When I graduated from college and began my job search, I received some well-intentioned but misguided advice: To have a successful career, be "one of the guys." Don't wear dresses or skirts. No jewelry except for a watch. Whatever you do, don't do anything girly. You won't be taken seriously. I took this advice to heart and went through my workdays in a very masculine, linear, and results-oriented fashion.
Fast-forward many years later: I was training for a half marathon and taking boxing classes three times a week. I felt I needed to add something else to my workout routine. My naturopath gave me a list of different types of exercise classes to consider, and pole dancing jumped out at me. I signed up immediately, thinking that it would help me increase my flexibility and grace.
During my second class I had a complete meltdown. We were in the middle of the warm-up, which focuses on moving and stretching into your curves in a decidedly feminine circular manner. The movement felt foreign to the "go-go-go" linear, masculine movement I had adopted years ago. I watched the instructor and tried to mimic her movements. As I moved my hips around, secretly feeling silly and awkward, something within me broke open.
My femininity, which had been locked away within me, began to cautiously show itself. I suddenly realized that I had spent my entire adult life suppressing that very part of myself that made me unique: all of the intrinsic skills and capabilities that came from being a woman. I felt that somehow I had betrayed myself and began to cry. Luckily my instructor and fellow students were there for me and created a safe space for me to release the pain I was feeling.
Pole dancing was exactly what I needed, and I embraced it with a passion. With each class I explored who I was in my entirety and reacquainted myself with my femininity and spirituality. I became part of a community of women who expressed themselves and supported one another through dance.
Each spinning trick I practice allows my body and soul fly. Every bump and bruise (aka "pole kiss") is a badge of honor, a symbol of me pushing myself and trying something new. I will never forget the day that I overcame my fear and climbed to the top of a 15-foot pole, with my pole sisters cheering me on.
But my favorite part of pole dancing is bringing it all together into an individual dance. Each week I pick out a song and outfit and let my dance tell the story of what I am feeling, who I am, and who I am becoming. Pole dancing allowed me to rediscover a source of internal feminine power, intuition, and strength that I now bring forward to all aspects of my life.
I started with small steps, such as wearing dresses and high heels to work to remind me of my femininity. Then I began actively trusting and using my intuition in meetings and with my team to quickly get to the heart of a situation. I embraced the core principles of the feminine: to pause and listen, being fully present and receptive before taking action. This was significantly different from the masculine approach of actively conquering and doing that I had been using. Finally, I balanced the feminine aspects with the masculine in my life and used my intuition to determine when the right time was to leverage each.
When I did this, my entire world opened up in ways I never could have imagined. I built deep, meaningful relationships with clients and coworkers. My coaching practice began to grow, and I found that complete strangers would come up to me and begin sharing with me their life stories. I was happier and, for the first time in my life, felt balanced.
I hadn't shared my pole dancing with many people but decided to tell my 70-something mom one day.
"Oh my God! Are you working at a strip club?"
"No, Mom," I replied and then explained that it was a class I was taking.
My mom thought about it for a while, and then, when she came out to visit me, announced that she would like to see me dance. We went together to a beginner class. Most of my pole sisters went as well not only to support me but to welcome my mom into the community. The next day, after thinking about the class for a while, my mom said, "You know, none of the women in that class have perfect bodies. And yet you all accept and encourage each other exactly as you are. You support each other." Bingo!
Today I have fully embraced my femininity and everything that comes with it—my emotions, my sensuality, my intuition, and my caring and nurturing nature. I bring 100 percent of my authentic self to every situation and make no apologies for it. As a result, I am a stronger person and a better coach and friend. I continue to pole dance and view each class as a spiritual journey of self-discovery.
And when other women ask me for career advice, I simply tell them to be themselves and let their individual light shine.