Learning to dance — how to be empathic with yourself

“You don’t have to get the dance right the first time. Keep dancing.”

My husband and I use this mantra often after we took an Argentine tango lesson several years ago. We both got frustrated our first attempt at the new steps didn’t have us floating beautifully across the dance floor.

Of course, it’s silly to think we’d perform an artistic, expressive dance perfectly the first time, but that’s often the expectation we have in other areas of life.

Two weeks ago I gave birth to a beautiful, blonde-headed boy. As a first-time mom, I’m learning on the job — desperately aiming to do everything right the first time.

This unrealistic expectation left me in a puddle of tears one day this week. My husband gently reminded me of our dancing mantra. And then added this:

“It’s okay to step off the dance floor, take your shoes off, and cry. We’ll sit here and hold each other. Then when you’re ready, we’ll get up and keep dancing.”

If we’re going to be empathic with others, we have to start by giving ourselves permission to step off the dance floor and fall apart. Then when we’re ready, practice those steps again.

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