There’s no monster under the bed, no snake in the toilet, and nothing lurking in the basement when the lights are off. But as we outgrow certain irrational fears as children, we seem to develop others in adulthood.

As tango dancers, here are a few things we probably said to ourselves out of fear, and why they don’t make any sense:

I’LL NEVER BE A GOOD DANCER (after only a few months of lessons): Like anything deeply meaningful, learning tango takes time. Generally, it takes a lot longer to tango comfortably than it does to figure out how to use a smartphone, an email app, or public transportation. Let’s not beat ourselves up too much when becoming a good dancer doesn’t happen instantly. Everyone struggles. If we’re committed to improving, our dancing will inevitably move forward. Maybe not as quickly as we (often unrealistically) imagine, but it will get better.

EVERYONE AT THIS MILONGA MUST THINK I’M HORRIBLE AT TANGO: This is not true because A) Almost everyone at the milonga is too concerned with their own self-image to be worrying about yours, and B) Everyone else is probably thinking the same thing about themselves.

EVERYONE HERE IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN I AM: Really? Is that objectively true? How would we know for sure? And even if that were true, who’s going to care? Are we being graded? Is someone going to alert the Tango Police? And if, for the sake of argument, we were the least capable dancers at the milonga or práctica, then haven’t we come to the ideal place for gaining experience?

EVERYONE CAN JUST SEE HOW LITTLE EXPERIENCE I HAVE AND THEY MUST BE JUDGING ME: Of all the people attending the event, why would everyone go through the trouble of singling us out…for the sole purpose of keeping track of our mistakes (and no one else’s)? What exactly would be the point of all this? Is everyone carrying a little notebook and secretly jotting down all the instances when we don’t do every step perfectly? Will they get together later, and show a Powerpoint presentation on everything we did wrong? That would be ridiculous. And the intense fear of being judged isn’t any more plausible.

I’M GOING TO MAKE MISTAKES AND NO ONE WILL WANT TO DANCE WITH ME AGAIN: Every possible mistake we’ve made (or could make) has already been made by someone else. No one will curse you if you don’t properly follow or lead the occasional cross.

Instead of pushing away or suppressing our tango fears, let’s try thinking about them for a few moments. If we use a bit of critical thinking, and take those fears to their logical conclusions, we quickly discover that they’re not rooted in any sort of reality.

Those fears exist only in our imaginations, and are no more real than leprechauns or talking rabbits. Best to focus all that nervous energy elsewhere, such as anticipating the very real possibility of having fun.

shark toilet


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