What If You Could ____?

IMG_2492-67[2]“Feel free to change. When you discover something true about yourself, put it in action regardless of who you were yesterday.” – Danielle LaPorte

People, things and places have the power to change us with their energy, beauty, contrast, and subtle truths.  These encounters reveal to us what we later identify as the things we “can’t live without” and wonder how we did for so long.

It took me 25 years to figure out that I am a salsa dancer.

When I was about three I started dancing school with my friend Jillian (pictured below).  I remember it was an ugly yellow building right by the New Dorp Lane Train Station on Staten Island.  I wish I could remember the name, Lydia’s Dance Studio, maybe? (maybe not…)

Either way, according to my mom, we didn’t last very long, maybe a few weeks. Not because we couldn’t dance but because we giggled too much. They politely asked to leave.

Let that sink in for a minute.

As three-year-olds, we were asked to leave dancing school for giggling too much.

As a 29-year-old woman writing this blog post today, I feel a little sad typing it, and I feel the regret of all the years I didn’t get to move my little body in a feminine way.

I didn’t dance again until my first school dance in the sixth grade, by which time my top priority wasn’t my moves, but covering up my already curvy figure with baggy T-shirts.  I remember not having any idea how to move my body and feeling really self-conscious.  The only solace I could take was in knowing all the TLC, Salt N Pepa and LL Cool J lyrics (that made me cool, right?).

I think this is why I liked sports so much.  No one ever asked me to leave “sports school.”  In fact my dad and grandpa had been playing with me and showing me how to do athletic things since I was probably around the same age as the dancing school fiasco.

I could swing the hell out of a bat, dribble a basketball between my legs while walking all the way down my street, and the boys had no problem letting me QB in the school yard for a game of two-hand touch. Sports came easily to me and giggling was never frowned upon.

This is how I decided that I hated being a girl, because being a boy was clearly much easier and more fun. I wouldn’t learn how untrue that was for another 15 years…

Even though I was “satisfied” living like a boy in a girls’ body, I always loved any movie to do with dance. Dirty Dancing, Save The Last Dance, You Got Served, and of course, Step Up (all of them) and yes even, Dirty Dancing Havana Nights.  In fact, I remember watching the blonde chick who played the lead in that movie dance and thinking to myself, “I bet if this white girl can do it, I can totally do it.” I am after all 25% Puerto Rican…that skill must live somewhere in my body!

Once I got to college I discovered that I could actually dance-but only when I was drunk. Why? Because that was the only time I stopped caring about what other people thought, I could just let myself feel the music and move to it. I never said I lacked rhythm or had two left feet.  I just felt silly dancing.  There was something about moving my body like that in front of people that felt so vulnerable and terrifying, I convinced myself I needed something to blame it on (like Long Island Iced Tea).

Fast forward to 2008-I was going through a break-up.  My downfall had been losing myself in the relationship.  I put my partner’s needs first and spent a good amount of time denying who I really was. At this point I was still only ever able to dance if I was drunk so I decided to use this break-up as an excuse to do something for myself.

I signed up for 10 salsa lessons. Within weeks I was social dancing three or four nights a week.  Within months, I was pretty good.

I was finally accessing a part of myself I always knew was there.  Learning didn’t come naturally though.  Being a girl who took pride in hustling and working my ass off my whole life, giving up complete control and engaging in an activity where my only job was to follow and look pretty wasn’t easy.

I sensed there was a deeper meaning in this for me but it wasn’t until recently that I finally understood what it was.

I am a woman.

I have curves.

I have curly, crazy, messy hair.  

I am agile and I have a deep desire to move my body the way it was meant to move, sensually…not just for function and strength.

Salsa dancing is a way for me to tap into all of that.  To own it, to love myself for it, and to bask in the freedom of being who I am.

When I’m working too hard, feeling stressed, tired or drained, I’m usually not dancing. And when I’m not dancing, I’m not expressing my true self.

Self-expression is as critical to productivity and creativity as actually doing your job.

So many of us spend our lives pursuing a deeper connection with our true selves.  We take things on, let things go, grow in and out of everything from clothes and careers to beliefs, apartments and relationships. We spend so much time trying to figure out who we are that we sometimes forget to just look in and listen to that little voice that’s always been there saying, “I really wish I could ______.”

My question for you today is, what if you could _________?

Who might you become and what might you learn about yourself?

(Go ahead…tell me in the comments!)

I’ll end the same way I began here…with a perfect quote for any day.

