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Discovering Yourself in Belly Dance

"For Beginners" (ZAGHAREET! (Jan/Feb. 2006)

by Anthea Kawakib Poole

New Year, New Beginnings

We all “begin again” every new year, resolving to “get it done”, whatever “it” may be. Carry this idea into the NOW and take each day as a fresh start - even each minute is another chance to make right choices this time around. You can start at any moment to be the person you want, creating the life you want. In this way, we’re really ALL “beginners” aren’t we?

The "New You" in Belly Dance

What are your goals for belly dance? To have fun? Keep fit? Rev up your sex life? (“Have fun” and “exercise” are the top answers I hear from new students.)

When you start belly dance class, your friends and family will want to know “why” so I’m sure you’ve given it some thought, or at least, thought of a good answer! Whatever your reasons, I hope your circle of family and friends will give you support and encouragement - that’s a big element in how successful you’ll be at reaching your goals. One of your relationships though–actually, the most important one--will probably be quite negative and undermining. Will you cave in under the pressure and give up? You’re probably thinking, “Of course not, I’m ‘liberated’; I’m in charge of my life and I can decide what I want to do, and how to spend my time and energy”, right? But this relationship could be dragging you down without you even being aware of it. It affects us most in the classroom–but in fact, it affects all we do!

I’m talking about the relationship we have with our body image. That relationship is real, with or without mirrors, and you bring it with you wherever you go.

What Is Your Self-Image?

According to www.womenshealth.gov, “body image” includes:

  1. your perception of your physical appearance
  2. your feelings about your appearance
  3. your feelings toward your body
  4. how you think others see you

Body image “issues” can lead to low self-esteem, triggering the automatic Ego-Defense System (let’s call it “EDS”) and causing numerous (even unconscious) glitches (both in and out of the classroom) in reaching your goals. Belly dance can be your road map to discovering and revealing your “Authentic Self” ONLY IF you are ready to deal with it. If you’re not, you’ll do everything you can to avoid the reality of acknowledging your real self, and preserving whatever self-image you already have. Yes, even if it’s negative. Your EDS will twist your negative feelings about yourself into a False Positive, and could launch you into playing a leading role like “top student”, or even belly dance “star” or “expert”.

If that sounds like a stretch, remember that you can’t really deny ANY part of your Self, whether it’s the body, mind, or spirit. There’s no running away–you have to deal with what you see in the mirror, as well as what’s in your head and heart. And by “deal with” I mean accept, and love (which equals, of course, “unconditional love”).

What Are The Odds?

Many beginners come into class with negative body images, evident in their expressions or comments during class, or how comfortable they are when trying new things in front of others; and also how they experience their image in the mirror. Some students seem to avoid looking at their reflection, others are fascinated with their image; both behaviors show low self-esteem.

From www.feminist.com: in a study on women’s self-image, 80% reported being dissatisfied with their reflection in the mirror and more than half see a distorted image (my emphasis).
On www.About-Face.org, Liz Dittrich, Ph.D. reports:
Do you want to be a puppet? I don’t.

Assess your inner self-image and defensive ego trips; you can overcome negative programming even though it started early in your life and continues now unabated via our “culture”.

Your inner creative spirit is responsible for the largely unconscious drive to “better yourself”, even image-wise, and that’s probably why you chose to take belly dance. And what a refreshing discovery it must be to attend a local show or hafla and see women of all ages, shapes, and sizes not only dancing onstage, but looking confident, well-groomed, and attractive.
Find your “authentic” self, begin each moment to be true to your inner spirit  and focus only on positive–and realistic--goals and ideals.
Now of course you must realize that when you begin to perform, you’ll be dealing with all the mental images in the audiences’ minds... but that’s another topic!

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