by Jen Zimmermann
“I can’t do this!” Sounds familiar? From my experience, it is the most commonly used sentence in any class I’ve ever taught or even attended myself. When I walk around in my classes and ask students to show me a particular move, this is how they will pre-empt their demo. Other popular variations include: “it looks ugly on me”, “I’m not good/strong/flexible enough for that” or my personal favourite “yeah nah”. Funnily enough though, it is usually followed by the person doing the exact thing they just said they can’t do. Guess what, you actually can.
Believe me, I get it! It is daunting when you try a new trick for the first time, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pole dancer (let’s be honest, haven’t we all face-planted before? Yes, yes we have). There’s nothing wrong with a healthy amount of respect and caution towards a new move – but what’s with all the negative self-talk?
Talking yourself down has sadly become very common for women in all areas of life, including work, personal relationships, body image and fitness. If you were keeping count, you’d probably be surprised how often you say something bad about yourself without even realising it.
Not a big deal? Well yes, it kinda is: as many recent studies have proven, negative self-talk reinforces bad feelings you might have about yourself, and might end up seriously damaging your self-confidence. If you keep telling yourself that you’re not good at something, you are making it a lot harder for yourself to get better at it. Instead, use positive mantras and thoughts to trick your mind into believing in yourself, even if you’re not quite there yet, and you might be surprised at the difference it can make. Think of it as a simple placebo effect.
What does this have to do with pole? Often the barriers we come up against in our practice are in our head. We don’t trust ourselves enough, or our inner critic is keeping us from unleashing our full potential. Most of the things you think you can’t do are actually achievable and if you look back at your pole journey, I bet there’s at least one trick you thought you’d never get, that you are mastering now.
Don’t get me wrong here, of course there will always be tricks you actually can’t do at first (like, for real) – but you can try, and if you set your mind to it, you will get most of them eventually. Some might not work for your body (especially once you get to the higher levels), and you know what, that is okay! You don’t have to be able to do every single crazy trick out there. There will always be variations that suit you better and play to your strengths.
Don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself to your fellow polers either. You are you and you are amazing so work with what you’ve got. Everybody is gifted in different ways; you might be strong through your upper body or super flexi, have super tight leg grips or beautifully pointed toes – find what comes naturally to you and use it to your advantage.
While we always recommend that you work on the things you can’t yet do as well, you can definitely build your repertoire around tricks that work for you. So what if the girl next to you climbs up all the way to the roof the very first time she tries or ‘accidentally’ whips out a handspring (cow!) – she might not be able to move to music as gracefully as you can.
Keep that in mind for your next class and be proud of what your body can do – if you think about the things we put it through, it really is quite remarkable. Still not convinced? Here’s Ryan Gosling telling you – who are we to doubt him?