowd again. And I wasn’t afraid of humiliating myself in front of strangers with my dorky dance moves. But that wasn’t the point. The music and strobe lights and crowd of screaming people just didn’t lead me to pulsate with excess energy like my extroverted friend. An introvert myself, I was having a good time just nodding my head along and eagerly (in a low-key way) anticipating the next song.
My friend didn’t understand that for me being happy and having fun didn’t necessarily mean dancing and screaming. Quietly taking a step back just to watch the gyrating masses didn’t mean I was uncomfortable, either. I was taking in the moment in my own introverted way.
I could’ve attempted to bop along and swing my hips in time to the music, and I did for a few brief moments, but it didn’t feel true to who I was and how I felt in the moment. Attempting to dance only made me feel like I wasn’t being true to myself, and I was content to go back to quietly observing.
Introverts Aren’t Always Quiet Because They’re Feeling Awkward
What does it mean to dance like no one is watching? It’s one of those phrases that’s employed to encourage someone to let loose, let their hair down, and just, in general, not worry about what others think of them. Although I’ve dealt with my share of social anxiety over the years, I still believe it’s a general misconception that introverts are always quiet because they are shy or feeling awkward.
The last time I danced like no one was watching, I was in my apartment alone late at night. I had just finished a major writing project that I was feeling good about, and the joy of finally hitting submit lead me to crank up the music in my earbuds (so I didn’t disturb the neighbors) and spin around the kitchen while making myself a cup of herbal tea.
If I told you I spent a lot of time in college and my early post-grad years dancing, I’d mean moments exactly like these. Late night celebrations by myself fueled by the giddiness of finishing a project or meeting a deadline took place ten times more frequently than any kind of dancing in public. And these moments typically only lasted for about ten minutes before I fell exhausted into bed.
In these moments, the energy to dance came from an internal place. It wasn’t fueled by bright lights or loud music or other people. It was spurred by my own personal joy of accomplishment. And for those few minutes, I was truly dancing like no one was watching, because I was dancing purely for myself.
For This Introvert, Dancing Stems From Internalized Joy
I can’t tell you what it’s like to be an extrovert, the kind of person who jumps and screams at concerts, in bars, and in other public places. If I could, perhaps I would tell you that the dancing that’s done in those moments also comes from an internalized joy felt from truly being yourself in that moment.
However, as an introvert, I can only tell you that the noise and crowds of public places are usually draining enough — without me also trying to dance. Attempting to do more than a head bob would make me feel like I was faking feelings that I didn’t truly have.
This doesn’t mean I don’t find concerts or going out with friends exciting. But, sometimes, the happiness doesn’t hit me until hours later, when I’m at home by myself, and I’ve had time to quietly mentally review all the funny and heartfelt moments that made the night special. It’s then that I know I’m glad I left my tiny apartment to make a few memories.
Audrey Hepburn once said: “Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering — because you can’t take it in all at once.”
If your version of living in the moment doesn’t compel you to dance like no one is watching, there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes it takes time to reflect on your surroundings and process your thoughts. If I only dance when no one is watching, it’s not because I feel self-conscious when others are around. It’s because the joy and energy that causes me to dance comes only after a time to reflect and recharge my energy.
Sometimes I’d rather just listen to the music than sing out loud. Sometimes I’d rather just stand and observe than jump in the air. Sometime later I might dance like no one is watching.
But for now, I’m just living in the moment.
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