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Pole dancer demonstrates a gargoyle move on a pole.

Rejection Station: It’s not all about you.

Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by the judge’s notes from a competition.  How about your placement? How triggering is the phrase “We appreciate your interest in our company,  unfortunately at this time we will be moving forward with other candidates. We will keep your application on file.”.  (Or something of that nature).   Maybe you didn’t get the email congratulating you on being chosen for a showcase.  Maybe you have just been ghosted by a promising Hinge prospect.  If any of these things ring true for you.

You are not alone, welcome to the rejection station.

Whether in pole, career, romance, or life as a whole, rejection is par for the course.  If you are in the arts, being passed up for roles is all just part of the industry but that doesn’t mean it gets easier.  As a writer and performer, I have been rejected from multiple publishing houses, strip club auditions, burlesque troupes, and countless jobs I was beyond qualified for.  It is exhausting and can leave you questioning if you are adequate or should move on and pursue other things.  Then there are pole competitions.  You work for months, sometimes years on a piece.  You spend copious amounts of money on training, costumes, travel, and registration fees.  You put your heart, soul, and sanity into this one piece that you can be proud of, and then in 4 minutes or less it gets reduced to numbers and comments by three volunteers.

Even the most confident of performers can’t help but be a little affected by the feedback.

Sometimes the comments are helpful critiques while other times you get “Too much tongue is too much”. (Based on a true story).  I have come into many competitions with the mentality of just having fun and not fussing about feedback and perfection.  It’s been a long road with lots of therapy (and a little Prozac) but I have gotten much better about appreciating what I leave on the stage.  That all said, a demon voice deep in the back of my head still hisses in my ear, and can’t help but take a placement a little personally for at least a moment.  I came off the National’s stage in Orlando beyond proud of myself and my performance.  In my opinion, it was my best run in a competition to date… I came in dead last.  Though I didn’t let it ruin my night, I am human and it still stung.

So what is one to do?

First of all, if competitions become a stress on your mental health and well-being, immediately step away.  You are not getting paid, it’s supposed to be challenging but also fun.  If it’s nothing but tears and depression, pick your pretty self up and find other opportunities to get on stage.  That also goes for any class, studio, or instructor that makes you feel bad about yourself or unwelcome.  Pole should be a safe space and a creative outlet.  A place to leave your trials and tribulations at the door and let go and celebrate yourself.  Never let anyone make you feel any less than the beautiful ferret you are.

The next thing is, to remember, that art is subjective and timing is everything.  None of it is a personal reflection on you.  More often than not, being passed on for something is not due to you being unqualified or untalented.  It’s not all about you ok?  (Unless you’re a Leo.) Many companies post openings and conduct interviews but already have a candidate chosen in-house or via networking yet open up submissions to the public to be diplomatic and avoid discriminatory accusations.  I once applied to a job post only to find out they didn’t have a space, they were just creating a database of applicants for any potential future openings.  I kid you not.  With competitions, you never know what the judges are thinking.  I had a friend once get a note from a judge saying “Work on making your pheonix less choppy”. You’ll… she didn’t have a Phoenix in her piece.  This affected her score and lowered her placement.  I have seen the most beautifully executed pieces not even placed in the top 4.  The only one you should worry about judging you is yourself. (and you better be a kind, Paula Abdule on American Idol type judge!).

With showcases, I know for a fact if the organizers could put every applicant on that PoleCon stage, they would in a heartbeat.  If you don’t get that hopeful email, know it has nothing to do with you or your skills.  You’re an icon.  It could be several things such as there are already a large amount of people with the same style as you so they need more variety.  You could have performed already and they want to give others a chance in the spotlight.  The reasons could go on forever.  I was selected last year for Creepy Showcase but that doesn’t mean I’ll be chosen for a showcase this year. Also sometimes performers apply for the wrong showcase for their style or qualification.  I will also never be selected for the Youth Showcase because, well, I’m old as hell.  These determinations have no reflection on my skill, so make sure you read descriptions carefully when selecting submissions.

This goes true with auditions as well. I once auditioned for a Gentleman’s Club and I only walked on the stage and the manager had already made his decision and walked away.  I walked out of there feeling ugly and embarrassed. What was so wrong with me? The answer is nothing.  Sometimes it’s all a matter of timing.  If I had come in the day after 3 girls had been let go, maybe it would have gone a different way.  Or maybe they already have too many tattooed girls, or that’s not the look they’re going for their demographic.  Maybe that guy was just an asshole having a bad day.  What I damn sure wasn’t going to do was like him having power over my happiness or self-worth.  Nor should you.

Here’s the thing.

There is always going to be someone out there with strengths you have yet to unlock or perfect.

Those people are great for motivation and inspiration but is no reflection on yourself and what you bring to the table.  You can’t make everyone happy, you are not Nutella.  Remember rejection is simply the universe (or whatever high power you may subscribe to) telling you that there’s something better out there more suited for you.  This can be a hard ideology to latch on to in the thick of the moment but almost always when you get passed on your “big shot”,  a better one is coming.  Keep shooting your shot and putting yourself out there.   You can’t win if you’re not even in the game so again I say, shine on you crazy diamonds.

Casey Danzig
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