I speak to a lot of people in the pole world – from beginner students to elite champions – and I’ve noticed something that may surprise you. There is an almost universal worry about not being “good enough”, or meeting expectations.
Even people who are totally amazing and incredible and inspirational, behind closed doors (or in the confidence of private messaging) express fears that they are not keeping up, not where they want to be, worried that they will be left behind, or “found out” as not as good as they are thought to be.
The seemingly constant and endless stream of achievements of others creates a tidal wave washing away self confidence and belief, and leaving polers on the shore drenched in self doubt. Why do we even care what other people think? What does it matter? (I did actually address this in my last blog if you care to ponder this question, just make sure you come back here afterwards to read this bit, part two. Go on, it’s OK I’ll wait right here…. OK read it? Good. Let’s continue).
I’m here to tell you, it’s OK not to be perfect.
Remember when you first started pole. It was hard, wasn’t it? And even if you picked it up straight away, it still wasn’t easy. Nobody walks in on day one and leaves with a mastery of the finer points of balance, core strength and skin conditioning. This stuff takes time. A long time. It’s completely normal to take weeks, months, even a year to get upside down safely and competently. Even world champions and pole icons have confessed that it took them 18 months to handspring. We all know this, yet there still seems to be a need to keep up and nail stuff straight away.
Let’s also bear in mind that when you start out, you are working on the basics, and you are likely to pick things up quite quickly, but as you progress, and the moves become harder, they will be more difficult and take more time to master. I have demonstrated this here with the help of this handy graph:
As you can see, progress at the start is fast, but as time goes on, the learning curve starts to level out. It figures that as you progress, your rate of new achievements will slow down. You will go from nailing a new move each week, to getting one every few weeks, or few months, and eventually after a long time, every now and again. This isn’t a bad thing – just because you can’t share an Instagram worthy photo each week doesn’t mean you aren’t progressing. You are instead perfecting what you already know, getting smoother, stronger, more flexible, more confident with the moves you once struggled with. Here’s another handy graph (I got carried away with the app) to reflect the fact that most of the time, I’m working on the bread-and-butter stuff, going over what I already know but can’t do effortlessly yet. That green star, that’s me every now and again when I get a new move. WOOHOO!
As a pole instructor for the best part of a decade, and having taught hundreds and hundreds of women (and indeed men), let me tell you this: most people are not doing the seriously hardcore stuff, and most of them probably won’t – and that’s absolutely fine. It’s better than fine, it’s AMAZING. Where did this belief come from that unless you are aerial handspringing with dead straight legs, then it doesn’t count? Balls to that.
Look at what you are doing! You are upside down and you are holding your own body weight! You are amazing! Please don’t feel that because you are “only intermediate” that your moves aren’t impressive. There’s a reason why every pole school’s intermediate classes are busier than their super advanced classes – because to get to a super advanced level takes years of practice and determination. You may consider yourself “average”, but “average” is already amazing.
It’s great to be exceptional – and there are plenty of exceptional pole dancers out there to inspire you, whatever your style. But the idea of exceptional has become twisted into something we feel we should ALL be. Exceptional has become the expectation, as if we owe it to ourselves, indeed to the world, to shine brighter than everyone else, to be our own beautiful and unique snowflake. In a world of reality TV where even the biggest talent vacuums can become stars, (or at least mildly well-known), “average” has become some sort of insult. Motivation and determination is great, but the truth is, without the “average” pole moves, and indeed the so-called “average” polers, we wouldn’t have a pole community at all.
From the new student who feels like the last one in class to get upside down, the student who takes a little longer than the rest to pick up new moves, the determined student working on the splits that hardly ever seem to get any lower, the breastfeeding mum trying to get back to where she once was, to the pole champ who worries that their best performance is behind them, take it from all the polers who’d love to be able to do what you do – You’re doing great.