On Poise and “Sucking It In”

I was speaking to a family member recently, who told a story of when she was younger and in ballet classes. She remembered her French instructor telling her class of five and six years that “ballerinas don’t have bellies. Suck it in!” I had to laugh when I heard this story, because I vividly remember my own grandmothers telling me something similar when I was a child as well. 

While this obviously doesn’t happen much now (there’s not much I can do to suck in a six month pregnant belly), the concept of “sucking it in” has actually come up in my marriage a few times. My husband will notice when I’m not relaxing my stomach muscles, essentially trying to not let it all hang out. He gets frustrated – “relax!” he tells me. But the thing is, it’s not so easy. 

As young girls, many of us were taught to sit up straight, close our legs when sitting, and keep our chins up – as well as “suck it in.” This became habit for many of us – and now, holding myself in such a way just feels natural. I know this isn’t just my experience, but I also know that it’s not really a male’s experience either. 

I wonder sometimes if I will tell my future daughters to “suck it in” – it sounds harsh, but there’s a lesson underneath the command. That being poised is important and feminine. Of course, I would much prefer that boys be taught similar lessons, though that doesn’t quite seem the case. Poise isn’t just about femininity. It’s about being able to hold yourself confidently. Much of that has to do with posture more than anything – and keeping your stomach muscles tight is a legitimate way to ensure a straighter back.

I do believe that people should have the option to choose how they carry themselves, but I will likely teach my children to sit up straight and, perhaps, even tell them to “suck it in.”

I suppose what I’m wondering is – would you tell your daughters (or sons) to “suck it in”? Or do you think this is in antiquated way of thinking that should be let go of?

On Poise and “Sucking It In” was originally posted on Joelle Charming.


    1. I keep going back and forth on this topic. I don’t think there is anything wrong with teaching your children (boys and girls) to have good posture and carrying themselves appropriately. That being said I don’t like the phrase “suck it in”. I think all to often rather than being associated with holding your core tight for posture it is associated with making your mid section look smaller and flatter, implying there is something wrong if it isn’t. At least that’s how it seemed when it was said to me as a young girl. So yes I will teach my future children to have good posture and carry themselves appropriately but I probably won’t use the actual phrase “suck it in”.

    1. When I was young my mom was always after me to have my “bottom under, tummy in.” It was annoying, but I’m so glad she did it. The wording of “suck it in” isn’t ideal, but training kids to have good posture is important. One of my favorite things about being pregnant was not having to suck it in, haha. But it’s a habit you have to relearn after delivery. I’m sure everyone is different, but 3 months postpartum I’m just now starting to get back into the habit of doing it.

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