Dance classes started up again last night. This time I'm taking a choreograph bellydance one and last night's class was a lot of fun.
I find that learning to dance is as much about UN-learning old habits as it is learning new ones. When you're raised by fairly uptight WASPs, you don't embody "grace" so much as "rigidity", so I have a lot of retraining to do.
Along with overcoming my stiffness, I have to overcome certain stumbling blocks in the way I view my body. As in my long-held conviction that my belly should be under wraps at all times.
Not only is my belly uncovered during bellydance classes, it's the focus. Last night we worked on a new move called "the belly pop". Yep. Just what it sounds like.
"Take a step to your right and push your belly out," my instructor Krystyna said.
Push my belly out? Are you kidding me? After all these years of holding that sucker in?
Just when I was about to mutiny, I flashed to the conversation I'd had with my kids at dinnertime. It was more of a lecture, really. I was telling them how when you pay attention to your personal grooming and your attitude, you don't just benefit yourself, you benefit everyone around you. Studies show that if a captain of a large ship is in a foul mood, even if he stays in his cabin and talks to no one, somehow everyone else on the ship will become aware of his mood and their stress levels will rise. So, too, in a family. If one person is walking around angry or sullen, everyone suffers.
I think the same could be said for people's self-confidence. If you walk around hating yourself (or your body), you don't just affect yourself, you affect the people around you, too. You make it hard for them to appreciate you. Your family loves you - all of you - but if they say, "You look great!" and you reply, "No, I don't - look at my stomach!" sooner or later they're going to stop complimenting you out loud and that little spark of love will have been squashed.
So, go ahead - stick out that stomach. It's good for you.