Have you been thinking about competing in a pole competition? Maybe you have been wondering about how competing in a pole competition can affect your self-esteem, whether that is positively or negatively. I have been asked the question ‘Should I compete?’ many times.
Honestly, there are both pros and cons to competing when it comes to how it can impact your self-confidence. For some people, competing is one of the most rewarding experiences, not just of their pole journeys, but in their whole lives. However, for others, competing can be detrimental and actually leave them feeling deflated and upset.
Pros: How competition can improve your self-confidence
The great thing about competing is that it provides additional ‘goal setting’ benefits on top of what you already experience from your weekly pole classes. Pole classes provide these benefits through the learning of new tricks and spins, overcoming difficult moves, and facing your fears; all ways you can fortify your resolve, build courage, and develop a strong self-image and positive body image.
The reason goal setting is so important to self-esteem is that achieving these goals, and the progress you make as a result, make you feel positive and good about yourself. Many of us forget about goal setting once we have left school or academia, and the goal setting provided for us in the work place can actually be quite negative, leaving us feeling frustrated and anxious. But the goal setting within your pole class leaves you feeling uplifted, able to take on the world.
Whilst your pole class offers you small goals to work towards, competitions can offer you a nice BIG goal. If you are looking for a way to challenge yourself outside of your norms, then a competition can be a great way to ‘step up’ the game. Once you have achieved this large (and maybe scary) goal the benefits to your self-confidence can be brilliant, leaving you feeling strong and empowered, especially if you were very nervous or worried about performing.
Competition can give you an additional motivator in your training, meaning that you will work harder at your tricks, transitions and dance. This will result in potentially ‘turbo charging’ the goal setting benefits mentioned earlier. You will be working on more tricks, maybe it’ll be the boost you need to get that difficult combo, and the noticeable improvements to your strength, stamina and dance skills can really help you feel more confident.
You can do anything
Whether you are struggling with social confidence, body confidence, or any other area of self-esteem, then getting on that competition stage and strutting your stuff could be one of the best things you ever do.
If, for example, you have been struggling to overcome shame about your body, flaunting it on stage, and hearing the yells and cheers of the crowd, could help foster a sense of ownership and empowerment about your body. Likewise, if you are generally a very shy and reserved person who struggles to speak to strangers, then performing to a room full of people could be the push you need to help you step out of your comfort zone.
Competition can be a great to provide you with a big mile stone from which to launch your self-confidence, and a challenge, that if beaten, can help you to beat many other insecurities, and pave the way for a more self-assured version of you. You may think… ‘If I can get on the stage maybe I can talk to that stranger? Or maybe I can ask for that promotion?’. The competition may only be the beginning.
Creating something new and unique is such a rewarding and pleasurable experience. You start out with a song and an idea or a routine, and you create something amazing. You make a costume, a character, a dance, a story. This all comes from you and that’s pretty awe inspiring. You make something that has never existed before!
Making something out of nothing is a great way to build up self-confidence because it challenges you, and it lets you know just what you are capable of doing. If you can create a whole pole dancing routine, what else are you capable of creating? What other areas of your life can assert control over?
If you can take a concept and make it reality on stage… Maybe you can grow that business; maybe you can take the idea of loving your body and make it reality; maybe you can take a dream you have and make THAT happen too… It’s worth considering.
But it isn’t all positive, competition comes with it’s fair share of negatives…
Cons: How competition can be detrimental to your self-esteem
Some people are just not ready for the constructive (or even not so constructive) critique that comes with competing. And whilst every pole instructor thinks their students are the bees knees and, yes, you have got the prettiest, most awesome back hook spin they’ve ever seen because they LOVE you, the competition judges won’t necessarily treat you the same way. Judge’s feedback is often written quickly, they may not speak English as their first language, or they wanted to let you know something you could improve. This means their comments can sometimes come across as harsh, even mean. They will not be afraid to tell you where your musicality was lacking, or if your lines looked messy, or if they didn’t like your movement quality.
The pole studio and the competition stage are very different beasts. Your pole instructor is there to lift you up, to build up your self-esteem, and help you to push yourself, but once you decide to compete, pole can become something very different. You cannot expect the judge to be so kind to you, and if you can’t handle harsh criticism, then please think twice before stepping on that stage.
Whilst I’m not saying it is right or fair for judges to make mean remarks in their competition feedback, it is worth considering that sometimes this can happen, or you may be in a vulnerable state, looking for approval, and not receive that approval that you crave.
The term ‘self-esteem’ is pretty self-explanatory. Self means that the confidence has to come from YOU. However, for many people they seek for ‘other-esteem’, they need the praises of others in order to feel confident. If that sounds like you, then competition right now might not be the right thing for you just yet. Getting the right mind-set for competition is essential if you are going to do so without damaging you confidence.
If you are already plagued with the curse of comparison, then competition could exacerbate the problem. If you are constantly side eyeing Linda from Human resources over on the 40mm brass because she’s had two kids and yet still looks like an Eastern European gymnast, then competing may not be for you.
Yes, competition is COMPETITION, meaning you will be compared to your fellow dancers. And it is natural and normal to want to ‘win’. But, purely on the basis of competing as a means to self development, then increasing the number of opportunities you have to negatively compare yourself to other people where someone is ‘better’ and someone is ‘worse’ could be detrimental to your self-confidence journey.
Because yes, there is always a ‘winner’ and always a ‘loser’, and if you constantly compare yourself to others, then competition is only going to give you yet another area where you feel like a ‘loser’ if you don’t get first place. You may wish to work on THAT tendency within you before stepping on that stage.
The ‘athletic’ body
Competitions can attract a certain body type, the slim, athletic and muscular physique, especially in higher levels of the pole competition circuit. If you are someone, like mentioned above, who consistently compares themselves to others, participating in athletic competition that consistently favours slimmer body types could reinforce negative body image. This is particularly if you are very early on in your self-confidence journey, where you may still be more susceptible to developing negative thoughts and feelings about yourself.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to all competitions. So, if you are worried about this particular issue look into competitions that have hosted a huge variety of body types. Watch the videos of previous competitors on Youtube or Instagram, and find a competition that is right for you.
Where does that leave us?
Ask yourself if you are ready for competition yet. By that I mean, not if you are ready to perform in front of a group of people, but if you are ready specifically for the ‘competitive element’. I’ve seen too many amateur pole dancers (and pros) absolutely crushed because they got bad feedback, or they didn’t win, and it breaks my heart.
Of course, you are well within your right to compete for the sake of competition; to try and boost your career, to perform because you love performing, or whatever other reason. But, if you are competing specifically as a personal goal, or as a means to improve your self-confidence, then consider these points, and take a good long look at your own thought patterns.
The good thing about all of these positive points is that you can get these from performing in show cases just as much as from competitions, and the additional benefit of doing that is the down sides are reduced dramatically. Showcases don’t have the same pressures as competitions, and you’re not going to get any negative feedback (I should hope!), so it is a win-win. See if your studio hosts a showcase, or maybe there are other performance opportunities for you if you aren’t quite ready for competition.
What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments below.