“Feel free to change. When you discover something true about yourself, put it in action regardless of who you were yesterday”. – Danielle LaPorte




Liz DiAlto is one of the featured speakers on The Daily Love’s EXTRAVAGANZA! To hear her conversation with Mastin, sign up free here.

Liz DiAlto is a Fitness and Lifestyle coach, on a mission to help millions of women all over the world get the bodies and lifestyles they crave. Recently named one of the Top 30 Motivators for 2013 by Shape Magazine alongside Dr.Oz, Jillian Michaels, Ellen DeGeneres, and more, Liz believes that willpower sucks and simplicity, motivation and enjoyment are the non-negotiable keys to achieving success. Connect with her via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and her website.

  • Your beautiful post inspires me to spice up my routine and mix it up a bit so that I don’t have to wait ’til the end of the day (when I’m finished everything n my list) to crank up the music and dance wildly! I can do this anytime of the day: move my body + refresh my energy. Dancing makes me feel alive and totally re-energizes me!

    Thanks Liz, you’re gorgeous & inspiring.


    • Liz DiAlto

      Dance breaks are the best!! Get it, girl 🙂

  • Leigh

    Your story about the giggling little girls reminded me of a recent encounter with such a giggly little girl. I had gone to my local courthouse to get a copy of my divorce order. The chairs were full. I realized then that nobody was waiting there for a good reason. A young father had brought his four-year old daughter. She was bored. I happened to have stickers in my purse that I gave to her. She found every possible way to entertain herself with the stickers. She was so amused with herself she couldn’t stop giggling. Her father being young, embarrassed, maybe stressed told her to be quiet reminding her that they were in a courthouse. I’ve been divorced twice with children from each marriage. I’ve been in that very hall too many times. Those giggles were the good sounds in a courthouse.
    Sometimes we’re too serious and don’t appreciate the laughter of children.

    • Christine

      That’s a beautiful thought. I’m considering divorce myself… I thought I was stressed with my husband but I’ve never knew what stress was. I wish I could have coffee with you and know what you know! Hugs to you.

    • Liz DiAlto

      I love this, Leigh. Observing little children in public is one of my favorite things to do-always so nourishing and such a good reminder to look at life with joy and enthusiasm.

  • Brian

    Love this. So wonderful and so soulful. What a blessing you are to our world! In love, Brian in Denver

    • Liz DiAlto

      What a great compliment, thank you, Brian!

  • Elle

    Beautiful. I love this. Thank you!
    (I too love to salsa and didn’t discover it until I was in law school, of all places).

    • Liz DiAlto


  • Denele

    I absolutely love this and am currently stepping into who I am and what I am suppose to be doing…..Thank you for sharing your story.
    Denele, Pittsburgh,PA

    • Liz DiAlto

      Thank YOU, Denele!

  • Brandy Priest

    You totally wrote my story! Thank you so much for sharing this! I have a passion for dance and have always been fearful of taking the leap of faith to start my own dance studio…I am 29 years old as well, about to turn 30 on July 27th, and I am recovering from a major knee surgery that happened earlier this year in March. Fear and doubt race my mind all the time, not good enough, haven’t trained enough, will never be like the dancers on SYTYCD…But how do I know if I don’t try : ) Thank you for igniting the spark again and giving me the drive to pursue my passion anyways!

    • Liz DiAlto

      Yesss!!! So many of those little fears are just details you’ll figure out along the way and find support for once you commit, Brandy. Good luck!

  • Carie Bean

    Beautiful blog Liz! Here goes
    What if I could….learn to let go
    What if I could…..speak in front of an audience
    What if I could ….start my own blog sharing love and compassion to the world
    What if I could ….sing the words to the songs not just write the lyrics
    What if I could ….draw and get paid for it
    If I let go I might become free, free to see myself as beautiful, free to not care of what others might think. If I could speak in front of an audience I might say, well idk what I would say but I would think of something great if I wasn’t so nervous. If I could write my own blog I might actually like it and others might too! If I could sing, I would sing to the world and love it. If I could draw and get paid for it I would draw every day in every way and I might even incorporate it all. Put the drawings around the blog and sing the lyrics as I write even though no body could hear but me. I’d still be singing and letting go. After all that I could surely have the courage to stand up and say hello crowd you are beautiful and I’m so glad to be here speaking to you. 🙂 happy

    • Liz DiAlto

      Love this list, Carie-so which one is first?! 🙂

  • talia

    Fantastic blog, Liz. thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your message.

