8 Negative Thoughts Every Pole and Aerial Competitor Has

You are probably well aware of the amount of work that goes into creating a competition routine – the long hours rehearsing, pouring over music and costume ideas, trying out new combos, training your flexibility, etc. These are all stresses you expect to deal with when competing. What you may not be prepared for is the mental work that goes into it too.

Here are 8 negative thoughts every competitor has and how to combat them:

1. I’m going to be the worst one.

You might be one of the many competitors that go into a PSO competition without silver and gold medals dancing in your head. Your reason for participating could be anything; gaining performance experience, getting more focused training, awesome pole pics, whatever. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little part of you desperately concerned you will end up last in your category.

So lets break it down: What does it mean to be last in your category?
It means that on the day that you performed, at the time that you performed, 4-5 people decided that 1 or more people fit the requirements of the category better. That’s it.
On a different day, at a different time, even with different judges, the outcome might be different. It does not mean that you are a bad poler or a bad person, in fact quite the opposite, as to even commit to competing takes a level of strength and determination most don’t have. Remember that you are awesome to start with and your placement does not define you!

2. I’m not thin/pretty/perfect looking enough to compete.

Think you are the only one dealing with body image issues while competing? Think again!
You are literally putting yourself out there to be judged. Plus we regularly watch and compare ourselves to our favorite pole stars – often genetically blessed humans whose job it is to train for pole year round.  So it is no wonder that training for a competition can bring your insecurities out in full force.

However, you aren’t going to let it stop you from obtaining your goal and here is how:

  1. Stop only watching videos of pole stars inspiration. Search the different PSO competitions on YouTube and get inspired by the many varied bodied men and women who compete!
  2. Make sure you love your costume AND feel comfortable with it. It is important to feel good in what you are wearing!
  3. Realize that as in most things in life, only you can see your flaws, everyone else doesn’t know they exist or are too busy watching you be amazing on stage.
  4. Know that if you have a non-traditional aerial body that simply by putting yourself out there you are inspiring so many other would-be aerialists to do the same!

3. I’m going to make a fool of myself.

As aerialist we are also artists and so our performances, whether silly, joyful, angry, or sad, are very personal. We pour ourselves into every movement. Our routines are actually created with blood, sweat, and tears. SO there is a very real concern that not only will the judges and audience not understand you and your piece, but that they may see your very personal performance as silly.

First, let me commend you for putting yourself out there! That is not an easy thing to do, but you are not alone. Everyone competing and every aerialist in the audience understands what it is like to be in your position. Yes, there is a possibility that they won’t understand your concept or story, but they will understand and respect your passion. You could trip over your feet walking to the pole or decide perform in a gorilla mask and no one is going to think you are a fool. Taking chances is what moves art forward and you will be respected, if not celebrated for it!

4. My friends and family aren’t going to get it.

A PSO competition is the perfect place to introduce your love of pole or lyra to friends and family. It’s in a professional environment, suited to all ages and structured similarly to gymnastic or ice skating competitions. Even grandma doesn’t have an excuse to be offended…but that doesn’t mean she won’t.

Your performance is about you and while, yes, it would be fantastic if grannie got it, it is not your job to make her understand what you love to do. If your friends or family aren’t going to be their to support you then you don’t need them there to bring you down on an already stressful day. If you want to get them just as passionate about it, then maybe start off with an intro class you can do together or a smaller studio party that won’t force them to be surrounded by aerialists a full 8 hours.

5. I’m going to fall off the pole.

This has to be the #1 secret freak out of every competitor because I hear this concern whispered from poler to poler all the time. Here’s the thing, adrenaline is a powerful grip aid. My informal survey of fellow competitors and performers confirms that our hands become magically and perfectly grippy with a combination of adrenaline, nerves, and sheer will to grip!

Yes, you should be smart, i.e. test out the poles on the day of, train in non-ideal pole conditions, figure out your perfect grip aid combo, etc. However, trust that your body will step up to the challenge – IT WILL! …and if it doesn’t well the next point will work well for you..

6. I going to forget EVERYTHING.

The nightmare: You step on stage looking gorgeous and full of excitement. You walk to your starting position, with each step you are confidently staring down the judges, then the music starts and …..nothing, absolutely nothing. Your mind has gone blank and you can’t remember any of your carefully choreographed routine.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have had this happen to me about mid-way through a public pole performance… so your concerns aren’t crazy. There is, however, a fun and easy solution to this problem!
How do you face down the nightmare of forgetting your routine? By practicing freestyling to your song. Yup, that simple. If you know your music forwards and backwards a momentary lapse in memory is just an excuse to freestyle to your mind kicks back into gear. And if you never remember know that some of the most beautiful performances that have connected with audiences have been freestyle!

7. My routine is too easy.

Working at a pole studio and training around other competitors this is a big concern I overhear again and again. “My routine is too simple!”, “I don’t even have any difficult tricks”, “Everyone is going to have flexy moves”, “I have too many flexy moves”, “I have a moment where I take a breathe and I should really fill that space with another pole trick”….

First off, what may feel easy and simple to you is likely not easy and simple for your competitors. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, we all have our strengths and weakness. For example, maybe you’ve been doing cartwheels since you were a kid and feel like it’s too easy to put in the routine, however a large portion of the pole population (myself included) have never been able to do one – so what to you is easy peasy is crazy impressive to the rest of us.

Think about this, don’t you want your moves to feel comfortable? That way you can focus on delivering a compelling performance without stressing out about completing the moves!

8. I’m not good enough.

All of the above negative thoughts can really be boiled down to this single concern: “what if I am not good enough?”. That thought is one that sticks in the brain, doesn’t it? It hides in dark corners ready to pop out at our most vulnerable moments and it is a much more difficult to defeat.

This is one that I can’t write a quick and snappy solution to as it is a different, unique issue to each of us, However, what gets you start on beating back this negative thought is to figure out what it actually it. What does “not good enough” mean to you? Once you answer that question, and that might be a question that requires the help of professionals, you can start to take away it’s power.

You expect competing to stress you out, tire your body, eat away at your free time. You are prepared for those things. However, if you feel these negative thoughts creeping in, well, know you are not alone and your aerial brothers and sisters are here to help!