When I was 2 years old, my mom enrolled me in dance classes. My love of dancing comes from these early years.
I was classically trained as dancer but my favorite class was Haitian Folklore (which I still perform at festivals once in a while)
Ballet however was my least favorite. Partly because I found it boring (it was a prerequisite) but mostly because I didn’t like the head mistress at my dance school (you’ll understand why in a moment)
I also didn’t have the right body type for ballet and always felt body-conscious in those classes.
My body was all muscle ( and some leftover baby fat). I wasn’t big but I wasn’t as thin and svelte as a respectable ballerina should be. (This was years before Misty Copeland changed everyone’s mind about what a perfect dancer is supposed to look like) .
I remember this one day when the head mistress announced that we were being partnered up with the boys to practice our grand jeté and chassé movements.
Up to now my classes had been girls-only. You could feel the buzz in the air: the girls were fanning themselves, checking their chignon and adjusting their tutus. But I didn’t share in the excitement…. Not at all!
Do you remember what is was like to be 13?
How awkward it felt to be in this developing body that you didn’t quite understand and how uncomfortably shy you were in front of the opposite sex?
Well at least I was…
So imagine me, 13 and curvy…. in skin-tight leotards in a room full of mirrors and teenagers.
This was not my idea of fun but there was no getting out of it…
The boys walked in like conquistadors. But the look of these skinny teenage boys in tights didn’t inspire any confidence whatsoever in their ability to lift my hefty 125-lbs body up in the air.
I wasn’t eager to get in line, staying as far back as I could, trying to delay the inevitable.
One by one, I watched those boys struggle to get much thinner girls than me airborne (they were No Patrick Swayze – remember the movie Dirty Dancing?)
I dreaded my turn but there was no escaping the watchful eye of the head mistress.
This one boy in particular kept messing up. He just couldn’t get the sequence or the steps right.
After a few unsuccessful attempts, an exasperated mistress scanned the room, found who she was looking for and to my growing distress called me forward to the front of the class.
Then she turned to the boy and she said to him with a snarl:
“You couldn’t do it with the small ones, maybe you’ll get it right with the big ones….”
I’ll pause for a minute and let you recover…… I didn’t….. Not for a long time.
It was a humiliating experience and it shattered whatever little body confidence I had at the time. (I left the school not long after, I never told my mom why but I was so glad she didn’t force me to stay)
Self-confidence didn’t come easy for me after this. It’s been a long journey of learning how to love and appreciate my body at any size.
I’ve since developed an interesting relationship with this lifelong companion of mine (we only get one body right?).
I’ve learned how to listen to her, take care of her and be grateful for all the wonderful experiences she affords me while I’m on this earth.
My body and I even have a theme song for our restored relationship: go listen to the “Treasure” song by Bruno Mars. 🙂
As women, we need explore self-care, positive self-talk, how to use nutrition and fitness as a means of empowerment, and discuss shifting mindsets toward health vs. appearance.
Having body confidence means feeling comfortable in your own skin … today!
You don’t have to wait until you lose 20 pounds or fit into those jeans sitting in the back of your closet.
When you feel comfortable in your own skin, EVERYTHING in your life is better. If you truly want to make each day on this earth great, it all starts with the relationship we have with ourselves.
P.S. In case you’re wondering… I kept on dancing long after that incident. I went to a different school and it was a much better experience. I trained under Viviane Gauthier, one of the legendary dancers and ambassadors of the Haitian culture and I loved every minute of it (even the ballet classes, yep! they were still required)