My Belly Makes Me Sexy

my belly makes me sexy

That's me on the right, with my friend Shelly. Wish I'd had this confidence back in 8th grade!

I’m not exactly the poster child for high self-esteem. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with my insecurities – namely my body image. I was the girl in middle school who shot up to 5’7” way before the boys, the girl who drowned in oversized gender-neutral clothes, hoping to disappear, the heavy-set kid who was sure she’d never live down the fat jokes.

This all continued into college. I’d shy away from parties where I knew girls were expected to wear less than a napkin, I only let a handful of my friends see me in a bathing suit, and, regretfully, I let my low self-esteem wreck my relationship with the first boy I was really into. Bad stuff, I know.

But things started to turn around senior year. I had to take a P.E. elective (ugghhh) and the only thing that jumped out at me was Middle Eastern Dance—Belly Dancing! My roommate and I thought it would be a fun (if silly) way to complete our requirement, so we signed up. It was definitely fun–I still have the tacky coin belts to prove it–but what I realized in taking the class is that the dance form isn’t ridiculous at all. It’s an art form full of sick muscle isolations, musicality, poise, and stage presence. It’s also an art form that made me finally start to appreciate my own body: belly and all.

laura-elisabeth-belly-dancingWith the snap of a hip (plus some awesome, meaty reverb) and a knowing smile, that belly dancer can captivate a room full of people. She can’t contain her love for music and movement, she’s confident in her ability, and most of all, she’s comfortable in her own skin – whatever that skin happens to look like. This is what’s sexy about belly dance and this is what I’m learning to embody every day I dance.

I can’t say my self-image is golden or that I’m completely healed, but these days I carry myself a little differently. I actually have the capacity to express myself to others, I don’t worry so much about what other people think, and I spend a lot less time picking apart my appearance in the mirror and a lot more time relaxing and enjoying myself. This behavior is all becoming more ingrained in me, and I know that it’s because every now and then I get to be on a stage with music thumping, my hips ablaze in a shimmy, and onlookers hollering, and I think to myself, “hell yeah.”

Have you struggled with body image issues? Do you have a friend who needs a good dose of body confidence? Tell me all about it in the comments!

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Posted in: Body Image, Spotlight On, Your Body
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  • Gail Lucas

    This was a wonderful article. I really enjoyed it!

  • KG

    Oh, yes, I had major confidence issues back in the elementary school years. Really, up through middle school I was pretty shy and quiet. I remember once in my drama class, we were doing scenes from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and I was to play Juliet in my group. One of the girls in my group gawped at me like I had three heads and said, “She’s going to play Juliet?” I ended up handing the role over to her. I always wished I hadn’t, and I ended up clashing with that girl a few other times. Anywho, my senior year of high school got me into liberal politics and progressivism, which I blog about and now regularly keep up with as a university student. I’m very outgoing in class and freely speak in discussions, and if I ever get the chance again, I’m playing Juliet, darn it!

  • Elise

    This why I teach bellydance to teens- to reveal to them a paradigm of feminine beauty that is inclusive, healthful, empowering and fun, that our bellies are beautiful in all their shapes, sizes and textures. Laura, I am so glad you decided to take that first class. Rock on, Darlin’!

  • Dana

    A giant zagareet for you my dear! I always encourage other women to come try the classes and they always look at me like I’m crazy. So sad that their misconceptions of this dance override their curiosity!

  • Trudie

    THANK YOU!! As a mother of two, my body bears witness to the size of my babies and if it weren’t for the fact that I’m surrounded by my fellow dancers (most of whom are smaller and younger than myself), I would be extremely self conscious about my belly. Instead, when I start to notice the differences between my sisters and me rather than the simularities, I remember that they love me and tell me my shimmies are awesome, my omis are mesmerizing, and my stage presence commanding. I am FIERCE. Do I always get to the place where I hear this and accept and love my body? No, of course not. But it’s more than a 50/50 proposition and that’s what matters. Like RuPaul says, “That voice that tells you you’re less than will always be there. You’ve just got to work to make that voice quieter”. That’s what I focus on. Thanks again for writing this – we all need to hear this message!!

  • Erin

    I’ve known this gorgeous gal for years, and I’m super happy she’s found something she loves that makes her feel so fabulous 🙂

  • Amber

    Hey girl 🙂 I’ve had the same experience – always been self conscious of my body and especially my face. Used to get picked on a lot. It’s taken our dance and the freedom/understanding of San Francisco to break me out of my shell. And I’m not completely healed either, but I’m so much better off! Totally relate.