How pole dance taught me patience
The first time I went to a pole class, I was so anxious that I was sweating through my clothes before I even walked in the door. At the time I saw myself as an uncoordinated lump – what was I even doing there? Having struggled with my body since I hit puberty, being asked to wear a tank top and short shorts showed off more of my limbs than I was normally comfortable with. The class was a little overwhelming, but I surprised myself by picking up some basic moves. I felt stronger than I expected.
I signed up to do the full ten-week course. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, but I felt both apprehensive and excited about continuing the challenge. Over the weeks, the initial tricks got easier, and I picked up new ones with practice. It hurt like hell (as is normal in pole) but I loved doing things that I never thought my body was capable of. By the end of the term I’d learned a whole routine – and even performed it in front of a packed room of fellow students, wearing much less than I ever thought I would in public!
The studio environment made me feel more at ease in my own skin. It was full of both students and staff (mostly women and non-binary folks) who all had the confidence to flaunt their bodies in their own unique way – no matter the shape or size. People were quick to give compliments on new outfits, and cheer each other on in nailing a difficult move. We all had our strengths and weaknesses in different areas: strength, technical precision, flexibility or flair.
I had always been a fan of exercising alone, free to move at my own pace away from the perceived judgements of others, but I learned that the group dynamic could be a positive. Seeing my classmates battle with (and finally accomplish) their own goals helped me to view myself as a work in progress, instead of a failure.
Pole became a crucial part of my weekly self-care, and I continued my classes for years. It was somewhat of a meditative experience. My whole life I’d been afraid to make a single mistake, and stuck to things I was already confidently skilled at, but pole taught me patience with learning slowly over time. There were so many impressive moves I could never imagine myself performing accurately, but as time went on and my strength improved, new possibilities emerged.
I also came to see my body as a tool, rather than an ornament. For that one hour a week, my only focus was on how strong and capable I was, instead of fixating on a multitude of “flaws” I felt the need to hide.
Thanks to COVID and other factors, it’s been over a year since I’ve been on the pole, but I know when the time is right, I’ll be back. Ready to learn and recover my skills, slowly but surely.
This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.