Self Love & Appreciation through Pole Dance: Get ready for shields, flames, armor, ghosts and HOPE RISING…
I’m going to talk about some dirty words here: JUDGEMENT and COMPARISON. Oh and a few more: PLEASURE and SELF TOUCH. Keep reading til the end to find the happy ending to this story. Before we get there, we must first dive into the dark world of self-loathing to find the glimmers of self-love that have been waiting for us, patiently, all along.
How many times have we looked in the mirror and thought we weren’t good enough?
When growing up and becoming aware of ourselves in the world, how many times do we judge our body, our face, our skin, and compare them to ridiculous fashion/glamour ads based on unattainable, non-human standards? Typically there’s focus on these ads in the teenage years (and these days even earlier) and this type of unjust comparison haunts most of us for life. Thankfully the ghost can be exorcised, but we must understand it more to do so.
The effect of this judgement is oftentimes what Wilhelm Reich refers to as character armor. Character armor is exhibited in an organism as stiff facial expressions and very little eye contact. It is a blockage of expression of emotions and pleasure. In the extreme sense, choices are made to continually avoid the painful world. (Reich is oftentimes not talked about due to some of his controversial ideas but I think his term “character armor” and his studies on “skin charge” are quite relevant for our purposes so I’ll focus on that).
When we look in the mirror and we judge ourselves ~ our character armor is growing stronger. When you do this to yourself ~ can you feel the way this pushes your pleasure down, away from the surface of your skin? This is a skin charge “away fro the world” based on anxiety and fear (Reich). We become smaller, inside of ourselves, shriveling up away from the exterior layer that delineates our bodies from the air molecules around us. Each and every time we do this, it becomes a self-inflicted wound. Our body then “stores” our auto-traumas in its flesh and cells. Layer upon layer is poured in directly from the mirror into ourselves like concrete. In homage to the media images we see about “what’s hot” and “what’s not”, we further deduce that our natural body shapes are not “good enough”. When we’re young teenagers we may begin to eat very little or expel what we just ate in hopes we’ll look different in the mirror the next day. We shrink from our actual, three dimensional shape. We cast shame and derision over our peaks, valleys, and sways of our body. Most of the damage is now done. It’s no wonder this thinking and behavior can sometimes continue into adulthood.
If we’re then also called names or subject to harmful words by others during these formative years, it’s as if all of our own self-loathing is confirmed for good reason. (I told you we had to drudge through the dark depths to get somewhere….keep hanging on for this glimmers of hope. They’re coming:)
There are of course others who are heralded from early ages as “the best” or “the most beautiful”, and yet they too can suffer from this internal concrete pour of comparison and judgement. No one is safe in our so-called “developed” world.
So often our “modern” lifestyle seems so dysfunctional to me.
From our well-built character shield, another element is added to the cycle and we hide behind masks of make up and gloss (David Deida), and we hope the world will like it. I have certainly participated in this myself as a teenager and I even remember yearning to wear make up as a 5th and 6th grader. Furthermore, when you’re on stage the idea of gloss and glam becomes crucial in your performance. I’d say the gloss and glam becomes a constant performance for all those with character armor, one where you’re not getting paid and always in some sort of personal conflict. (((This is why I love “performance art” as opposed to “entertainment” ~ it so often focuses on the realistic parts of the human experience, not just the glamorous aspects)))
As we pour on the make up and gloss in less convincing ways, some intuitive types can sense our mask and feel the distance between our own skin and our own self. Some more image-focused types wear the same mask and laud us for doing so ~ further encouraging us to keep the mask securely fastened and keep hacking away at ourselves. In both scenarios a true, pleasurable human to human connection is missing.
In short, we grow up learning to shake with hunger and flake our skin with abrasive coverup. The darkness is oh-so-dark. Are we ready to release this ghost yet?? I’d say so.
Is this heavy, incessant armor what self-love is supposed to feel like? No child, it certainly is NOT. This petty critique of ourselves is where most of us live for the rest of our lives.
Now, lets talk about PLEASURE and SELF TOUCH. No matter your age ~ you can feel amazing in your body. It goes a little something like this: I want you to take for a moment the time to breathe, not just in and out through your nose and mouth, but breathe into your breasts/pecs. Breathe into your chest and heart chakra and feel the small glowing internal light there. Breathe into your belly and your GUT. Let the muscles relax for a moment and feel the fullness there. Notice the immediate thoughts of “gross”, “I hate my belly”, and “I’m pudgy”. Buddha was very wise and has a great voluminous chi center in his gut. Breathe into your hips and your pelvis and into the root chakra at the base of your spine. Do you know, truly know, these areas? Do you feel these three areas as beacons of light, guidance, voice and intuition in your life? Keep breathing.
