Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sexy Rebel

I've been going to the Emily Program for the past six years where I have been receiving treatment/therapy for my eating disorder. A few weeks ago, I completed a panel of psychological testing required by my insurance company. One of the tests I took is called the MMPI-2. If you are not familiar with this test, it is actually kinda weird. It is a survey comprised of around 300 statements that you are supposed to answer as True or False depending on how you feel the statement applies to you. The statements seem sorta odd and random. An example of some statements are "I think I would like to work as a librarian" and "I know who is responsible for most of my problems." The MMPI-2 is a very common tool used by mental health professionals to diagnose a wide variety of mental and cognitive disorders. 

I was kind of excited to take and find out the results of my MMPI-2. I completed this test when I initially started therapy 6.5 years ago, so it was very interesting to see what things have changed and what has remained consistent. I was delighted to see that the results indicated improvement in my eating disorder and anxiety. I feel like I have made huge strides in both these areas, so it was really cool to have that validated. I still struggle with depression but that has certainly improved as well. 

One area assessed by the MMPI-2 has to do with honesty and rebelliousness. My scores in the area were pretty close to unchanged. I scored low on the lying scale which pretty much implies what you'd guess - I am not a lair. That is good news for anyone who might be wondering :). However, in comparison, I scored quite high in rebelliousness. Generally, when a person scores high in this area, they tend to be your stereotypical "trouble makers." They tend to disrespect authority, get into trouble at school, have problems holding down jobs or have trouble with the law. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I am pretty much the exact opposite of that. I was always a very quiet and reserved honor roll student who never once visited the principal's office. I have never been fired from a job or had any issues like that at work. I also have a family full of police officers and never gotten anything beyond a speeding ticket.

I was puzzled about this result because it just didn't seem to fit me. However, as we dug a little more into my history and childhood, the reason for this test result started to become more clear. It turns out, I am incredibly rebellious internally but I do not generally act out negatively because of it. My rebelliousness can be seen in my beliefs, world view and outlook on life. I have some fairly unique views on life that go very much against the grain of mainstream society. When I do choose to express these views, it is generally very well thought out and purposeful. In other words, I don't rebel or "stir the pot" just for the sake of causing trouble. In essence, I am a rebel with a cause.

I began pole dancing a year ago for the acrobatic and physical enjoyment it gives me. I started out with the intention of exploring the under emphasized, non-sexual side of pole dance. I wanted to use it as a vehicle for a much more broad range of self-expression and so far, I feel like I have definitely accomplished this.

I've never been a person who has felt comfortable expressing my sexuality through dance, movement or really anything at all. During my upbringing, sexuality or anything related that kind of expression was simply not acceptable. In fact, nudity or anything "unmodest" was considered down right shameful. As a result, I have always shied away from expressing that side of myself in any way...until now. 

Enter the Rebel Stef, flying the banner of expressive freedom! I am no longer interested in repressing this part of myself and feeling ashamed of it. Sexuality is an absolutely vital and beautiful part of being a person. As human beings, our bodies are an incredibly powerful vehicles for expression. Through my dancing, I have explored expressing a wide variety of things. I've expressed anger, fear, sadness, joy and playfulness. Each time I design a solo routine, I make a conscious effort to focus the expression of something different. My first solo (click to see here) was about experiencing joy and pain at the same time. The second one (here) was much more light-hearted in feel. It was a cutesy and innocent routine that I did in a playful, 50s pin-up style. My most recent solo (here)was focused the themes of power and confidence. I used the Game of Thrones theme song for this routine and wanted to do a routine that I felt was an "ass kicker" so to speak - and it was! My body went through a lot while putting that routine together and interestingly, I felt incredibly powerful and confident when it came time to perform it. 

I have begun to explore sensual movement during dance class and with group routines but NEVER in a solo situation. Sexy or sensual moment is not something that my body does comfortably or naturally. BUT, when you are a self-growth junkie like me, that means only one thing: its time to go there. I've made the decision that my next solo is going to be ALLLLLL about the sexy.

I'm a little freaked out to be so vulnerable - alone out there with a crowd of eyes watching me do my "sexy" thing. What if the ideas I have in my head don't translate to sexy dance but instead, simply look like I am having some sort of organized seizure. What if I can't take myself seriously and end up just trying to choke back laughter the whole time? Well, I guess that is truly the reason I am doing this: to push myself past that discomfort. It has been my experience over and over, that there is some really, really amazing things on the other side of that discomfort. I am excited to find out what might be on the other side of the discomfort in this situation!

So, to take it even one step further (because that is what I do), I have made the decision to try out for our dance studio's professional burlesque troupe called the Wicked Wenches. If you are unfamiliar with what Burlesque is all about, please watch the documentary "A Wink and a Smile: The Art of Burlesque." The Wicked Wenches do shows at theaters around the Twin Cites area. The most recent one was a brilliant parody on Star Wars. It was geeky, hilarious and sexy and I wanna do it too. I think auditions are going to be sometime in the next month - so wish me luck! 

Even if I don't make it as a Wench, that is OK. The process of pushing myself to do this is what I think is the most important thing. And in the meantime, I am gonna try to tap into my sexy and find out what that even looks like for me. I have absolutely no idea what my sexy style is but I am really excited to find out and then share that new found style though my dance. As scary as this feels for me right now, I am actually very excited to be a sexy rebel with a sexy cause.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Too Nice?