  • Amanda

    Thank you Liz, i love reading this…it’s only made my passion for dance and performing stronger. From the age of 4 i was dancing around and putting on my own dance shows in the living room, went to dance school when i was about 10 and absolutely love it! Until one day i overhead my mum on the phone to her sister saying how expensive it was for me to dance with all the costumes, uniforms etc.. and i felt bad about that so i told her i wanted to quit, when i really didn’t want to. I didn’t think i could ever become a professional dancer, until someone told me at the age of 21 that i could do it. I thought i was too old to start. But something inside me urged me on and i stared to believe it. I did a full-time ballet course at 24!! since then, i have danced in a contemporary company, toured through Europe, danced on Cruise Ships and performed for so many events in Australia (where i am from). I am now taking up circus performing (aerials) and have NEVER looked back. It’s only proved the fact that it’s never to late to do what you love and what makes your heart sing 🙂


    • Liz DiAlto

      I love this share, Amanda-thank you!

  • Dawn Damico

    You are beautiful Liz – is it too corny to say that I’m proud of you? Keep going!

    • Liz DiAlto

      aw, thanks Dawn!

  • Michelle

    “Self-expression is as critical to productivity and creativity as actually doing your job.” – love this Liz!

    What if I could….believe in myself the way I believe in others

    • Liz DiAlto

      YES! How do you do that, Michelle?

  • Sage

    I’ve really felt connected to Native American culture the last 3 years. Although I don’t believe I have any blood relation to any Native American tribes, I really feel a strong yearning to learn more about them, connect more to shamanism and wear feathers in my hair daily! Just yesterday I ordered a (this is so silly) Dream Catcher Kit so I can learn how to make my own dream catchers…. I’d love to explore that piece of myself more.

    • Liz DiAlto

      it’s not silly! When you feel the pull you gotta go for it!!

  • Charlotte Fiorillo

    I just had a knee replacement and dumped a toxic relationship. I love dancing and karaoke and playing the tambourine for other singers (some not so good, but everyone’s entitled to their 15 minutes of fame once a week). Now I’m back with my true friends after spending a lonely, exhausting, emotional 10 months with Mr Toxic. And I’m feeling like I can dance again like I did in my 20s.
    I’m all for simplicity, motivation and enjoyment. I lost my focus in 2012 after my mother died – trying to settle her estate and fighting with other heirs, going thru fraud and identity theft, plus my own physical disability took a lot out of me. But here’s to new beginnings. Each day offers possibilities and challenges, but thankfully the past is in the past and tomorrow isn’t here yet.
    Here’s a short list of my what ifs:
    … what if I could dump the baggage and clutter in my life
    … what if I could work as an advocate for abused women and children
    … what if I could get my online jewelry business really going
    … what if I could rebuild respectful relationships with my kids
    … what if I could learn a language – already have Rosetta Stone Italian unopened
    … what if I could really live in another country – my 1st choice is Italy
    … what if I could rediscover my spirituality beyond organized religion
    … what if I could become focused again on the really important stuff
    … what if I could take trips that renew, educate and energize me again
    … what if The Four Agreements became my mantra
    Thanks so much for sharing, everyone!

    • Liz DiAlto

      which one will you go for first?! Great list 🙂

  • Firstly, how cute is the mini pic!!!

    It’s crazy how much we knew about ourselves when we were little beings. It took me a long time to get clear on my passion but, when I look back to my childhood, the clues were there all along!!! It’s certainly something I’ll be encouraging my baby boy to cherish… and celebrate!!

    Thanks for the post Liz x

    • Liz DiAlto

      yes!! As much as it sucks sometimes to look back and feel like we missed out, what a great opportunity to make sure our kids dont! Thanks, Emma 🙂

  • Court McCracken

    I related to so many things you said in this post. We are the same age and have curly crazy hair! I also have been on a similar journey and have recently been feeling the need to move… I have been debating on whether or not I should take some lessons and I think that I should : ) Salsa has been the very thing that I have been craving, though I have never done it before! Thank you so much for sharing, truly needed to hear this right now.

    Warmest Regards,
    Court McCracken

  • Anna Carolina Rocha

    Wow, this text was awesome!
    I could have writen it myself. See, it took me 26 years to discover that I was a belly dancer. And when I was a teenager I was also hiding myself inside T-shirts and sweatsuits.
    Answering the question of the day, what if you could be a singer as well!?