For the Love of Pole
Hey guys! Before we get to the entry today– a couple things:
#1- I’ll be in Maryland at Xpose Annapolis November 3rd and 4th, and in Seattle and Portland November 16th and 17th! Check out this page for information on what workshops will be hosted and when!
#2- The 3rd Flight Club Pole Showcase will be in January in NYC, and registration is closing soon (November 1st). If you have been thinking about making a trip to NY… if you want to perform in a super supportive, fun, and light hearted setting…. if you have a side of your movement you’d like to explore in front of others… if you just want to get on stage and have all your friends come… sign up! What have you got to lose? Check out this link for more info and please share it with your pole friends that might be interested!
I’ve been thinking about writing this entry for a while now. I have a Facebook page that is just for pole networking and friends, and so in my feed, lately, I’ve been seeing pole dancer after pole dancer posting about their lives, frustrations, and issues. And I’ve been thinking a lot about something that I think is a trend… Something that I perceive to be a shift in the pole community. And I’m going to maybe be off base here, or maybe I’ll strike a chord in you. I’m not sure yet. But here goes.
I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about:
…people saying that they don’t have the time or energy to compete or be as good at pole as they wish they were.
…people feeling like they need to take dance classes, gymnastics, silks, flexibility classes, multiple pole classes a day, just to keep up
…people feeling like they are not good enough to keep taking classes. (this one KILLS ME)
(read this entry if these things resonate with you, and you haven’t already: Status Quo… trust me, it’s a good one!)
When I started pole dancing, I was doing it to fill a need within myself. I wasn’t entirely happy with who I was, and I was looking for something that was a little bad, a little sexy, a little in-your-face, to maybe teach me how to be hot and how to have the confidence I wished that I truly had. I was looking for something to make me unique and interesting and different.
When I started learning– I’ve mentioned this before– there was no internet. There was no Youtube. There were no comparisons to make with women halfway across the world that I didn’t know. I only had people in my class as a ruler to measure myself against, and I could see we all had different strengths and weaknesses. One girl maybe was a ridiculously naturally sexy dancer who oozed sensuality from every pore. Another was bendy. Another was a trickster. And because our classes worked on all the facets, if you were developing slower in one respect, you could still look at the brighter side, and see where you were strong.
So in some ways, it was a real blessing because I focused on myself. I saw where I compared but ultimately realized that my growth was unique to me. I did it for me, because back then, there was no such thing as touring polefessionals. There were no competitions. There was no life beyond recreational pole. It was just a hobby. It was just for fun. It was just something to make me happy and see progress and a place to go where I was safe. That’s all it was. I put no pressure on it, or myself, to hurry up and get better. I was just enjoying this whole process.
As I grew as a pole dancer, and found my strength, and found my stride within my long journey, I realized that pole was helping me to fill in pieces that I was missing. I started to walk differently. I started to feel stronger, physically. I started speaking my mind more often. I started being more honest about my feelings. I started bringing my inner me and my outer me into alignment. And more then anything, I realized that while pole was (and continues to be) rewarding and exciting and amazing, it doesn’t determine my self worth–it helps me to realize it. If I am good at pole, or bad at pole, it doesn’t make me less important or less of a person. My perception of myself is not tied to how well my body works in the studio.
Today, the pole climate is very different. There are competitions everywhere, for any kind of pole dancer. What other sport is growing this quickly, and what other sport enables 25 year old non-athletes to actually be “contenders”? But there seems to be a rush, nowadays, to “get good”… To be “good enough” to compete or perform or teach. Why can’t you enjoy it for what it is, and what it brings to you, without competitions and being on stage? When you compete over and over again, you are putting yourself in the judges’ hands… And no matter how capable those judges are, the bottom line is that you start to dance and train not for yourself, but for what those judges will say about you. So no wonder there is so much more self-criticism. Nothing is ever good enough. When I used to see pole videos posted on YouTube, the captions always read, “LOOK AT THIS BADASS NEW TRICK I CAN DO!!! LOOOOOK!” and now it’s always “this isn’t my best work, I was tired but here it is anyway” or “I made a lot of mistakes in this performance but at least I tried!” Even when we are not being judged, we continue to judge ourselves.
