I’d like to share one of my three 2019 competitive pole routines. I’m terribly proud of it. (The dancing bit is 90 seconds long. I promise I won’t be mad if you watch it and move on with your day without reading.)
20 reasons in 6 words or less why I’m almost unreasonably proud:
- I’d never competed in heels before.
- Twisted sister:* secure AND bangin’.
- My favorite cocoon** to date.
- I came mentally prepared to rock.
- I stayed coolly focused all day.
- Sharing the stage with pole idols.
- Hugely high honor of competition.
- I didn’t even qualify last year.
- Made it into USPDF Pro Finals!
- I was happy to be witnessed.
- Modeled tons of sponsored swag.
- Kept going after an imperfect trick.***
- Adorable unicorn-ish sponsored outfit.
- Love how I look: freaking great.
- Danced to a song I love.
- Powerful self-care before, during, and after.
- Feel connected to the art I make.
- It felt great in real time.
- Amazed at what I can do.
- Includes a message I care about.
Fun fact (and the cornerstone of this writing): this routine took dead last in its division, and by a relatively large margin.
Did that make me a loser? Explore with me! Here are my four primary takeaways.
You Get What You Ask For
My housemate Christopher asked me before I departed for New York, what was I hoping to experience at the competition? I responded with Satisfaction and Community (boiled down from many more words).
What everybody else kept asking: was I going to win?
I was always taken aback by this question. Wasn’t it up to the judges? Sure, I *could* have won. And, while it was a high priority for me to have a good showing, I wouldn’t say that I trained like the ultimate champion. If I had decided to win, I posit that I would have trained differently. Made different levels of commitment. (Some say sacrifice; see below.)
What I *did* get to experience was the presence of all the humans backstage. I watched 0.3 performances live, but I got a front row seat to all of the backstage magic. I saw women being compassionate, zoned in, kind to each other, powerful, nervous, hyped, methodical, communal, flexible, balanced, and really giving themselves permission to be WITH each other and themselves. I am so humbled, so honored to count myself among them.
If I got what I came for (satisfaction + a great showing + community), I’ll call it a success.
You Perform What You Practice
Even if it’s 5 minutes of glory, it’s more like 500 hours to prepare. The preparation is where life happens. Much of the elite athlete or performer repertoire is built invisibly, out of the public eye. It’s measured not only in the accuracy but the precision – how reliably can you produce a strong result, even under adverse conditions? The performance is the snapshot – an invitation to see me at this moment, and perhaps imagine everything that came before, everything that got me here.
The way I trained was the way I wanted to – hard and smart. Enough – to see progress and present a piece I was proud of; not too much – to be overtired, overtrained, injured, or discouraged. I walked out of every practice session pleased, proud, and PUMPED – so it would certainly follow that my performance would be similar. I made this experience into a deep individual commitment, and I chose it consciously.
Your Mindset Matters
I call myself a recovering perfectionist. I already know the heartbreak of beating myself up and kicking myself for not being “perfect.”
I came to kick ass in general, not kick my own ass.
I came to “leave it all on the field” (a la high school marching band), not bring regrets home.
The deep knowing that I am worthy and loved – not because of my dancing or my style or my level or my courage, but regardless of it – is freaking revolutionary.
Society would say, how dare I believe that I am enough? Yeah, I know I do pretty cool things. I get to be a badass, physically and artistically. Am I the best badass? Survey says, not this year, not that stage. Does it wreck me? No thanks. In coach parlance, I would say “I am complete” – I have no extraneous emotional energy about this experience; no resentments or grudges. Would I like to go back and win someday? Sure, winning is fun! Is it a mega priority to win? Not particularly. Am I allowed to compete if my priority isn’t to win? Why, yes. I know I’m here to learn and grow, to be challenged and evaluated – and none of these is a measure of Who I Am. Lately, I choose to compete in order to stretch and grow beyond what I could do before – to push my own envelope in this community that I adore.
We are so accustomed to measuring our life quantitatively and competitively. It feels revolutionary to measure our experience qualitatively, but it needn’t be unusual. Practice boldly with me, won’t you? It feels easy to be dissatisfied and complain. I dare you to be unreasonably pleased with your life. You know the distinction between Being Enough and Being Satisfied versus appearing that way. What if everything is Perfect? Double dog dare you to say it out loud and adopt it.
You Always Get To Choose
I could choose embarrassment and shame. Instead, I choose empowerment and expression.
It’s easy to talk about (and judge) choices that “past you” made. (Hint: that’s still a choice.)
Could I have chosen to train more like a champion? More hours/reps in? Hired a coach? Yep.
What I chose instead was a balance of training that worked for my lifestyle – which I also chose.
Then there’s present choices.
Could I choose to be dissatisfied and demoralized? Throw a big-deal tantrum? Of course. Could I choose instead to be satisfied with (or heaven forbid, proud of) a last-place finish? Celebrate with the beautiful humans who made stunning art and won extra swag? You betcha. Is it possible that any of my co-competitors performed brilliantly, placed much higher, and chose to experience disgruntled-ness? Sure. Could they (or I or anyone) choose anew in the next moment? Yeah!
Which brings us to future choices – aka, commitments. Opportunities to align yourself with what you say matters.
Will it take practice to silence the Censor and spread Love on the ego-wounded part of me that is so accustomed to being Not Good Enough – so much so that it disguises its self-consciousness by always trying to Be The Best? Oh yeah. Will it be hard to choose from Love sometimes? Anything new and unpracticed could disguise itself as hard. Will it be worth it? Every moment – if you say so. Commit to asking: when you allow yourself to expand into the greatness of Courage, Love, Expression, Power – what else becomes possible?
The ultimate message is a growth out of the very song I elected to dance to. The question in the song is, “Do You Wanna Be Great?” I would take out the “want” (ie Conversations With God teaches that declaring “want” creates the experience of wanting, not having) and re-state:Do You. Be Great.
PostScript: A Reverse Case Study
My dance partner Curtis and I once entered a Blues dance choreography competition and decided before we had set a single step that we were going to win. Well, what do you know – we won. (Different future blog post? Or the opposite-ly manifested version of the same blog post?) We practiced with an eye always toward victory, and I believe we manifested that. Choose your lesson from the list above, and please share what else you see.
So what did YOU come for? What is the highest expression of your Life, your Learning, and your Gifts? What are your stories of how you stopped “Being A Loser” and stepped into greatness?
Footnote: Starred Pole Lingo
- Left: #2, Twisted Sister. Splitting and hand grip for dear life.
- Right: #3, Cocoon. Backbending-ly spectacular.
- #12: Timestamp 0:43-0:47, Reverse Grab to a Shoulder Mount. Not perfectly executed, but completed.