May’s Question of the Month: Has body image or self-esteem ever kept you from a belly dance event?

written by Andalee on June 3, 2013 in Body image and Question of the month with 3 comments
Photo by Alexander Booth

Photo by Alexander Booth (Llamaalex) via Flickr. Licensed under a Creative Commons License.

May’s Question of the Month was: Has your body image or self-esteem ever kept you from participating in a belly dance event? If so, what was it? How did it change you? Did you resolve to get over your fears and eventually try it?

I was curious as to how people would respond to this question. It’s a very personal one and it’s meant to be thought-provoking. I know that for me, as I started putting on weight a few years back, I did not keep myself from participating in belly dance events because of my self-esteem or body image. If anything, I started putting myself out there more. The reason is that as my size grew, my experience and confidence in my dancing grew at the same time. I was struggling with body image, but proud of my dancing and my participation in the community.

This was very difficult as you could imagine. I was putting myself out there more and as a result, I internalized each perceived rejection or slight as a mark against my body, beauty and talent. This was not, and is not, a healthy attitude to have. On the other hand, I perceived my role as a belly dance teacher is to bolster the self-esteem of my students. I would hate for my students to have the same hang ups and issues with body image and self-esteem that I did–and still do sometimes!  It’s funny how we can want the best for others, yet fail to give ourselves the best treatment. What funny creatures we are!

And that’s my story. Check out what some of our readers have to say. I think you’ll find their stories inspiring and quite relatable.

Has your body image or self-esteem ever kept you from participating in a belly dance event?

“Has your body image or self-esteem ever kept you from participating in a belly dance event?:
Yes! I had finally learned to love myself as I am in my older years and heavier weight and had really embraced Tribal Belly Dancing!

I had even gotten over my shyness of showing off my larger then youthful belly. I was so excited about my upcoming performance with my class… Even created a lovely outfit…

Then my ‘loving family’ whom felt they were ‘helping me’ let me know that I shouldn’t [EVER] dance in front of people…or at least while I was still ‘over weight’.

I became broken-hearted and stopped dancing for near half a year, even skipping the Galas as I felt too embarrassed to even be seen.

I am SO grateful to my lovely dance instructor who has so lovely embraced me and let me know I am perfect as I am! I have returned to dancing and my joy is back! Now to learn how to not hear those that would have me quit. After all, they are NOT required to even ever come see me dance!

I’m very thankful today that I’ve stumbled upon this group!

I’m looking forward to getting my courage back to dance!!” ~ Vicki

“It really hasn’t, which is remarkable when I think about it.

I have been extraordinarily privileged to have come up in a very supportive environment where I was pushed to perform, not to hide.

Now that I perform, I findthat I’m almost always approached by someone from the audience. I get the same questions all dancers get—where did you learn to do this, do you give classes, where do you get your costume—but always with an additional component.

‘Where do you find costumes in your size?’

‘My sister wants to try belly dancing, but thinks she’s too heavy. Do you give classes?’

It used to bother me. A lot.

But then I remembered that all dancers get these question and the best thing to do is be awesome and roll with it. If they’re asking these kind of questions, they liked what they saw, so we’re all good.” ~ Wendee

“No, I have never let my body image prevent me from participating at a belly dance event. However, I have been to events where rude comments were made towards me and I was even question on why I was wearing a tummy cover when I should have a bare tummy. My tummy cover gives me the strength and courage to perform! I try to ignore what others say about me and to not comment back towards those negative people! I do what I love and nothing will stop me from my passion. Plus my dance troupe loves and supports me! :)” ~ Jennifer

“Yes, I have found myself very nervous about participating in belly dance events because of my size. I have always been a big girl but I love to dance. Now I see that I just have more to love when I’m on stage.” ~ Kristin

“It hasn’t kept me from going to classes or planning to teach my own classes/workshops. But my fiancee said that when he told his dad about me belly dancing, his dad said I’m too fat and should get a real job.” ~ Michelle

“My body image/self-esteem has never stopped me from participating in ANYTHING. However, I have been discriminated against because of my size. While dancing at a festival, the troupe I was in at the time was also pseudo-auditioning for a restaurant gig. The only dancer the owner wanted was the tallest, thinnest, most inexperienced one in the troupe. I don’t dance in restaurants, mainly because of the owner. I also lost a weekly gig at the local Casino because I “didn’t fit their image.” In my very first dance class, I was the only one wearing a bra top and a skirt. I am fearless.” ~ Elinor

All I can say is…Don’t let the haters (or the perceived haters) keep you from what you love. If you don’t feel confident enough because you don’t have enough experience or get stage fright, that is one thing…but avoiding something because of how you think you’ll be treated isn’t a fun way to go through life. Take a deep breath, tell yourself something reassuring and kind, and then go have fun! If someone treats your wrong, it’s on them…not you. It’s not exactly related, but I read this great article today from Golda Poretsky and I think it’s a great way to close this article, “A Few Thoughts On The Youtube Trolls And Why It Really Is Okay To Be Fat And Visible.”

What do you think? Leave your comments on whether or not your self-esteem has kept you from belly dance…or feel free to post some advice!

Now, for June’s Question of the Month–in honor of my birthday month: If you could be gifted with any belly dance talent or skill, what would you choose? Answer here.


About Andalee

Andalee is the founder of Belly Dance at Any Size. She is an Oriental dancer and instructor from Durham, NC, now based in Montpellier, France. She has been dancing since 2005 and teaching since 2008. Her mission is to promote Oriental Dance (a.k.a. belly dance) as a respected and valid performance art.