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Be-YOU-tiful

After my recent holiday I felt the need/ desire to write this little blog. 

Despite my confident social media persona and my extroverted personality, I am actually very critical of myself and always have been. I’ve struggled with body image and with my appearance my whole life, much to people’s disbelief. Behind the brightly coloured hair and make up, the loud voice and the outfits, is someone who has always struggled to love themself.

Dance has always been my escape, my passion, my happy place, but I struggle to take ownership of my dancer status. When I meet new people, I often feel nervous to call myself a ‘dance teacher’ for fear of being judged. When anyone asks me what I do, I hesitate! Even though I love being a dancer and I KNOW I’m great at it, I feel myself holding back from owning this because I think they are going to look at me and the way I look and think “really….?” 

I think this will surprise a lot of people, but it’s important to remember that someone’s online profile might not always be the full picture and whilst someone who posts lots of selfies is often criticised for being vain and over confident, it is far more likely that they are someone with lots of insecurities and body hang ups.

So where does this insecurity come from? Well, it started early! I was picked on in both primary and secondary school, mainly because of my teeth, but also because of my freckles and anything else they could think of on the day. I was an easy target as I never had the confidence to stick up for myself until much later on in secondary school.

I followed my dreams and went to dance college, which as you can imagine, wasn’t a whole lot easier! Surrounded by skinny, flat chested ‘ballet bods’ and studio mirrors everywhere you turned, I was constantly comparing and criticising my body and the way I looked. 

Then, during our recent holiday I talked myself into being more confident about my body (it’s always easier when you are abroad, isn’t it?!) and I got my legs out (from above the knee), which I hardly ever do due to my pure hatred of my legs and I even walked around in a bikini. 

But… during a conversation whilst sitting in my bikini, I felt that familiar embarrassment again to call myself a dance teacher. I know I’m not your stereotypical dancer; I’m not the “right” shape and I haven’t got that ‘dancer’ look.

I always worry that people look at me and think “she’s a bit fat to be a dancer”…. You hear it all the time in the dance industry and I get it. Years of training and working in the industry has trained my eye. There was and still is so much focus on physical appearance and the importance of fitting a certain image that is ‘dancer’. 

When you watch a professional dance show you expect to see toned bodies and great lines, strong technique and the highest jumps, but I also have a strong belief that dancing is for everyone! Any shape, any size, any race, any ability… dance is about feeling and passion.

So why do I STILL feel embarrassed to call myself a dancer when I am questioned about my job? 

During our holiday my youngest son was observing me after my shower and said “why are your boobs crumbly”, (kids tell it how it is!) It hurt. Even though I had a breast reduction during college (to look more like a “dancer”) they grew in pregnancy and deflated when I lost weight resulting in the ‘crumbles’ (stretch marks).  I was upset, but I found myself explaining to him how my body changed when I had him and his brother, and I turned it in to a beautiful thing.

The day after the “crumbly boobs” comment I got talking to a lovely lady who installed some confidence in me when she told me how her daughter had mentioned how she thought I was pretty and had great hair. Her daughter was tall, tanned, toned, athletic and truly beautiful but she told me that she gets picked on in school and it just pushed my buttons.

We are constantly being programmed to believe what looks good, how we should dress, what makeup to wear… we take photos with filters to cover up our anxieties and flaws, and we have access to apps and technology that can transform your shape with just the click of a button. 

There is so much pressure on the children of today; online bullying is rife and access to impossible expectations and constant comparisons are hard to avoid. But I’m also aware that there are people out there helping to spread the word that ‘different is beautiful’.

I try so very hard to love myself, I want my children and the children I teach to love themselves for all their perfections and imperfections. I am grateful for being able bodied and am even more grateful for all my senses.

I’m on a mission to be happy in myself. For me that means, eat healthy, keep dancing, (lose a few pounds after the all inclusive holiday binge!), but most of all to embrace who I am and love myself more. I will always be tall with freckles and I will always have big teeth but I’m me and I want to feel proud to call myself a “dance teacher”. I want to promote my heartfelt belief that dance is for EVERYONE! 

I intend to promote healthy living and continue to install confidence into every single child that crosses my path. We are all unique, we are all beautiful and no one deserves to be told or feel anything less.