I love to pole dance. I love to train hard. I love the callouses, the bruises, the rough skin, the strained hip flexors, the stiff necks, the sequin burn, the forearm burn, the elation, the excitement, the blood, sweat, tears - I love all of it.
Except for one thing: polelitics.
My Definition of Polelitics: a noxious byproduct that forms when people who are extremely passionate about what they do let themselves succumb to base emotions of jealousy, ambition, competitiveness and envy. A destructive force that wreaks havoc when too much time is directed away from good, healthy training and dancing, and instead spent focusing on the detail of who is doing what and why.
I want to write about polelitics, because I think that unfortunately it's something that we all come across sooner or later in the pole world. As a regular touring pole artist, one thing I have noticed in my pole adventures is that one of the many things pole dancers worldwide have in common is the fact that we have all experienced poleitics in one form or another (although usually people will claim to have been the victims of it, rather than admit to being poleticians themselves).
I want to be clear: I don't subscribe to the view that all women secretly hate each other and will tear each other down at the first available opportunity. On the contrary, my overwhelming experience of women in pole has been that they are supportive and encouraging towards each other. When people feel confident and comfortable, they are able to bring out the best in themselves, and in others. However, when people (men included) feel threatened, or insecure, that's when the negativity starts to flow.
Polelitics is the one thing that is capable of souring my love of pole. But I don't believe that it's something we have to resign ourselves to accept. I really do believe it's something we can control, with a little bit of self-possession and dignity.
When people first arrive in the pole world, they are struck by how tightly-knit, accepting and loving our community is. I'm thinking of all the fundraising, support and encouragement that takes place within the pole world - it's a beautiful thing, and unlike any other form of sport or physical activity I've ever been a part of before. Which is why it seems completely incomprehensible that a group of such inspiring and committed people can at times be capable of inflicting such hostility and pettiness on each other. The first taste of polelitics can come as a slap in the face, and be a massive come-down for new polers, who had no idea how cut throat professional pole dance can be.
Let's face it, as performers and artists we are all a little bit sensitive and needy. As much as we would like to be confident, capable and unshakeable when we step into the spotlight, the truth is that once you have bared your heart and soul on a lonely stage under hot lights in front of hundreds or even thousands of people, after you have packed away your sparkly costumes and false eyelashes, you kind of feel like you need a little bit of reassurance. I think that's where a lot of polelitics stems from - it's the fact that we are so passionate about what we do that makes us so sensitive to perceived wrongdoing.
Personally, I know that whenever I'm feeling in the mood to bitch or whine about someone or something, it's usually because I'm feeling insecure or anxious about myself. Recognising this behaviour as an irrational and poor response to a situation is the first step to controlling your reactions and overcoming them. But it can be all too easy to succumb to pettiness and bitchiness, especially when the people around you are also inclined to have a bit of a "poleliticking" session every so often. The problem with this is that negativity breeds negativity, and is the fastest way to bring yourself and your pole friends down about the pole world in general. So how do you stop yourself?
The 21 Day Challenge
They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. So set yourself a challenge - 21 days with no negative pole-talk, no bitching, no whining, and see what happens. See if at the end of the 21 days, you feel better about yourself and your achievements, and the people around you.
I'm not saying you have to go around hugging everyone you meet and updating your Facebook status with "Hey y'all, just want to say hello, I love you all and have a happy pole day full of rainbows, lollipops and sunshine!" You don't have to turn into an insipid flower power poler. Just bite your tongue when you want to say something negative, and see what happens.
I remember seeing Natasha Wang post a quote (original source unknown) on her page, quite some time ago, but it really left an impression on me. The quote said:
"Blowing out another's candle will not make yours shine brighter".
Here it is in inspirational candle meme for those of you who dig that kind of thing:
And while I'm sharing inspirational candle memes, I have another one on the same theme that is perfect for the pole world:
Basically, to summarise all these inspirational-candle-memes, you don't make yourself a better pole dancer by putting others down, and by propping others up, you lose nothing yourself. You might even get some kind of karmic benefit somewhere along the line!
I'm not preaching on this topic from a moral high ground at all. I have definitely been guilty in the past of politicking and negativity, in spite of my efforts. But I'm writing this post because it helps to remind me of the sort of person (and pole dancer) I want to be.
So - is anyone else up for the challenge as well?? 21 days of zero poleitickin' -let me know how you go :-)