I am a nice person. I smile at people and have an overall friendly disposition. I am kind and helpful to strangers. I freely give great hugs and sincere compliments. I am pretty openly expressive of how I feel about people - if I like you or appreciate some particular quality about you, I am going to tell you! If I had a nickle for each time someone told me, "You are so NICE!" I'd have somewhere around a shit-ton of nickles. When I've been told that I am nice, most people mean it as a compliment and I take it as one. However, every once in a while, someone will tell me that I am "too nice" or somehow suggest that it is a negative thing. Sure, I've been the kind of "too nice" that has allowed me to be taken advantage of in the past but I have certainly learned from that and figured out how to set appropriate boundaries in my life. However, I didn't sacrifice or allow my warmth to turn cold because of it.

I've also actually had people flat-out dislike me because they thought I was "too nice." I will never forget the first time I found out that was the reason someone didn't like me. This person was a friend of a friend, so it wasn't a great personal loss but it still perplexed me to the core. I just couldn't wrap my head around how being nice was a reason to dislike someone. It wasn't until years later that I began to understand that it was more about that other person than it was about me.

I have a friend who is also a really "nice" person and has had some similar experiences. After talking about it at length, we arrived at the conclusion that people must equate kindness and niceness with being phony and fake. It is like somehow people mistrust it because they don't understand that there are no ulterior motivations attached to our kindness.

But in reality, it simply boils down to the fact that we make a conscious effort to not allow the negativity we might be experiencing personally to bleed over into the way we treat the people around us.

Negativity is so unbelievably viral. It spreads so quickly and most often without detection. We are told over and over by the medical profession; the best way to prevent the spread of disease it to wash our hands after going to the bathroom or coughing or blowing our noses. Many people make that effort - not to be in the world with germs all over their hands. However, the same goes for negativity. Its a energetic virus and has a huge influence over a person's well-being. Just as I would never want to transmit my stomach flu to the world, I don't want to transmit my negativity either. I guess you could say that in a sense, I try very hard to interact with energetically clean hands.

The good news is that positive energy is also viral and can spread quickly too. Just like pro-biotics are beneficial bacterial in our gastro-intestinal tracts, positivity is another one of those beneficial bacteria in our lives. I like the idea of being a tiny supplement to someones positivity growth and I view interactions as an opportunity for this. So, I make an effort.

I'd much rather be talked to kindly than rudely or even with apathy. That goes for everyone in my life from the gas station clerk to my husband and everyone in between. That is why I do my best to approach everyone with the same kindness and consideration. There are definitely days where I don't feel anywhere near even the dullest ray of sunshine and that is OK. Yet even on those days, I really try not to let my ugly internal feelings color the way I treat the people around me. On days like that, I try to limit how much I interact with others and still manage to approach those interactions with at least a level of neutral kindness. And there are days I fail all together but the point is, I try.

I also think that some people equate kindness or being nice with weakness or being a doormat. I realize that some nice people allow themselves to be treated poorly. However, I am not one of those "nice" people. I will be all warmth and fuzz but the second I catch wind of someone trying to take advantage of me, you will see a Stef-shaped hole in the wall and a puff of smoke where I was standing. My kindness does not grant free access to walk all over me. I personally believe that it takes strength to be a "nice" person with boundaries.

Finally, I think people may also have the misconception that nice people have super easy lives with nothing to be crabby or negative about. I think I speak for many "nice" folks when I say that sometimes we are the "nicest" when things are going the worst. I find that when I am going through a tough time, I feel more compassionate to others around me. Maybe its my way of subconsciously inviting compassion and positivity into my own life. Regardless, I guarantee that many of the kindest people have been through more than their fair share of difficult life experiences. I believe it takes a certain amount of character to have been through some awful stuff (or even just have had an awful day) but still have the grace to treat others with kindness.

So yes, I am a nice person. When I say or do something nice, it is because I mean it. I don't blow phony smoke up any one's butt - I just truly appreciate others and let them know it and I don't expect any thing in return. I don't have an alternate motive; I am not try to sell you a car, get you to loan me money or get your approval. Mean people suck and it is true. I'd much rather perpetuate niceness than meanness, so I guess its is a choice I make. I am nice and that is just that.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My Third Pole Solo

I know I am not the first person to be sucked into the addicting world of the show, Game of Thrones. If you have never seen it, please do yourself a favor and watch it. I literally binged watched that show in time for the start of the most recent season!

Every time I'd watch the show and the opening credits started, I thought, "This would be such a cool song to use for a pole dance routine!" This session, I decided I was ready to give it a go.

When I set out to create this routine, I had this really specific vision in my head about how I wanted to routine to look. My body's natural tendency is to move in more fluid motion. I wanted this routine to have a feeling of strength and power and in my head at the time, graceful movement was neither of these things. I guess I was just really afraid of it looking too "ballet-ish" and all wrong stylistically. As a result, I found myself fighting against the way my body wanted to move which lead to me feeling disconnected from the routine and dissatisfied with it all together.

I had recorded a few practice runs of the routine and upon watching them later, I just couldn't help but feel like something was missing. I felt fumbled and clunky in my movements and it definitely showed. I was frustrated because it wasn't going the way my control-freaky self wanted it to! I had my husband watch the practice videos with me and he pointed, "You just don't seem like yourself in this routine." Boom. There it was. I was the one missing from this routine. I was trying so hard to make myself be a certain way for this routine that it was messing everything else up. So, about a week before the showcase, I went back to the drawing board and revised most of the transitions and floorwork. I let go of my preconceived expectations and just let myself dance. As the pieces started coming together, I found myself feeling a renewed sense of energy and excitement about the routine. 

Overall, I am very happy with the way this solo turned out. I accomplished my top two goals which are always the same: to have fun and be in the moment. However, I feel like I got a nice little life lesson out of the deal as well :) 

Here it is, my third pole dance solo to the Game of Thrones theme song!!

We are so fortunate at Expertease Fitness to have Lion's Mane Photography at all of our showcases to take performance action shots. Matt Davis took so many great photos of my solo and the following are a handful of my favorites!