What? You don’t think belly dance can make you a better professional? Here, hold my zills.

Six years ago I was working freelance from my home. I had limited contact with anyone who wasn’t a family member or a client. I hated networking, had a low opinion of myself as both a professional and a person. Nothing I did made me like any part of myself. I had been struggling with anxiety and depression most of my adult life. Most days I would have welcomed an end to it all. I couldn’t see the point in living a long life.

When I started belly dance in 2017 it was only because I was working with a client to brand her belly dance studio in Spartanburg. She offered to let me take a free class and she bugged me until I did it! When I started everything was awkward, disjointed and messy. Nothing I did felt or looked good. Some days I would cry over it and some days I would just laugh at how ridiculous it all was. But, I was laughing and smiling more.

As time wore on and I continued to practice, I got better. My body started to do what I wanted it to do. The movement was smoother, more graceful. I started to look more like a dancer in my posture and movement. Eventually I started to feel more like a dancer. Not just an out of shape, middle-aged mom indulging in a nonsense hobby.

These days I practice anywhere from 3-7 hours a week. I have started to explore props. Sword is my favorite right now. I even practice improvisation … which will eventually lead me into solo performance. (eep)

How does belly dance relate to my professional life?

Before dancing, I could not have walked into a room full of people and introduced myself to even one of them. I would have stood in the corner and then left, close to tears, before anyone even knew I was there. I found it difficult to open up to clients, which made it difficult to convince them to open up to me. You can imaging that wasn’t great for business.

Practicing intentional movement, performing in front of crowds of 50-100 people and sharing the joy I find in dancing has opened up parts of me I never knew were there.

I’m more stable and happier. I find it easier to work through my anxiety and depression. It’s not as hard to pivot when life turns ugly. I enjoy time with my family more and I’m more open with them. I had not idea how much more wide open I could be with my husband! I still have a long way to go, but for context, I have only just in the last couple of months allowed him to be present when I practice.

I’m more confident. If you can get up in front of 50 people in a two piece costume and shimmy, undulate or roll your chest in circles … you can do just about anything. Including walking into a networking event and introducing yourself to at least one person.

I’m more connected. This is multi-dimensional. Not only am I more connected to my own body, but I find it easier to relate and connect with other people. In the last few months I have been able to relate something someone has said to my practice of belly dance. And if I can’t relate it to dance then I can relate it to my chicken habit.

Self regulating has become second nature. Getting up unexpectedly and walking out of an event from overload or overstimulation was not uncommon for me. Finding my center and focusing has become so much more simple. I still need a break from time to time and I still find myself panicking at events from time to time, but it’s not the end of the world anymore.

I am looking forward to aging. This only just happened and it’s part of the reason why I wanted to write this post. At any point in time over the last dozen years, the Universe could have offered me a way out and I would have gladly taken it. No more stress, no more waking up crying because I didn’t know how I would get through it all. How could anyone live for 70, 80, 90 years and be happy? It just didn’t compute for me. Just this year I have started being grateful for growing old. I will dance as long as I can because it takes me places I have never been. It teaches me lessons I would never learn. It brings people into my life I never would have met.

Now, I’m not saying belly dance will make your life worth living or anything. It did make mine fuller and richer which did help me become a better professional. Maybe your thing isn’t belly dance. Maybe it’s writing poetry or painting or soccer. Maybe you don’t know what your thing is. I mean, I didn’t find belly dance because I was looking for it!

You never know what will spark your creativity or inspire you. Be open to new experiences and opportunities and be prepared to allow them to transform your whole life. And who knows, maybe belly dance will make you a better professional too.

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