“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” — Mary Tyler Moore

I remember hovering over the “complete order” button for a minute or two on December 31st, 2018, as my monkey mind tried it’s best to talk me out of committing to purchasing my very first “Intro to Pole” class.  It was intimidating for me to make that choice and say hey, you know what? I might really enjoy pole fitness and aerial dancing. Negative self-talk and mindsets can be subtle and sneaky, subconsciously leading to sabotage. Here are the top 5 anxious thoughts that rolled through my mind and my interpretation of them:

  1. I wouldn’t fit in.
    Turns out, that was total malarkey.  I didn’t just feel like I fit in, I felt like I was a part of something. I felt connected. From what I’ve experienced Aerial Dance truly is a sisterhood.  The moment you walk into an Aerial Dance studio you are welcomed like a longtime friend by an instructor.  This vibe continues to spread throughout to the students. I don’t know what kind of majestic unicorn force is at work here, but everyone I’ve encountered has been very kind and accepting.
  2.  I wouldn’t stick with it.
    This anxious thought is based on years of trying out new fitness things and either not enjoying them or wanting/needing to stop because it was too painful. I have some injuries that have changed my body over time and have struggled with chronic pain for about 10 years. I went from being active and healthy to coming to an almost treacherous halt. I gained 80 pounds, had no energy, difficulty focusing, loss of interest in things I once loved, and I just hurt all over. I started to resent my body and wanted to give up. It’s hard to stay motivated and love your body when you feel like it’s somehow working against you and you can’t control it. I had often heard from people that actually liked working out that I just had to find the right fit, find something I loved. It was hard to imagine loving any kind of workout when the pain of just having a body was sometimes unbearable.  hat first intro class was about 2 weeks after my second laparoscopic abdominal surgery to treat endometriosis and ovarian cysts which kind of blows my mind to reflect on. Today I am feeling better mentally and physically than I thought would be possible to achieve again. Pole fitness certainly puts your body to the test but for me it doesn’t irritate any of my old injuries and I can tell in many ways that it’s having a positive impact on my health. Just like with any workout, there is discomfort, but it’s not the kind of pain I had been experiencing. To my surprise and delight, soon enough it wasn’t enough to just show up to class. Now, I actually WANT to do conditioning and stretching at home so when I’m at the studio I can kick some serious ass and learn even more fun, awesome things!
  3. I wouldn’t be good at it.
    Well, here we have an anxious thought that might be at least a little bit true. I wasn’t very good at it, and depending on what the comparison is, I’m still not terribly good at it! But I’m better than when I started. Shoshin is a word from Zen Buddhism that means “beginner’s mind.” Having a beginner’s mind means to have an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level. A beginners mind is sure of nothing, yet fearless. I’ve learned to embrace this and see the power of staying in this mindset; to have the courage to not be good at things while maintaining a strong commitment and passion. Impatience and fear of failure have always been my greatest impediment to success. Detaching from expectations and outcomes and simply staying present in the “right here, right now” has allowed me to go ahead and suck at it and do it with joy and vigor anyway.
  4. I didn’t have the right body for it.
     I’m 5’8” and 175 pounds..give or take 10 pounds depending on the phase of the moon, direction of the wind, or any number of mysterious variables. In my mind a pole dancer was long, lean, and petite yet curvy in all the proper places. All of these preprogrammed societal standards of what a beautiful woman should look like. But really, there isn’t a formula for beauty. There is no right or wrong body, period. In every class I’ve attended I’ve been among so many body types and shapes. Witnessing these women push through their own barriers and enjoy themselves and the process with a gentle yet deeply ferocious intent has helped to tear out those preconceived standards from the root and plant my own notions of what I find to feel right about MY body, for myself. This one changed perspective has opened up a level of love and acceptance for myself that I haven’t experienced since I was a child.
  5. I wasn’t strong enough.
    Technically, that one was also kind of true. That very first class I realized yep, I had very little upper body strength! However I quickly discovered that it didn’t matter because I was enjoying myself too much to care. When I go to the studio now I experience strength in a different way. I appreciate the strength it takes some days to simply make it to class. The strength in being comfortable in my own skin. The strength in continuously mustering up the courage to face these anxious thoughts. Pole fitness has turned into more than just a work out for me. I’m not just practicing the movements, I’m practicing showing up for myself, staying grounded in my body when that monkey mind wants to distract me. I’m practicing enjoying what my body can do and making day to day choices that will enable me to go further into my well-being. I’m practicing a loving kindness that sees the newly acquired definition in my biceps instead of noticing the cellulite on my thighs when I step out in my booty shorts. Having this source of positivity in my life has helped me find my beauty and believe in my strength, just like the motto says.

Art by Lezley Davidson