What doing a handstand on someone’s knees taught me about self esteem

It happened less than 6 hours after I had arrived in Auckland. There I was, in track pants and a t-shirt, trying to stabilise my core while I balanced upside down, my ‘base’ holding my shoulders up and me steadying myself on her knees while my Best Beloved spotted for us, telling me to tuck my stomach in, move my legs back, keep my arms straight. 

The move was called a low candle, and I was at my first ever session of acrobatics. My wonderful friend Anna C turns out to also be a fantastic teacher (a Princess of Cups? Most certainly). She has absolute faith in the newbies and, I gather, is usually the one grabbing them and throwing them in at the deep end.

Acro really works your core muscles, as well as a whole range of other muscles, often one set at a time. It’s an amazing workout, and (as I discovered) huge amounts of fun. But there’s one thing you need, more than anything else, to do it.

Confidence.

“Can you do a handstand?” asked Anna.

“Um…I haven’t in a long time.” I reply.

“But do you think you could?” she continues.

Then my Best Beloved goes on to demonstrate, with her basing him (she’s at least a foot shorter than he is), how to get up into the first move of a Pretzel by doing a handstand so your ass lands on your base’s feet, and then you walk over into a sitting position held up on their legs. Yes really.

“Do you think you could?”

You see, throughout the session Anna and the Best Beloved would both tell me I had been doing things right- I had balanced upside down, successfully leaned back almost horizontal into a Low Table. And yet, when I came out of moves I found that they were saying “yes you can!”, but I was saying “No, I can’t.”

“Do you THINK you could?”

You know the old saying, I’m sure: If you think you can, or think you can’t, you are probably right.

I know there are two things I need to strengthen to get good at acro. My core muscles (seriously, I could feel them shaking in that Low Table, though I was holding a tough position), and my confidence. Knowing you’re capable of something is well over half the battle. It was the doubts that brought me back down onto the mat, each and every time.

Oh, but I did do two successful moves- a sideways plank (being held up on Anna’s feet, one under my thigh and one under my shoulder, while I was told “and now look glamourous”. I was just excited to do it.

And a Flying Woman, where my Best Beloved hoisted me up into the air over his head, in a position much like the figurehead of a ship. And then walked off the mat and around the wooden gym floor with me. None of what came out of my mouth at that point was the truth. That was the fear talking.

And you know what? I’m going to keep going to Acro. And the fear is going to shut the hell up. 

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