What happened to being unabashedly PROUD of what you can do? Why is it always about what you can’t do, or what you suck at, or what you need to improve? Yes, it is healthy to set goals. But not at the cost of your own self-confidence. Not at the cost of taking some time to be excited about your growth. Yes, it’s healthy to have role models. A role model is meant to inspire you and make you want to be a better person. But if you are constantly comparing yourself to them, how is that healthy? That is focusing on the negative, on the things you are lacking, rather than the positive. You should’t want to dance just like someone else– you can admire them, but you should realize that YOU have your own style that can be just as beautiful, in it’s own way. YOU are a person of worth, of potential. You don’t have to be a cookie cutter of ANYONE else to be a wonderful dancer. You can be YOU.
I recently posted on Facebook about leaving my job. I had been there for 6 years and it was time for a change, and I knew that to open a space in my life for something better to come along, the old needed to get swept away. I didn’t know what I was going to do next, but I was excited to take that time for myself to figure it out. And I am grateful for the amount of support I received. But I also saw something very interesting. So many people commented about wanting to have the guts to leave their own jobs, that they were also unhappy in. So many people said, “I really needed to hear this.” And a lot of people assumed I would be moving towards teaching pole full time and touring full time.
I found it incredibly interesting–and kind of illuminating. To some people, leaving their jobs and whisking themselves into a fantasy land of poling all the time– now THAT is the dream! To some people, the pole studio is where they want to be, all the time. And a lot of those people, judging from the comments and feedback I received on my post, are not fulfilled in their lives, they don’t like their work, they don’t feel appreciated. To many, pole is an escape from real life.
But I had the strength to step into the vast unknown because of what I’ve learned about myself through pole dancing. And I have the confidence to know that I will find a better job (and I did!! Just got an amazing offer today!!!) elsewhere, and that I have skills that are of value and that someone else will see that I can be an amazing contribution to their company. Pole dance is something that I do to satisfy a part of me, but it is because of pole that I am a better person and more prepared to take on the challenges life has to offer. Pole has helped me to grow into the kind of person that I want to be. It has added a new dimension to who I am and enriched my life. It’s an outlet, it’s stress relief, but not an escape–it helps me to face the challenges of life head on and shake my fist and say, “life, I will kick your ass.” The lessons I learn in the pole studio, about myself, are lessons that I apply to my life outside the studio.
It made me a little sad because I have always thought of a pole dancer as stronger than the average person. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. I had assumed most pole dancers were using pole dance to learn about themselves as people, become genuinely more fulfilled, happier, more whole. But instead I feel like I am seeing an emphasis on the negative, on what is missing, on what skills are lacking. Instead of pole creating self confidence, I feel like I am seeing–more and more– that it develops insecurity. That there are people who need the validation of competitions, or comments on a video, or acknowledgement from the community or classmates in order to feel like they are putting their energy into something worthwhile. I feel like because so many options exist and there are so many studios and classes, people are pouring themselves into class, hours and hours worth, without making sure that they are doing it because it is making them happy. Notice I say happy. If the studio is where you go to run away from your problems, then it’s not healthy. It’s putting a lot more pressure on yourself to find fulfillment and achievement in that studio, and be REALLY GOOD… and then you’re also not dealing with the crap that is real life, and making your real life a place you want to spend more time. If you are unhappy at home, if you hate school, work, or are stuck in a not-so-happy relationship, use pole and the support networks you have built, to give you the strength to know that you are better then that. That you don’t need to settle. That you can deal with the change. That you can make some space in your life to step into the unknown and make your life better, instead of filling it with pole and hoping that it will make it all okay.
Pole for the love of pole. For the joy of it. Do it because it helps you to grow. Do it because it makes you happy.