Find Your Beauty Through Belly Dance
How Belly Dancing Helps You Fall in Love with Your Body
We live in a society that makes it very hard for young girls and grown women to simply feel good about themselves. In 2006 research by the Dove brand says that 92% of girls want to change at least one aspect of their appearance, and that spending just three minutes looking at a fashion magazine lowers the self-esteem of 80% of women. Why is this? And more importantly, why is this acceptable?
“A majority of grown women walk around on a day-to-day basis thinking their thighs are too big, their hips too wide, and their breast too small/big, their bums to flabby and their bellies too round. Too big, wide and round for what exactly? “
Comparing oneself to a celebrity, a super star or pop idol has become more rampant than ever. It doesn’t stop at girls and teens. A majority of grown women walk around on a day-to-day basis thinking their thighs are too big, their hips too wide, and their breast too small/big, their bums to flabby and their bellies too round.
Too big, wide and round for what exactly?
Belly Dancing empowers today’s women and young girls by helping them to fall in love with their bodies and to dispel this myth, this illusion, that having some meat on you is a reason for you not to be loved.
There is no amount of words that can reverse such ingrained programming. Working on yourself mentally can only go so far. You can talk yourself up in your head, but true changes happen in the body on a wholistic level, and Belly Dancing enables that.
Belly Dancing is an ancient dance of women and Womanhood. Its movements, structures and techniques hold within them ancient wisdom. The ongoing practice of Belly Dance tends to have an alchemical effect on the girls and women learning it. It works on so many levels; some seen and understood, and others not so accessible to the logical mind, but felt on a knowing level.
Falling in Love with Our Bodies
If women collectively fell in love with themselves, including the female body that houses their spirit, the world would be a better place.
In the West especially there is a deep disconnect between mind and body. A rift that happens from childhood, where sensuality is broken. Belly Dancing helps to heal this rift organically.
“In the West especially, there is a deep disconnect between mind and body. A rift that happens from childhood, where sensuality is broken. Belly Dancing helps to heal this rift organically.”
By training each part of the body, Belly Dancing enables us to fall in love with each part individually, then the body as a whole. We learn to move parts of the body that are not normally used in a very feminine way; like the rib cage and chest area in chest movements; the hips in all lower body movements; the buttocks in shimmies; the arms and hands in graceful upper body movements; the face and eyes to add story and expression; the shoulders to add flavour and spice.
Each different movement introduces us to a part of our body we may have forgotten. As with meeting a new person, first we shake hands… then we hang out together…. then we start a conversation…. then we can start to like each other……. then the door is opened to acceptance and falling in love. It takes time, but as we meet each new part of our body this process of starting to see its true beauty unfolds. As Belly Dancing moves our connection systematically from one part of the body to another, the whole of our body becomes known and with time, enjoyed. The whole body becomes a friend, and with time, we can fall in love with all of it.
Another way Belly Dance shows us the truth that every woman is beautiful is the fact that is suits all body types and all ages. As my friend and fellow teacher Vanessa Ware once explained: “Belly Dance suits everyone. The skinny ones look great doing the snaky undulating movements. The bigger students look great doing the shimmies and the earthy movements”. She was absolutely right!
Belly Dance is also one of the few dance forms that is practiced widely by all age groups. In the Middle East we dance as young girls and we dance as grandmothers. As a professional Belly Dance performer, I seldom have a greater moment during a family function performance than when the matriarch of a family gets up and shares a dance with me. The family usually goes wild with delight and I am always left smiling from ear to ear in awe of her grace and ability to show her femininity.
Unlike most other dance forms, this dance is truly every woman’s dance, as it is able to show-up every woman as beautiful. What a gift to us all.
“Unlike most other dance forms, this dance is truly every woman’s dance,
as it is able to show-up every woman as beautiful.”
The Sowing of Seeds
The damage caused by generations of ingrained beliefs about body image, and the inevitable constant self-comparison that comes with that, starts at a very early age. Our girls grow up bombarded by toxic messages, and grow into women bombarded by toxic messages.
I have lived through this process and suffered its consequences. Growing up in the seventies in Baghdad, the hand that was dealt was different yet it held the same poisonous cup. To be “beautiful” you had to have meat on you. You had to be big, voluptuous, even what would be considered as “fat” by many Westerners.
I remember the first time my mother innocently told me how she went to the doctor to get “fattening” injections before her wedding day; what turned out to be steroids that disrupted her entire hormonal system for decades. My mother was a stunning woman and a healthy size 8-10 (US size 4-6) before the treatment, yet she deemed herself too thin for her wedding day. My fertile mind took this information in, together with all the other signals that hammered away at the message - that big was beautiful and worthy of attention, hence worthy of love.
Of course, the sad and infuriating truth is that “beautiful” has always been determined by what is beautiful in the eyes of the males of any culture, in a certain point in time. Why and when did we become such slaves to men’s opinions of us? At what point do we grown women stop needing “Daddy’s” approval? The males in the Middle East back in the seventies preferred baby fat and pudginess, so girls and women alike beat themselves up if they were thin.
As a skinny girl with a God-given waif frame I grew up feeling worthless, a self belief connected to my body image. This belief plagued my very existence up until I turned thirty three. Seven years of Belly Dancing started to heal the madness. Systematically and organically, it has brought up the demons I needed to see in order to make true peace with my body.
“Belly Dance is a perfect antidote to the whole body image/self worth/beauty malaise.”
Ironically, I am a well shaped size 8, the so-called “perfect” body here in the West. Do you think that mattered? Do you think the minute I flew into Sydney at the age of nineteen, and saw the billboards and TV ads full of size 8 waifs, that my self-esteem lifted? Absolutely not. We all have a scratched record in our heads from our childhoods, one that only the light of awareness and conscious living can stop. I read a quote recently to the effect of: “It is far easier to kill a real demon than an illusory one”. It has taken me thirteen years to even find, let alone stop, this lie that has lived inside my head and tormented my very happiness. Belly Dance has helped me create a true shift, one that I feel in my gut.
Belly Dance is a perfect antidote to the whole body image/self worth/beauty malaise. I thank the devine for giving us such a tool, full of ancient wisdom and healing that we can use today to help bring love back to ourselves, and hence our families, communities and at some level, the world.
Further Recommended Reading:
True Beauty by U.S. Plus-size supermodel Emme
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr Christiane Northrup