Written by Cori Reski
(I want to preface this by saying the way I felt about my photos had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of them, and everything to do with my own inner critic. As always, PSO provided me with incredibly high-quality photos, and I am forever in awe of how anyone is able to capture such perfect moments when the subject is flying around the stage!)
This past July, I competed in the Pro Qualifier at PSO Gateway in St. Louis, Missouri. Originally, the plan was to compete at PSO’s Central Pole Championships in Chicago, but I broke my toe a week before the competition, and had to drop out. I was unable to walk or dance on my toe for about a month, but then I trained like crazy to try and get into shape for Gateway.
Except I didn’t diet like I wanted to. I didn’t like my costume, but I never bothered to purchase a new one. I didn’t think about how I’d do my hair until the day of. And while I filmed every training session I had, I hardly watched back any of the videos.
Despite all of that, my run through on stage was actually the best I had ever done it. So, I felt great leaving St. Louis, and I couldn’t wait to receive my photos and video.
But when the photos came, I couldn’t find a single one that I liked. My costume was too big, and I showed. My stomach looked flabby. My hair was a mess. I didn’t hold some tricks nearly as long enough as I had thought, and those I had held weren’t really aimed at the audience. So, I had a good cry, shut my laptop, and decided to look back at them another day.
Eventually, I was able to find 20 that I liked enough to download, and when showing them to my husband, he thought I was absolutely crazy to have found anything wrong with them in the first place. And that got me thinking. I had been so hard on myself when I first received my photos. I thought only of the things I hadn’t done and the things I’d done wrong, instead of all the amazing things I had done. For this routine, I learned how to throw myself around the static pole up in the air like the pros. I learned how to pop into my superman from my stomach. I nailed the aerial leg switch and body switch on spin. I got into and held my handspring and iron-x at the very END of my routine. Heck, just getting up on stage in front of an audience and judges was something to be proud of.
Now, a month or so after receiving my photos, I have a completely different mindset. Each one is perfectly imperfect and I love them.
The following are some tips on what to do when you’ve received photos back that you just aren’t happy with.
1. Go through them with someone else.
I might never have found a single photo that I liked well enough to keep had I not gone through them with my husband. You are your own worst critic. Odds are, whatever you’re telling yourself about your body or your technique or how your hand is placed or whatever isn’t how anyone else sees you. In fact, one of the photos I absolutely hated, my husband said was his favorite! It’s helpful to have another set of eyes take a look at the photos with you.
2. Focus on what your body can do, not how it looks
Once I came to terms with the fact that my goal to have noticeable abs had been unbelievably unrealistic, and that no matter what I had done, I would never have gained them in the single month I gave myself to do so, I looked at my photos with different eyes. Once I had finished rolling them at myself, that is. I no longer saw a flabby person on stage, I saw a strong one. One who could lift her entire body weight. One who could hoist herself up a pole while it spun round. One who could hang on to a pole sideways and not come immediately crashing down. As pole dancers, our bodies are amazing! It’s important to remember what our bodies are capable of when looking at photos of ourselves.
This is something I’ve been struggling with long before Gateway. And it’s mostly because of my arms, which are so much bigger than they were when I started pole. Up until this summer, really, I’ve felt very self-conscious about them. But without them, I wouldn’t be able to do any of the things I can do on and off the pole. Remembering that little fact helps me feel good about the way they look now. They’re big because they’re strong. And I love that.
3. Use your photos as a learning opportunity
You can learn so much about how you perform just by looking at your photos. Do you have a microbend in your knees when you invert? Are your feet flexed when you thought they were pointed? Are you looking out to the audience, or down at the ground? Does your face match your character? Are your tricks angled so that the audience gets the best view? Look critically at your photos, and use them to do even better the next time around.
4. Don’t post them online OR do post them online
You really don’t have to post your photos anywhere if you aren’t happy with them. It’s your journey, and if sharing those photos makes you uncomfortable, then don’t.
However, sometimes sharing them online can have the same effect as looking through them with someone else. The pole community is so loving and supportive, posting your photos will most likely result in a slew of genuinely uplifting and encouraging comments. You might end up feeling completely different about your photos than you had before you posted them.
5. Use your photos as a reminder of where you are in your pole journey right now
Regardless of where you are in your pole journey, these photos will one day be the “before” photos to some amazing “after” photos. No, the jade photographed might not be flat as a board. But keep practicing, and it’ll get there. The name of the game is progress, not perfection. It is so fun and rewarding to look back at old photos/videos and see how far you’ve come.
Cori Reski started her pole dance journey in 2016. Since then, she’s competed four times and performed in numerous showcases. When she’s not on the pole, Cori spends her time writing books for children and updating her cat’s Instagram page. Check out her instagram!
Pole dance is a difficult hobby to maintain. We won’t always be at the top of our game. We can’t always think of new ways to transition into familiar tricks. We don’t always feel strong or sexy or bendy. Sometimes we hit a wall. And when that happens, it’s frustrating.