How Liesbet Empowers Women Through Pole Dancing
I met Liesbet at an intimate women’s circle a few months ago. At the end of the gathering Liesbet guided us...
I met Liesbet at an intimate women’s circle a few months ago. At the end of the gathering Liesbet guided us through a breathing and hip movement exercise. I remember being very tired that evening. After the exercise however I was somehow revived. My energy was back. My body felt softer, my mind was calmer. I was so intrigued that I wanted to know more about Liesbet, and the mission she has taken on to bring women back to themselves through their bodies. Here’s her story, and how she did it.
What was your big dream, and what inspired you to go after it?
My big dream has always been to find my passion. I was raised in a traditional environment and went on to study law. I always felt I was out of place somehow, not fitting in. I kept thinking there had to be more. This search has been a driving factor my entire life.
When I was in the US where I lived for a few years, I stumbled upon a pole dancing class. I tried it out without thinking too much about it. The experience was literally life-changing. Powerful, elegant, beautiful, sensual… empowering. During the class I fell back into my body and experienced something unique. Right then and there I knew I wanted more.
When I discovered what sensual movement did for me, how I learned to love myself through movement, I wanted to share that with every woman on the planet! I wanted to share my big discovery and whole new perspective on how to be a woman with everyone. Getting back into your body is something nobody talks about or teaches you. To me it’s a missing piece in our society. A way to find the essence of what it means to be alive, and to connect on such a basic level – connected to your body – that all differences and preconceptions disappear. During class I see women in their 20s connect in such a beautiful way with women in their 60s. This is unique. Something that doesn’t happen in everyday life. Such a pity, because we can all learn so much from each other.
So six years ago I came back to Belgium with this goal in mind. Against what everyone believed I was going to do – get back into law and build a career as a notary – I decided to teach women about the power of getting back into your body through pole dancing.
Did you always have this dream?
No, I spent most of my time looking for who I was and what I wanted in life. Finding my passion was sort of like being hit by lightning, totally out of the blue.
Many years ago, discussing this with a good friend of me, she told me that one day I would be an inspiration to others like I was looking for inspiration and someone to show me the way. I didn’t believe her at the time. The quest for meaning was challenging, I couldn’t imagine one day figuring it out, let alone making it my mission to inspire other women to find it for themselves.
I was always annoyed by people saying “find your passion and do it.” To me this made no sense. Where was I supposed to look? You could say that I stumbled upon my passion. At the same time, I kept on trying and searching for a lot of things and ultimately found it. So if there’s one thing I’m sure of its that you have to do things, take action. Even when you don’t know what it is that you want. You have to keep trying things out until something clicks. And even when it doesn’t, that’s a good thing too. Then you know you don’t need to keep walking that path, you can cross that off your list.
What was one of the first thing you did to get you started?
One day, when I was just back in Belgium, I met someone I didn’t know and we started talking about my dream. My big question at that time was how I was going to take this project on, what first steps I needed to take. The man I was talking to asked me: “what do you really need to get started?”. This question clarified so much for me. I told him the only things I “really” needed where myself, a pole, a place and at least one student.
By articulating it this way I realized I just needed to get started and the rest would follow. That’s exactly what I did. I simply started teaching. In a place that was offered by friends, with no plan, no strategy, I just did it. The logo, the website, the marketing… it all came much later.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in working toward achieving your dream?
Working with others. Realizing I can’t do everything on my own. Basically learning about my limits, both physically and mentally.
In the beginning everything flowed. I was doing my thing, meeting the right people, coming across the opportunities that I needed to grow my business. At a certain point though I started to feel the pressure from doing it alone. I was working too hard, and it all became too much. I realized I had two options: continue in this unsustainable way and eventually stop, or train other women so they could become teachers too.
This process of getting others on board was inspiring, fun, and a new challenge all at the same time. Teaching pole dancing or training others to become teachers are two different things. I didn’t know if I was able to do it. But it worked, and I learned a lot about myself doing it.
What do you wish you would have done differently? What would you warn others about?
It would have been great to have a bit more structure from the start. I’m not the type of person that works out everything from the onset, I’m more of a “go with the flow” kind of person. But if you want to grow a business you need to do the right things. I found this in one of the women I trained to be a teacher. We now work together very closely. She’s the one that brings in the structure that I lack, that helps me to hold the longer term vision. And so much more than structure: working closely with someone and having feedback, an extra brain, support and someone with a mutual love for your product is priceless.
Would you say you’ve achieved your big dream yet?
In a way, I think I have. I’ve achieved a lot of what I wanted to do. The intense drive I had to bring this to the world has been satisfied. I’ve been able to create a product that makes women happy.
Of course I have other dreams. The one I have this year is to go deeper. I’m currently studying to do that. Helping people and inspiring them on an even deeper level. Pole dancing is only one of the ways that we can get closer to ourselves, but there are many others. I want to continue to learn, discover and share those tools.
What do you think helped you achieve it?
Because I was so sure of my thing, friends and family were supportive from the start. This really helps.
I also never thought about quitting. Even in the first two years when I faced the challenges of growing my business. Deep down I knew this was it for me. I believe that when you’re driven by passion you’re sort of unstoppable. Of course this can backfire. Like when I kept on teaching classes even though I was exhausted. Passion kept me going but I knew it was unsustainable in the long term.
Another thing that I think helped me is the fact that I’ve lived in the US for a few years. There’s such a difference in mentality between how Europeans look at failure and how they look at it in the US. In the US entrepreneurship is much more about trying things out to see if they work. If not, you just try again with something else. Because in the end, what’s the worst that can happen?
What’s the best advice you have for others who want to follow their big dreams?
Just go for it. Do what you want to do. If something drives you enough to get you up out of bed in the morning, it’s worth following that path. All the rest will come later.
More about Liesbet – hipsdance.com
Liesbet is the founder of HIPS, a pole dancing studio located in Antwerp. According to Liesbet, pole dancing is not only the most complete workout for women, but also a way to (re)discover your physical strength as well as the softness, and sensuality of your body.
Liesbet’s favourite quote is:
Find yourself, and be that.
Liesbet’s big dream for the world is:
That everyone feels good about themselves, and can connect to others from that place.
If you want more inspiring stories of Big Dreamers, I’ve got great news for you! This story is part of an interview series, you can find all entries here.