I’ve been thinking about confidence a lot lately. I kinda have to now; one of my jobs as an instructor is to empower my students to feel comfortable in their bodies, especially when confronting the uncomfortable. Sometimes “the uncomfortable” is a challenging move, sometimes it’s just joining a class.

It’s a tough thing, being able to stand and move and dance in front of strangers. Especially when they’re half naked. Especially when YOU’RE half naked.

In fact, one of the messages we get most as a studio is, “this looks great, but I’m nowhere near confident enough to do something like that myself!” What even is confidence? How can some people have it and not others? It’s not like all the confident people in the world have only one body type, or one style of dress, or one of anything. People come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties, and I believe that confidence is accessible to all.

If you’ve seen me around the studio or taken a class with me before, you’ll know that I’m a big lady. I’m six feet tall, my body is soft and squishy, my feet are as large as my dad’s, the number on my scale hasn’t started with a 1 in years. In the last two years, I’ve gained and lost the weight of a kindergartener.

My body is on a journey, just like everyone’s always is.

Now while today I can say that I love myself and my figure, it definitely wasn’t always this way. I hated being taller than all the boys in my school. In 11th grade, I overheard a guy that I was crushing on say, “I could never be with a girl over 130.” I mean, ouch. Straight up killed my 16 year old soul. I was already well over 50 lbs beyond that, and I immediately made the association of Shyla = too big = not desirable = hide forever, uggo. And note, I wasn’t even fat. Hell, even if I was, fat isn’t a bad thing. I’ve been an athlete my whole life, and I’ve always been heavy because of it.

On this big of a body, muscle ‘weight’ quickly adds up. It’s taken me a long time to be able to accept that about myself, and to change that negative association in my head.

How did I do it? Well, let’s rewind to 2018. I was fresh out of college, no longer playing water polo, my then-boyfriend had just cheated on me, and I was feeling about as low as you can feel (well, at the time… then I welcomed a whole fresh set of mental health issues and found new *depths* of emotion) and didn’t know how to feel good about myself again. In a random string of luck, I found my first ever pole studio (shoutout to PDF, you were a lovely step in my journey!) and signed up for class.

I’d never taken a dance class before, I was famous in my friend group for having no rhythm, and I don’t think I had ever honestly described myself as sexy.

That was almost four years ago now, and I haven’t looked back. For the first time in my life, my body wasn’t just a tool for my coach. It didn’t matter what I could squat, or how fast I sprinted. All that mattered was my own movement. As I progressed, I felt my soul connect with my body in ways it never had before. I started to work on my self-love outside of the studio as well. Every time I looked in the mirror, I would say aloud three things that I liked about what I saw. Even if it was the same three things as the day before, or if they were three things that weren’t even about my appearance. I got used to being kind to myself, to hearing my own words of affirmation, and you guys, it helped.

I so admired the fellow women and men that I was meeting through the pole community, and as I befriended them I realized that they had the same insecurities that I did.

But when I watched them dance, that wasn’t what I saw. I didn’t watch them spin around and think of how their thighs jiggled. They didn’t flip their bodies upside down for me to stare at their stomach rolls. I wanted to feel as sexy as I found them, and desirable, and like my body was worth the world even if it couldn’t do everything I asked of it. So I figured, screw it. Might as well just make it up. I noticed the things that other people did that gave the illusion of confidence: eye contact, purposeful movement, unabashed expression. I tried to emulate those things in my own movements, and it started to work. I liked what I was doing, even if I didn’t always love the way it looked. Even now that happens sometimes. But I mean, who cares? Nobody is ever perfect. I’m sure as hell not, and I’ll never claim to be. There’s beauty in the imperfection. There’s beauty in trying something new and failing, especially when you can turn around and try again. It’s not always an easy journey.

A lifetime of looking down on yourself can create some habits that are tough to break. But if you want to break them? You can. We can help. That’s what we’re here for!

That’s the best part of the pole community, and it’s why I wanted to help build the High Priestess Pole Studio. To anyone who has hesitations about joining our studio: there are always a million excuses to not do something. Let us show you the reasons why you should.

Thanks for taking the time to read, Shyla