I want you to forget the mirror, I want you to do a reboot, reset, and restore to factory settings. We must re-program all the messages we’ve received on femininity, masculinity, and body image our whole life. This is quite the task. First ~ another seemingly impossible task for many is to stop criticizing and judging each other. Lets stop comparing each other to ourselves. Our comparisons are not valid ~ the person you are comparing yourself to is not a complete image. It is merely our projection of ourselves onto them. This is not a new concept in psychology ~ yet I see this happen every single day. On my worst days, I see it in myself when I compare myself to others I admire.
Lets love ourselves so much it’s contagious. It is a practice. It is a rebellion against the normal pathology of society (Reich). It is breathing into your heart, belly and hips, and it’s touching your body with curiosity and care. What if you were allowed to put your hands all over your body for the length of an entire song, in your room with total privacy? Do you DARE? No mirrors, just yummy blankets and soft pillows and your favorite song washing over you. Notice how challenging this is: that’s the programming we need to undo. Why can’t we touch our bodies? Not in an obvious masturbatory way, but in this curious, explorative, self-healing way. Not just the erogenous zones (duh), but why not every curvy, shapely, inch. TRY IT. Self love starts at your skin barrier. You need to know how the curves of you live, breathe and feel. Notice the fear that lives in your curves as you begin to explore them. We need to change their curvy lifestyle from anxiety to one of love and appreciation. Appreciative words can be moving mantras in your mind as your hands roam. You may think, “I love you” when you hug yourself or “I’m sorry for being so mean to you” when you stroke your neck. Notice the details. “I never noticed how beautiful my clavicles are” or “Wow my leg muscles are really strong right here” become happy thoughts of appreciation as you explore and become re-acquainted with yourself in a whole new way. As you do this, repeatedly, those shrunken parts of yourself that are shriveled away from the surface begin to bloom and grow from within. You embody your skin more fully. You begin to feel more present. This is a new interaction with the world around us.
We do this when we pole dance. We put touch, breath, and kind words on every part of us, time and time again, until we fully feel alive in our skin, our bones, our muscles, and our layers of tissue. We use this tool as a go-to when the going gets rough again (and it will ~ we’re erasing a lifetime of crappy messages here). We do this until we fully inhabit our beings with self love, acceptance, curiosity, and ecstatic embrace. When we achieve this new level, we continue to do the same work, each time we dance. This is what self love is. It’s not just words written with lipstick on the mirror. It is physicality and tactility. We do this especially when we’ve had a tough day, are going through a rough time, or feel we made a bad choice. We must love and forgive ourselves, in an active way. It must happen in the body, not just exist as a faint yearning in the mind. It isn’t just a mantra while sitting still ~ it’s an invocation while moving and breathing and hearing a song we choose to inhabit. Imagine the song is a pool that we are choosing to step into, just the right temperature and just the right amount of jets for us that day. Then we do it all over again the next time we dance, with a different song on a different day. It is our practice. We self love with viciousness, total devotion, tenacity, audacity, and revolt against all those messages we’ve stored in ourselves. With every swipe of our hands over our shape, we wipe away a layer of self critique and judgement that’s buried there. We are eradicating the concrete and replacing it with blood, oxygen, love and soul.
What happens next? NOW we have our natural, given power – our rawness, confidence, truth, passion, expression, and our style of pole dance. We’ve expressed love for ourselves with touch to stimulate our skin charge (Reich) and this has allowed for self-healing. We then integrate this self-love into the world around us. We interact with other humans differently. We now stand in a more authentic place. NOW, for the first time perhaps ever in our adult lives, it is as if we have lit a candle inside of us that will never burn out. The whole universe begins to light up as our bodies become full of love once again, as they were always intended to be. We return to our childlike state of pleasure and joy from using our bodies with glee in the world we live in. We no longer rely on fake, exterior sheaths that waiver in the slightest wind. Our internal light is burning too bright to need anything but ourselves and our real human connections. With one final exhale to extinguish those tired, characterized, brittle masks, the ghost is released. Watch the smoke rise as you feel the warmth of your own brilliant campfire within. This is what self love feels like. This is Pole for the Globe.