Your Highest and Best Self: Another Lesson From the World of Dance

“Don’t look at me. Stop looking at me. Don’t, Don’t, DON”T look at me.”

These words from one of my dance instructors, as we were in dance hold and he was taking me through a new-to-me quickstep pass.

He stopped us.

“Why are you doing that?” he asked me, looking me straight in the eye, earnestly. He didn’t say “You know better,” but I thought he might be thinking it.

My answer, also known as an excuse. “Because I am use to dancing with my husband and because I pick up steps more quickly than he does, when we are learning something new I tend to look at him and talk with him, counting sometimes, telling him what comes next sometimes.”

“Don’t do it,” Paul said, shaking his head. You get in proper dance hold and you dance the best you know how. You dance to your highest and best capacity. That will make it easier on Nick in the long run.” 


Let me translate to the psycho-spiritual world. It is not always such a good idea to try and help or fix someone else. Maybe, if we just give whatever we are doing our highest and best, everything else will be ok. Things often need to play out without our interference.   It may be our own anxiety or control issues (picture my guilty face here) that keep us looking where we shouldn’t look. But it is better when we pay attention to ourselves. Be your highest and best self and stop worrying about what others are doing. Even when in close relationship, pay attention to what is your responsibility.

When I was a public school teacher, I had a core belief that I would always teach to the top of the class. I believed that showed the most respect and dignity and hope to every student. If a student needed help, remediation, or modification, I provided that. But I never dumbed down lessons. In the core of me, I knew that wasn’t wise. When I was awarded Teacher of the Year one of the most memorable things said to me was from the mother of a remedial, below grade level student. She said, “Thank you for expecting more out of him than anyone ever has. It has changed his life.” When I teach or speak today, I make every effort to teach to the top of the group. The others will follow. Or they will ask for help. Either is better than dumbing down and expecting less from people.

Today, as a therapist, I do the same thing. I work with my clients toward their highest and best self. I believe, I hold out hope, that things really can change and that healing really does happen. I expect them to be able to climb out of their comfort zones and to work toward change that will really matter. I also challenge myself to be my highest and best self, and when I am, it models for my clients what they can do and be.

So why wasn’t I doing that on the dance floor? Why was I dumbing down?   The truthful answer, which I hope isn’t an excuse, is that I am not always willing to wait on my husband’s own learning pace and style. I am embarrassed just saying that. He is a lovely dancer, with his own way of learning and his own pace. We always get there together, eventually, but my own impatience was getting in the way of the organic process that actually works when I allow it to. Creating a dance with someone, (read creating a relationship with someone) means each person needs to bring their highest and best self to the dance floor. That’s when the magic happens.