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Individual looks at themselves in the mirror while holding a pole in a home setting.

Poling and Body Image

Before taking pole classes my body image and positivity were very much based on looks and weight alone. Do I look thin enough? Am I curvy enough? Do I weigh too much? With these thoughts in mind, I was very self conscious when I started taking classes. I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in with the “image”of what a pole dancer should be; that image being what standard media/Hollywood portrays in movies and TV shows. An image that is not representative of my body type. 

However, after a couple of pole classes, I learned that there is not one single, standard, “image” of what a pole dancer/athlete is. The amazing thing about pole is that there are so many different types of people and body types in this sport. I have seen women and men of all body shapes and sizes participate. Polers can be short, tall, thin, curvy and everything in between!

Taking classes with other students really helped solidify this for me. I was learning the same tricks and moves next to women who varied from me; some were thinner, some curvier, but we were all starting from the same beginner class. What I realized is that your size and shape have very little, if anything, to do with your ability to pole. What seemed to separate those who were progressing and those who weren’t were their commitment to train and take care of their bodies. 

As I began to meet and explore more of the pole community I noticed that most polers don’t seem to be as concerned about how their bodies look; most seem to be more concerned about what their bodies can do. With each class, I found myself to be doing the same thing. Instead of googling “How to Lose Weight”, I found myself googling “How to better gain muscle?”

I criticize my body and myself much less now, instead of asking “Why do you look like this?” I ask “What does my body need to be healthy and strong?”. For a long time, I let my body image limit me, thinking, “Is this too much food? Will I get fat?”. But poling has now made me give to my body, “Is this enough food? Enough protein?”. In other words, poling has helped tremendously improve the perspective I have on how to treat my body. Instead of critiquing it, I now try my best to give my body what it needs; and in doing so, I can become a healthier, stronger, poler.

Now, focusing on getting stronger and focusing on improving my abilities has resulted in improved health and positive body image for me overall. However, I’ve also noticed that if I don’t keep my perspective in check I can sometimes start to have an unhealthy obsession with improving my skills and gaining strength. This ends up causing me to lose confidence when those things don’t match up with my expectations.

For this reason, I think it’s very important to have self-awareness and be willing to adapt your perspective to a more positive one when you begin to notice this negativity. And I’m not saying we should just ignore or never attempt to improve our weaknesses, but the point is, is that perspective is everything, a positive perspective. And though it may seem counter intuitive, a positive perspective and a positive body image are not the result of how good you think your body does or doesn’t look. A positive perspective and body image are an active choice; a choice in how we talk to ourselves, treat ourselves, and treat our body. 

What I hope you get from me sharing my experience is that you find the focus in your pole journey that helps making those positive choices easier; like how focusing on strength and ability instead of weight and image did for me. And that focus can be anything; it could be focusing on being healthy, practicing with friends, or even just how good you look in your Pleasers! I genuinely believe that by taking this positive perspective our minds, bodies, and souls can begin better thrive and make for a wonderful pole journey. 

Savannah Smith
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