Have you ever felt afraid that your fast learning pace would make others uncomfortable? Ever slowed down to fit a timeline others expect you to stick to? A month ago, I went to my first ever Kizomba event. I had never heard of Kizomba before, but I was down to try all types of partnered dances. We split up into 2 groups for classes: a beginners group and an intermediate group. Because it was my first time ever, I figured it made sense for me to join the beginners. But boy, did I come to regret that decision. The class covered the basics of Kizomba, like side-stepping from left to right, walking from front to back to the count of 1-2-3. That sort of thing. I found it super easy. But around me, I saw several people struggling. So we went over the basics again and again, with too many repetitions to count... Soon enough, I was bored out of my mind. So, I couldn't help but throw envious glances at the intermediate group. Because what they were doing looked so much more interesting. I completely lost my focus on the beginners class. I switched off, I felt impatient, and quickly became irritated with the slow pace of the class. I kept secretly wanting to be in the intermediate class instead. But then the self-limiting thoughts came: "Simone, who do you think you are to even consider switching to the higher level class, when you have never danced Kizomba before?" "People will think you are so arrogant", and "If you switch, people will immediately notice that you don't belong there, and they might send you back to the beginner class - because that's what you are - a beginner!" Sound familiar to you? First, let me clarify: yes, I am a coach who helps people overcome self-limiting beliefs. But that doesn't mean I am free from such thoughts myself. I too have them. I too at times fear what people will think of me, I too worry about being an imposter. And during this class, those thoughts came up in full force. But here's a secret: the trick is not to rid yourself of those thoughts, but to change the way you act on them. So here's what I did: first, I observed what was going on. I noticed my boredom, my irritation, and then my desire to feel challenged. Next, I reminded myself that I deserve to have a fun time, and that I deserve to learn at a pace that is stimulating for me. It's OK if that pace differs from that of others around me. I also reassured myself that people surely wouldn't be that judgmental, and that people are mostly focused on themselves anyway. So then, after the first 20 minutes of the class, I gathered up enough courage to ask the teacher: 'Would it be ok if I joined the other class instead?' I added a comment about the imbalance between leaders and followers in her class, as a sort of justification for why it would make sense for me to leave (I wouldn't be blunt here and say: 'I'm bored'. That would be rather tactless). Her answer? She told me no! She said that class would likely be too hard for me. Whoops... That didn't work out the way I had hoped. I initially felt told off by her, and tempted to take her 'no' personally, but then I realized her answer actually was to be expected: I had told her it was my first time dancing Kizomba, so it made sense for her to assume that the intermediate level would be too difficult for me. But then, as we continued our basic side-stepping, I just could no longer do it. I was having a terrible time. And that's not why I was there. So, I left the beginners group. Not with any drama. I just calmly stepped out of the circle. Initially, I sat down on a chair to the side, between the beginner and intermediate groups, to process the frustration and drink some water. At least from there, I could watch the higher level class without feeling guilty. Then after some time, I got up, and I started practicing the moves with them. I stayed on the outer ring, because I realized at this point the class was nearly halfway done. But my god, did I enjoy those last 30 minutes! It was the right level of challenging, my brain had switched back on again, and I was learning rapidly. The class was followed by 2 hours of social dancing. I danced non-stop, with some of the best leaders in the room, intuitively following their cues. Still the 'Who do you think you are" questions would occasionally cross my mind, but I chose not to be held back by them. And guess what: it worked out really well! Some people told me they couldn't believe this was my first time doing Kizomba. One of the advanced teachers told me he was impressed with how quickly I picked it up. I felt GREAT. And most importantly, I had lots of fun! So much so, that I am now completely hooked to this dance, and cannot get enough of it. Thank god I changed groups...
Moral of the story?
Just go for it. Upgrade to the higher level, even if you're new to it. Choose challenge over boredom. Even if you are told 'no' by others. You can still honor your own learning pace and needs, without being rude about it. At the end of the day, you're not helping anyone by sticking around at a level you know is too basic for you. Because this is all once again part of the giftedness experience: we are fast learners. We get bored quickly. We crave new challenges. We often don't fit the standard timelines. Now, this doesn't mean you always need to be joining the advanced level. That's not what I am saying. Sometimes, the beginner level is exactly where you need to be, and there is nothing wrong with that. Giftedness doesn't mean you must excel at everything, and it certainly doesn't mean you should feel pressured in any way to constantly be high achieving. In my case, I might be talented when it comes to dancing, but if this had been a football practice, or a karting course, you would for sure have found me at the beginners level, probably still barely managing to keep up with even the most basic skills.
What I am saying is this: care less about everyone else's timeline, and honour your own learning pace more. Stop slowing yourself down in order to fit other people's expectations of how long something should take you.
There is no shame in seeking out challenge. Its not arrogant of you to join the higher level, even if you do so faster than most others (unless you really are gravely overestimating your own capabilities there, and end up slowing down everyone else... But in my experience, having coached hundreds of gifted people, this is rarely the case, if ever. Usually, people spend too much time hitting the brakes on their own development, precisely because of the fear of being perceived as arrogant). Your learning pace is just as valid as anyone else's. So next time you feel that internal pull to level up, I dare you to go for it.
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