When I saw Jeri for the first time in my Aqua Boot Camp class, with her walker leaning at the top of the ramp and her librarian’s bun, I thought “Why is she in the front row? She won’t be able to keep up and she’ll complain that the music is too loud!”
And then class started, and she proceeded to clap and groove and sing along, knowing all the words to everything from Chubby Checker’s The Twist (expected) to Beyonce’s Single Ladies-Put a Ring on It (Whoa!) She even had a story about mesmerizing Walter Peyton with her dancing when he was a judge for a jitterbug contest she entered in her 40’s.
Was my first impression WRONG! That means shame on ME, and three things to think about for YOU (and me too).
Don’t Judge a Dancer by Its Belly
Weight, age, gender…we know we’re not supposed to jump to assumptions. We know to look for character rather than making judgements around superficial differences. But it’s not natural. Not because we are jerks, but literally because of nature. Our caveman era nervous system scans everything to see if it’s friend, foe or food. It immediately responds and categorizes it before we’ve even blinked.
Your job is to practice pausing conclusions and conscientiously connect with the person before you, first. With the emphasis on practice. Studies show that practice changes the neural pathways in our brain. You can generate new automatic responses over time.
Find the Can in Your Can’t
Find an environment where you thrive. Maybe Jeri can’t be hitting up the clubs anymore, but that doesn’t mean giving up. She can shake a groove and have fun doing what she loves in the pool, with the therapeutic support of the water.
Remember You’re Not the Only A**hole in the World*
Just as you may make unconscious, snap judgements about others, people are doing the same to you. All the time. Don’t be boxed in by what someone else thinks—someone else’s opinion of you doesn’t make it true. “What others think of me is none of my business,” is how Eleanor Roosevelt framed it.