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Trusting Who We Are

Broken Whole - J. Lydon


“Be who you are, and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind” ~ Dr. Seuss

I went to a Zumba class last night (I can hear the gasps, girls – let me reassure you, Nia is still my true love….).  Having spent 12 years of my life as a Nia teacher, I am just not accustomed to moving in shoes.  So, I Zumba in bare feet.  Call me crazy making such a choice in a room filled with heavily shoed students.  (I’m quite certain they might).  I truly don’t care.  It is how I chose to dance: feet so connected to the earth I can trust in them and know I will not get injured as a result, so much attention I give to them while moving.

At the end of class, one of the teachers approached and questioned me about being in bare feet.  I explained my training in Nia, the fact that when I dance I am fully aware of all parts of me moving, most importantly where and how I chose to place my feet, that I trust implicitly in them and that, because of my relationship with them I know I will never be hurt.  She seemed surprised and told me of her inability to be focused on teaching and sensing simultaneously, and of the one time she chose to follow her body’s guidance to take off her shoes while practicing a routine, which resulted in a broken toe.

It made me sad.

I’m still thinking about this conversation today which led me to think on authenticity.  I needed to look up the definition to refresh my own memory: “True to one’s own personality, spirit or character” (Merriam-Webster).  Then I thought of Jean-Paul Sartre – hang on, ladies.  I’m going to get all existential on y’all…  But I do remember back in my college memory files, that he had something to say on the subject which was this: the conscious self has a need to come to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces and influences which are different from itself.  Authenticity is one way in which the self acts and changes in response to these pressures.  This is true freedom.  However, it comes at a high price. It can throw the self into a state of existential anguish in which one is burdened by the hardship of choosing what’s best  at each and every turn. It’s a huge responsibility, freedom.

The lure of living an inauthentic life by leaning on preset rules and objective norms is great.  It requires no thought, no intimacy, no responsibility, no angst.  It’s what Sartre would refer to as “Mauvaise Foi” (Bad faith): denying one’s freedom to choose, instead choosing to behave without authenticity.

I was reminded of this during this class.  (And, for you Zumba lovers, I don’t mean to cast aspersions here…)  Nowhere in the class is there a choice: No words are spoken, students follow the movements, they place all of their movement choices upon the teacher, no thoughts, no angst.

It is to the temptation of Bad Faith that we can succumb to in our journey to Authenticity.  The latter requires great acts of faith and courage. To be true to our spirit and character?  What if we are rejected?  What if the anguish overtakes us?  Unfolding into being unapologetically ourselves is not for sissies.  And, quite frankly, I think Dr. Seuss has a point here: Those who mind don’t matter…

What’s the worst that could happen if, figuratively, we all took off our shoes as we danced through this life?  I, for one, am doing this dance barefoot…




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