By Mark McConville
THIS body-positive, fitness instructor mum overcame her insecurities through pole dancing and hit out at those who discourage the act of public breastfeeding.
Mathea (28), from Oakland, California, USA, led a life of party in her teens while feeling worthless. A new found love of dance and fitness through pole dancing helped her realise her inherent worth.
The stay-at-home mum, whose son B is one year old, found such a welcoming community and support network in pole fitness that she continue to pole dance eight months in her pregnancy and started again just two months post-partum.
She explained the changes she found in herself through pole dance fitness and the reaction she gets when people find out what she does while being a mum.
“Their reaction is almost always amazement and respect,” said Mathea.
“Pole is becoming more mainstream, so people generally recognize and appreciate the skill and strength it takes to do pole dance fitness. In fact, very rarely do I encounter “haters”, but the good news is that I’m not looking for anyone else’s approval—I pole dance because it brings me joy and keeps me fit.
“I don’t really have time to worry about what people think of me. I always make an effort to stand in my integrity as my most authentic self, so people can take it or leave it—I am both a pole dancer and a mother, and I am proud of it.
“I started pole dancing in 2010, because it sounded fun and interesting—plus it was a new and exciting way to get fit. After my first class I was hooked—and not just because it was a great workout.
“The women I met at the pole studio were incredibly supportive, encouraging, and uplifting, and I truly felt that I was part of a sisterhood. Body image, insecurities, and shame are forgotten and irrelevant during pole class—every body shape is cheered on and celebrated equally.”
Mathea describes herself as being body positive, a social movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image, and be accepting of their own bodies as well as the bodies of others. The movement has become popular in recent years.
The mum-of-one, who still works out three to six days a week, attributes pole dance fitness to her increase in confidence and explained what being body positive means to her.
“Of course, you will build muscle, burn calories, and break a sweat while pole dancing, but you will also discovery that your confidence skyrockets,” she said.
“There is something very special about the pole community: the support you receive from being a part of it, coupled with the quest for personal strength, is a combination that encourages the cultivation of self-love and acceptance.
“As a woman who has struggled with body dysmorphia and crippling insecurities, I don’t think it is realistic to assume that we can simply replace negative self-talk with positive affirmation and suddenly love ourselves entirely.
“I personally believe that body positivity is a journey—not a destination—and is created by the daily grind of choosing authenticity over self-deprecation, and actualising the fact that we are worthy of love, success, and opportunity regardless of our appearance.
“We become disempowered when we believe our aesthetic determines our worth, and when we recognize that bodies are not merely the sum of our parts (we are whole women), we can begin to transform shame and self-criticism into self-confidence and acceptance.
“Body positivity is important because, if we ever expect to liberate ourselves from insecurity and self-doubt, we must again and again reject the arbitrary societal beauty standards that tell us we are unworthy, until we know in our heart of hearts that we are enough, as is.”
There is often controversy in the UK over women breastfeeding in public, while many viewing this as unacceptable behaviour while mothers try to explain it is a natural act.
For Mathea, part of being body positive is to love your whole body and as a mother to a young child this means breast feeding as and where is required.
“I am saddened by a society that would shame a mother for nourishing her child in public,” she said.
“As a woman, my body was biologically designed to birth and breastfeed, and I will not be discouraged by an oversexed and undereducated culture that deems breastfeeding as gross or immodest.
“I breastfeed in public for no other reason than because I must feed my child. If someone is disgusted by, or sexualising the act of a mother nursing her baby, it seems to me that the problem belongs to a misguided society—not the breastfeeding mother.
“By nursing my child in public, I feel that I am encouraging other mothers to do the same, so that we might normalise this beautiful, natural thing.”