Bruises, Brass Poles, and High Heels: How Pole Dancing Taught Me to Love Myself

It all began about a year and 3 months ago; I was on the verge of leaving mypartner of three years, hated my job, and was in fairly unstable roommate situation.  You know, normal things for a late 20-something living in Chicago.  I felt the most un-sexy I can remember, and needed desperately to get my proverbial groove back. Panda, a friend of mine living in Philadelphia had been on a weight-loss journey, and had started talking about pole dancing a few months prior:

Me: “Pole dancing, like stripper dancing? No way! I’m way too fat and out of shape for that.” Panda: “Girl, I thought the exact same thing.  It’s not like that, at all.  This shit is a FOR REAL workout.  IT IS NOT EASY.  But it’s the most fun I’ve ever had working out.”

Me: “I’ll have to check that out, see what’s going on here (Chicago).” I filed that conversation somewhere in the back of my mind, thinking that I was too fat, not sexy enough, not conventionally beautiful enough to take pole-dancing classes.  I mean, strippers are the embodiment of the sexual fantasies of men the world over, right?  I am NOT fantasy material. Or at least that’s what I thought then.

Eventually, those negative thoughts no longer mattered.  My relationship was in shambles, and the less I could be in the apartment, the better.  About 5 days into the New Year in 2011, I decided to sign up for a gym membership.  My gym is women’s-only studio that offers a variety of  dance, aerobics, and strength-training classes instead of weights and cardio machines.  Not to mention there’s also a spa and bar in the building!

I signed up for all sorts of classes; mainly those geared to help me get my sexy back.  Burlesque dancing, salsa, and pole dancing were  the classes I attended first, but pole dancing is what really stuck with me.

My first class was nothing less than a tragedy.  I was awkward, had no poise or balance, and couldn’t even do basic spins.  I was sweating and panting the whole way through class. And you know what?  All those stereotypes I’d built up in my head that involved skinny blonde bitchy women with huge fake tits who would make me feel like I had no business there?  Those women DID NOT EXIST.  Sure, there were a few “professional” ladies there, but they were friendly and offered tips.  Most of the women there were thick, gloriously curvy women who were sassy, friendly, and funny as hell.  Women who love themselves. Confident women that I needed to be around more than ever.  Women I could look to and respect.  It was unbelievable.

My arms hurt so badly from all of the lifting and spinning, that I could barely lift my arms to wash my hair in my post-workout shower.  I was sore for days.  This was fucking hard.  So hard.  I had bruises that I didn’t know I could get.  But something about learning a new routine every time and being engaged THE WHOLE ENTIRE CLASS really did it for me. I returned the following week 3 more times.  A week after I’d begun my classes, I no longer had pain and soreness in my arms.  Marked progress! Yes!

I continued to go.  And I continued to get better and better at things.  I wasn’t as fast a learner as some of the other new students, but I didn’t pay that any mind. I finally inverted upside-down on the pole.  That was a huge milestone for me, and I was enthusiastically applauded the first time I inverted.

All of the women in my classes are incredibly encouraging of each other, helping people who needed guidance, and being enthusiastic about each other’s accomplishments.   I began to relax and allowed myself to feel sexy and move fluidly.  I started watching myself move in the mirror, and no longer felt ashamed of what I saw.  I began wearing sexy vinyl, thigh-high, 5-inch platform boots to dance in.  I felt sexy.  I felt fun.  I felt fucking alive, confident, and amazing.  As my favorite teacher put it ‘Girl, it doesn’t matter how many tricks you can do.  Pole gives you SWAGGER.  You’ve got SWAGGER, Blue!’ (my instructor has nicknames for people in her classes, she calles me “Blue”).


My new-found swagger allowed me to do lots of things, including, but not limited to:

  1. Leaving my crappy relationship, and not putting up with anymore of his exuses.
  2. Finding a new job that I didn’t think I had the capacity to do. I took on the job anyway, and succeeded massively at it.
  3. Begin dating when I was ready to.  This wasn’t immediate.  I didn’t need it to be.  I’d discovered that after 3 years of monogamous relationship that I was in no rush to jump back into monogamy.  I felt sexy about myself, and confident in my choices about that.
  4. To go along with #3, I’d also decided to experiment more with my sexuality.  I’d been active in alternative sexual practices before, but now that I’d gotten my sexy back, I wanted to share it with everyone.
  5. Wearing high-heels in public. For long periods of time.
  6. Leaving people and situations that are not healthy for me.  THIS IS PROBABLY THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT MY NEW SWAG HAS ALLOWED ME TO DO.  I love myself, and because I love myself, I only want the best for me.

I continue to go to classes 2-3 times a week for 2-3 hours at a time.  Sometimes life gets crazy and I occasionally miss classes for weeks at a time. But I always jump right back in, and my sexy lady pals are there to welcome me back and give me shit for my absence.  Of course, all the working out has caused me to drop weight, and every time I go in, my lady pals remind me how much I’ve lost.  I have NO IDEA how much I’ve lost, but I know I feel pretty great.  But the weight loss isn’t the point.

It’s ALL about the swagger.


Cecelia loves herself, and you’ll love her too.  Read up, buttercup.



  1. Love love love! ❤

  2. Anonymous says:

    What a great tale of success and personal growth! Even your tone changed while you were writing. There was an almost apologetic voice at the beginning, and at the end you are taking no prisoners! I love it! Now I want to take a pole dancing class and get some swagger of my own!!!

  3. shannonhumphreys says:

    This sounds like so much fun!!

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