I began ballet classes quite a few years later than the average ballerina. Eleven-year-old, curly-haired, tall and slightly awkward little me taking a ballet class. It was quite shocking, I assure you. My mother did quite a bit of cajoling to get me into that class. I had taken jazz for a few weeks, but was very uncomfortable with all of that scandalous hip movement they did in there. So, Mum suggested I try ballet classes. I assured her that wasn't for me. No, no. I was much too cool to prance around in a tutu, thank you very much. By some miracle, though, I walked into ballet class.

I've been dancing ballet for six or so years, now. My how it has shaped who I am! Ballet has taught me poise. Not simply good posture, but self-confidence.

Webster's definition of poise is this: graceful and elegant bearing in person. You see, it extends beyond the way you walk, sit, stand, dance and so on. Poise is a way of thinking, a way of living. It is hard to find a young lady of poise today. We walk through a restaurant and see a table full of young ladies hunched over, checking their Instagram feeds. Or someone walking by, slouching while they watch their feet move one in front of the other. As you mingle at a party you notice that the girls around you stand with their arms crossed in front of them, sunk in one hip. When your friend speaks to you, she often looks past you or down at the floor. But maybe you know a girl that makes eye contact when she speaks with you. The moment she enters a room, all eyes fall on her. She walks confidently through the halls at school, her eyes meet the people she passes. She stands tall or sits straight.

Which girl would you rather be?

Poise is two-fold. A graceful and elegant nature comes from an inward confidence and an outward awareness of how one presents oneself.

Self-acceptance is key to poise. Learning to be okay with who you are is absolutely necessary, but this doesn't happen overnight. I've discovered that there's no "forever-fix" to a lack of self-confidence, but rather you have to work on it daily. When I get a pimple right between my eyes, I've learned to say to myself, "Hey! It's a pimple. It's not the end of the world. Your value extends beyond the amount of red-tomato-resembling blemishes on your face," instead of saying something negative. Sure, I still don't like pimples, but I get past them. I'm also learning to forgive myself for the silly things I've said or done, the "duh" moments or the moments when I've tripped and fallen on my face. I acknowledge that yes, they did happen, but then I have to move on. They're in the past, I can't change them, therefore I shouldn't worry about them. You have to learn to be gracious with yourself, understanding that you are not perfect. Learn to laugh at mistakes, and move past them. There's nothing more charming than a girl who can laugh at her mistakes.

A few posture tips:

Roll your shoulders back, but not up. Think down and back. This lengthens your neck and straightens your back. Why hello there.

Chin up, eyes looking straight ahead. If you're feeling especially friendly, smile at the people you pass or maybe even offer up a kind, "Hello!" or "Have a good day!" Don't look down at the floor unless you feel it absolutely necessary to check whether or not you wore two different kinds of shoes. And I hope you don't feel the need for that.

Tuck your rear-end under. Please do not stick your tush out, it's very unattractive. Think of rotating your tush under. Put one hand below your belly button, and one on your lower back. Think of pushing your belly in and your lower back down. Keeping your back in a straight line is the goal.

When standing, put your feet in third position; one foot slightly turned outward, the heel of one foot next to the arch of the other.

Crossing your legs at the knees is considered negative body language, it makes you appear reserved and closed-off from others. And, honestly, it's not that great for your knees. Instead, cross your legs at the ankles and tuck them off to one side, beneath your chair. Or you can simply leave your feet side by side, and tucked off to one side beneath your chair.

It's best to keep your hands folded in your lap, when sitting. Palms open and arms at your sides is best for standing and walking.

Poise is positive and open body language. By crossing your legs at the ankles, and unfolding your arms you show those around you that you're eager to engage with them. You're open, instead of closed off. A true lady is able to interact with the people around her, without being held back by her fear of what they think. Learn to love & be interested in people.

It takes work to be poised, but I have no doubt that you can do it. No one will be perfectly poised all the time. Some days I loose my balance and fall over, when I'm walking. Or I run into things. It's really very funny, I wish someone would catch my clumsiness on camera. I think. So, whether you tumble down the stairs or run into a wall, it's okay. It really is very funny, so laugh at yourself and move on.

Mary Grace

EssaysMary Grace Metheny