Sh*t is about to get real.

VF anniversary speed bump Nina shotI had an epiphany tonight. The burning desire to write comes rarely these days, which is part of the reason I have a blog; so I never completely STOP writing. But after Melanie’s Intermediate to Advanced pole class tonight, I knew I had some things to say.

I have dealt with black and white thinking throughout my life; it’s manifested in many different ways. It took me years to learn how to re-frame my thinking about “good” and “bad” foods while recovering from an eating disorder. If I make one mistake in writing, speech, or social interaction, I assume the entire piece or conversation suddenly becomes dirt in my hands. If I don’t answer every text or phone call I get quickly (and with a good answer or advice), I fail as a wife, friend, daughter, sister, boss, employee.

In pole, I am either “on fire” or in a complete slump. But tonight I realized that anytime I don’t hit a new trick immediately, or pull something off correctly, I declare myself in a slump. So, by my calculations, I’ve been “in a slump” for about 75% of the time I’ve done pole. I started in May of 2011. That’s a really long time to feel shitty about yourself, even if it’s only in relation to one aspect of your life. Which it’s not. Picture this perfect versus pitiful dichotomy in everything you do. Work. School. Physical activity. Eating. Cooking. Connecting with family. Seeing friends. Answering emails. Dagorhir. Pole.

Picture my frame of mind, if you will. Tonight I was trying to learn a new spin (the Floor Sweeper, I believe). I was also trying to smooth out my Superman while making it less painful. I attempted to conquer the ever-elusive Extended Butterfly. I went for my Caterpillar. I worked on my Handspring. I FAILED AT EVERY ONE. I looked around the room and saw everyone else achieving these tricks, laughing, smiling, and having fun. I was laughing, smiling, and having fun on the outside. Inside, this is the soundtrack: “Fail. Again. Lame, you know there’s something wrong with your hips. Suck in your stomach; jesus, you look fat. Of course you’re not going to get Extended Butterfly; you can’t even hold yourself up. You’ll spend the rest of your life watching your Pole friends achieve, and watching videos on YouTube, and you will have nothing to show for it ever. The ladies starting in Beginning Pole now are going to surpass you within months. You will see them land tricks that you will never, ever get. You should just give up now.” Play that on a loop; I realize that it’s absolutely ridiculous, but that’s what it is.

Then I was talking to a dancer who came into the studio right after I finished with my class. I don’t know her, but something in her stance reminded me of yours truly. She said that she was progressing slowly but surely. I joked that I was also on the slow track. Then she said something about slowing down on progress. I looked her in the eyes and said “You know, you’re going to hit slumps in Pole. This won’t be your last.” But then I recoiled inside. She was there; she walked through the door of Vertical Fusion. She clearly knew what she was doing in order to show up outfitted to pole dance, with her yoga mat under her arm. I wanted to encourage her, and in trying to do so, realized how much I pull myself down. Is this a new realization? Of course not; I’m no stranger to the fact that I hold myself back more than anyone else ever could.

But you know what I never consciously thought about during class? My Rockstar spin is awesome. I came up with a new way to booty pop (while doing Sail on spin pole) during class. I can move my hips in ways that make me look like I own the room. I can improvise awesome performances. I am creative in my pieces and in my dance. Will I ever be the girl with all the difficult tricks? Nope. But I’ll bet that some ladies who have some of those tricks think the very same things about themselves when they see my performances.

Now, this isn’t a “poor me” post. It’s also not a big empowerment post. Do I think making these observations and coming to these realizations will make these thought patterns stop? No. But awareness is one step, and I’ll take it. I want to celebrate the things I do well, and not overshadow them with the things that need work. I need to remember to try and counter the insults with compliments; that’s one action I can take right now.

So, the picture above reminds me of the things that I do well in Pole. I love being fun and sexy in my dance, both in planned and in improvised performances. And I’ll start by countering some of the mean things I’ve said about myself in this post: on Monday, I finally got my pull ups and passed into Advanced Pole! I might not like the way I perform all my tricks, and I might hate the speed at which I achieve, but Melanie and Vertical Fusion believe in me, and for now, that can be enough.

7 thoughts on “Sh*t is about to get real.

  1. You have no idea how happy it makes me to see that I am not alone in this. I have had very similar thoughts to the ones you describe here lately, things like “god, I’m stupid – why can’t I understand how this trick works?!” and “why should I even bother to work on my splits, my jade will never look as awesome as X’s anyway?!”. It’s depressing, it kills my confidence, and it makes me want to hide, which results in me taking less classes and thereby slowing down my own advancement. About a week ago I realized that I have been in Intermediate since the May soiree last year, which just about killed me. There have been girls who started Intro after that who have now passed into Advanced 1 – completely surpassing me in the same time I’ve stayed in the same level. And that sucks. No matter how much I try to tell myself that I’m doing awesome, that for someone who had never had a full workout before taking my pole class, for someone who used to avoid dancing at all costs, I have come far. But then that negative voice comes in again, and that all disappears.

    However, since you can admit this, and have made myself see and admit it, I need to actually do what you did and acknowledge that there are things I do well as well. I am good at organizing. I am good at supporting my fellow dancers. I am a living pole dictionary. And I am pretty damn good at spin pole. And I need to remind myself that while I may never have full splits or a deadlift/Phoenix, that doesn’t make me any less awesome. So thanks for this post girl, I needed it!

    • Thank you so much, Nina. It’s fascinating to me to learn how others see themselves compared to how I see them. You’re one of the dancers I most often compare myself to, and wish I could be more like! I see all the pictures of the cool tricks you do, and wish I could get them! And you’re right; you kick major ass at spin pole.

  2. I think you nailed feelings that we all have. Not just in pole but in life we seem to be our own worst critic. If only we could devote that energy to praise, positivity, moving forward, imagine the possibilities! I was so incredibly proud and excited to see you are now advanced, and Nina your progress is so remarkable too. It’s funny bc its so easy for me to admire you ladies and your talent shines bright as day. I guess it is baby steps for us to be kinder to ourselves, I agree its not a huge revelation or instant fix. At least we have the support of each other something so wonderful and unique to VF and the incredible women who are able to reach out and support one another. That alone speaks to our strength, to your strength and is a rare dynamic that is hard to find. Great blog, xoxo

    • You’re so right, Lucy. If we have each other, we have the support we need. Isn’t it funny; I never, EVER feel criticized by you ladies. But I spend so much time criticizing myself. Lame.

  3. Great post – think we all have (or had in my case, trying to make my poling present tense again!) pole frustrations. I used to have days where nothing went right, and they seemed to become more frequent the better you got 🙂

    My problem in life is putting things off or not trying at all if I think I can’t do something perfect or do it justice (and a lot of the time I think that about everything, that I’m just not good enough). Strangely though I actually congratulated myself for just being at pole. Putting the effort in, regardless of where it gets me, I guesd was already an achievement so I felt pretty good about that.

    Yes I would love to be a starfish posing, spatchcock pulling perfect poler but a girls gotta dream big to get anywhere 😉 but I would still congratulate myself for the little things

    • You know, walking thought the door of a pole studio is a HUGE achievement! We need to remember that more often, I think. Pole dancers are a minority, and that alone is something to be proud of!

      • Girls who I used to be in a class with would wonder how I got things quicker than them (they didn’t see the hundreds of attempts I did practicing at home!) And when they would complain it was so hard I would simply say it wouldn’t be half as much fun/challenge/achievement/impressive if it was easy and everyone did it! Its us tough few who kick ass enough to keep trying that makes people think its cool 😉

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