"Big. Small. Fat. Skinny. Old. Frumpy. Weak. Not good enough. Not pretty enough. My bum's too big. My bum's too small. Mum tum. Bingo wings. Fat thighs. I can't do that."
We live in a society where body image is distorted. In a world of Instagram filters and Photoshop, it's not surprising that women are lacking in confidence. Recently, I shared a video of myself on the pole. Someone commented on how beautiful, elegant and strong I looked and how she wished she could be like me. Flattering, yes,for sure! But what she didn't see, hidden behind the Instagram posts of a strong and confident woman, was the old me. The person I was before I got to that moment . The woman who felt 'not good enough'. Many women would love to try Pole but hold back for such a long time. Why? Because they are afraid of showing their bodies in a room full of people. I totally get this as that person was once me!
Shoot back to February 2015, the morning of my first pole class. I was on maternity leave after having my fourth child, my self esteem was at an all time low. I knew I needed to do something to improve how I felt. I had always been active but never found a sport or form of exercise that I could stick to. I tended to flit from one thing to another, getting bored quickly. I had never really taken much notice of Pole as a form of fitness, but had always loved the strength and grace of gymnasts. I suppose the gymnastic element is what eventually caught my eye about Pole. On that day in February, every insecurity I had ever had was screaming as loudly as it possibly could. And to raise my anxiety to epic levels, I got the time of the class wrong by half an hour...
"I don't have time to get ready. They'll think I'm stupid if I'm late. I'm going to make a fool of myself. Am I too old? Will they all be strong? I'm sure they'll all be skinny and fit! What if I can't do anything? Will they like me?..... Oh no, I'm not going, who am I trying to kid that I can do this, I'll ring the instructor and tell her I got the time wrong, she'll tell me not to come and that will be that."
She didn't. She calmly told me that if I hurry I'll only be 5 minutes late and that would be fine. At this moment, I was completely unaware that my life was going to be totally transformed and that in just 2 years, I would have left my career of 14 years behind to teach Pole and empower other women to connect with their bodies in a whole new, wonderful way! Needless to say, pole changed me. Yes it changed me physically, but it was the emotional strength that it gave me, and continues to do so, that transformed my life. For the first time that I can remember, I started to love my body.
I've often pondered what it is about pole that sets it aside form other forms of fitness (apart from being the most amazing and intense form of resistance training, all done whilst gracefully defying gravity). How does it have this almost magical way of bringing women together and empowering us to learn to love our bodies? Pole is different from many workouts in that it isn't focused on how to change your body as such, but rather on what amazing things your body is capable of. When we achieve new moves it boosts our confidence in or bodies capabilities. Think back to a time where you have worked so hard to achieve a goal and how it felt when you actually nailed it! Since that very first pole class I have learnt to cherish my body for what it is capable of. My focus shifted from what my body looked like aesthetically to what my body can do functionally. I used to wish I had longer legs, but now I find myself appreciating how flexible my hamstrings are and what strong quads I have that enable me to have awesome active flexibility to nail those badass flexi tricks. Pole also teaches us that it takes more than physical strength to succeed. Our minds are the most powerful part of our bodies, if we believe in something, then we will achieve it. We may not nail every move first time but working towards it and eventually achieving it works wonders for our self esteem, we feel like freakin Wonder Woman!
Our bodies are amazing. Since starting pole I have learned to accept and embrace what I was given and if I'm having an off day where self doubt starts to creep in, I turn the music up and remind myself that I am a strong, flexible, resilient ,fierce woman who is capable of some pretty awesome shit!
And you, my pole sisters, are too!