“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”― Brené Brown
Last september, I was in Boulder for a Floorflow certified teacher gathering. One day after the training, I was in a car with Marlo (Fisken) who was leading the training, Ken (Kao) her partner and two other friends that were also taking part in the training. At a red light, we saw someone walking their little dog across the street. Ken, looking at the dog, said something to the effect of : « this is really what we call an hip flexor initiated gait ». Everybody laughed. After a moment, Marlo remarked how amazing it was and how she loved that we all laughed. We did so because we all knew exactly what it meant, and understood the irony of applying it to the dog.
Then, about two weeks after, again in a car with some friends, coming back from the country, there was a second occurrence of the same type. We were looking at multiple colorful air balloon in the sky, probably from a Festival offering flights. One friend made a joke, I don’t remember it exactly, but a bit irreverencious and about balloon rides and Hindenburg. Then after we laughed, she said : I like how I can say those things with you, you know the cultural references, you laugh and don’t get offended by my tone and the sarcasm. I can’t do that with everyone.
It left an imprint ! Maybe it was earing it for a second time, the importance of being surrounded by people who get you. Maybe it was timing. I don’t know exactly but it brought me back to that questioning about belonging.
Of course it wasn’t a new thing, it’s always been a preoccupation of mine but maybe these events have made it even more present. I’ve also been going through a transition in my identity as a teacher, seen changes in my interests, reading more and more on movement culture, research, manual therapy and chronic pain, felt questions emerge about my place in pole. I have moments of pondering about having a place to belong professionally, of desires to share dicussions with like minded people and get challenged intellectually and physically. This coupled with the realization that trying to find a new place for myself, a new sense of belonging proved to be a challenge, piqued my curiosity. And then, from my obervations of people, movers and non movers, new questions of belonging also arose, about the concept and how it relates to movement or lack of.
In brief, belonging is a big one. Tricky. I struggle with it. Am I enough, or not enough ? Fun, competent, generous, clear, original ? Inrested in the right things ? Is my personal movement practice adequate, sufficient ? How’s my performance ? Will I be loved ? What about my presence on social medias ? All questions I ask myself. That put doubts in me. And then there is also that question : to whom do the standards I evaluate myself with belong to ?
But let’s start with this. Life is always in movement, it is movement. Therefore, change is not the exception but more the rule.
Do you feel yourself changing ? For better, for worst … mostly for the better. Your interests evolve, what you were passionate about, this one thing that made sense in your life, doesn’t anymore. You had projects, but suddenly you’re not invested in them so much, but you have new ones, new exciting ones. You loved going for long bicycle rides, but now you prefer walking. You were into essentrics but lost the fire, you miss the creativity in a work out. Whatever it is, I believe we all go through those moments. Well I did. I do. I already established that.
So when I made the decision to incorporate more movement in my life, pole dancing was there. I was obsessed. It prompted my need to investigate biomechanics, anatomy and to change my professional path. But not anymore. Don’t get me wrong I still love pole dancing, it is just not the driving force anymore. So I’m changing. In the process, my sense of belonging is challenged, has become precarious. It’s scary. But I also realize with every step that the more I put myself out there, the more I find who I am and the more I feel it’s ok to be me. But there is no absolute, it fluctuates, I’m vulnerable. And I have good days and bad days but slowly I feel more at peace with this.
So how does all of that relate to movement ? Well, it puts in perspective a lot of discussions I had about movement. Things I heard students, friends say; about searching for a place to train, about having trouble finding the right kind of exercices, feeling pressure to engage with the latest movement trend (it’s fashionable, it’s good for you) even if they don’t like it. About difficulties committing to a movement plan, about looking for people to train with, to go to classes. Or about not being good enough, I like this but I’m not flexible strong enough, I’m too old. I should get in shape, go to the gym before practicing the activity I really want. And then tales about students saying they felt at home at a pole studio, that finally they had found a community. Or that finally they could fully engaged in movement, because they found a teacher they liked and felt safe with, a place where they connected with other participants.
And I observed that people who were practicing on a regular basis, usually felt that sense of community. No matter which activity they were doing. And people that were not, lacked that sense. Not that I’m saying it’s the only reason for getting involved in moving, exercising and stick with it but nonethless it is a factor. (feeling embodied and finding pleasure in being connected to your body is probably a big one but another topic altogether)
We can also ask the question of which comes first, egg or chicken kind of thing, the sense of belonging or the interest for movement. And if you look around at research on adults and movement sport activities, it is complex. But there are a few things we can extract and agree. For one being active, moving, practicing a sport is recommended and good for your health. Then there is this, how much active you’ve been as a youth is a factor in how you’ll do as an adult. And considering children having a sense of belonging positively impacts their motivations and participation into physical activities and sports, then maybe we can extrapolate and make the hypothesis it matters for adults in sports and movement too. After all we are social beings and a sense of belonging sure is important for us. True belonging.
“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.” ― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
So, in the end, if you want to get moving. And there are good reasons to do so, then go. If you talk about getting in shape, staying mobile and being healthy. It’s not too late. Go! Put yourself out there, try different things. Do what you want. Be afraid but don’t let fear dictates your choices. Be compassionate toward yourself. Be you and find your movement tribe.
I am, I did, I’m learning. One step at a time.