The recent outrage of women across the world in response to Lady Gaga’s SuperBowl halftime show sparked this blog for me – especially as a studio owner that encourages Positive Body Image.

I mean, none of us actually saw any flab – we saw a healthy young woman with an excellent voice and top-notch performance. Nonetheless, we were shocked when we saw Social Media outlash, describing Lady Gaga as a flabby, gut-heralding diva. Thankfully, many of us knew better, and we were outraged. So much in fact, women started speaking out exclaiming “THIS is WHY women have such negative body image!”

I see it every single day my friends. It’s one of the hardest sells about taking a Pole Dancing Class. Do you know how many times I’ve heard someone pass by my booth at a tradeshow, and claim “I’ll try that when I’m 20 pounds less.” WHY would you try an exercise regime when you are 20 pounds less? I know the answer to that, actually – it’s quite simple. You’ve seen the exotic dancers on TV shows, movies, or maybe in real life – and they have what you deem to be as a perfect body. One that should be up on that pole, flaunting their cellulite free booties. (The blue lights in clubs help this illusion, by the way).

I’ve even had women come up to our booth at tradeshows, and say “Oh good, you women look normal. I want to try a class.” They almost seem relieved to find out that we aren’t all model-figures, but in fact EVERYDAY women!

I have women asking me for “plus sized” classes specifically. They are ashamed of their larger frame, and are scared that the other participants in the class will judge them for it. Have you heard of Plus Sized Barre, Plus Sized Cross-fit, Plus Sized Boxing, Plus Sized Aerobics? I sure haven’t! And if they do exist, then that’s just ridiculous in my almighty opinion. ALL SHAPES, SIZES, AND ABILITIES will be welcomed at our studio, in EVERY single class. Your weight DOES not determine your ABILITY. Everybody starts at Pole 101. What if I told you it was your mindset that determined your success? Your attitude is the largest contributing factor to YOUR success. We’ve had women in classes literally say “I can’t do this because I’m big.” And they’re right – they weren’t able to do it, they determined their success in the class right then and there. We’ve also had larger-framed women who frankly didn’t give a damn, and they lifted their body-weight flawlessly, executing pole moves that some think are intangible. This is why we do not offer Plus-Sized only classes. The title within itself sets a stigma for the class that is being offered, and that statement alone is saying “I’m in this class because I’m larger. I can’t keep up with “regular-sized” individuals.”

Positive Body Image is not the absence of negative body image. Keep that in mind. I am a key example of this – and I live it everyday. In my younger years, I absolutely hated myself. Hate is a strong word, but it described perfectly how I felt about my body. I remember standing in front of the mirror bawling my eyes out, using self-harm as a coping mechanism, and wishing I could just “cut away the fat.” Starvation diets, and extreme workouts were some of the few ways in which I felt I needed to punish my body into submission.

This is why I am so thankful for Pole Fitness – it has really changed the way that I view my body. People are welcome to argue that Pole Dancing is actually anti-feminism, in which exotic dancing was solely created for the male gaze. None of that will ever impact how it changed my life, and especially my body image. Like mentioned before, Positive Body Image is not the absence of negative body image. I would absolutely love to say that I don’t mind my stomach pooch of stretched skin from the creation of my daughter. I would also love to say that I’m not absolutely terrified to have more children, because I know it will continuously get worse. I also wish I could say that I wear my “tiger stripes” AKA stretch marks proudly – but I don’t.

I can however say, that I finally appreciate my body, and actually love it. I could never go back to that point in time where I wanted to cut myself – I just couldn’t do that to myself, because I love myself, and my body doesn’t deserve that. Pole Dancing has empowered me – it has shown me things that I am capeable of doing. It has shown me that years ago when I used to look at girls in the higher level, and think “I could never do that,”- that I actually CAN do that, because now I HAVE done it. Even though I attempt to hide my stomach, I now look at myself and think “wow, I have a fantastic ASS!” “wow my smile is beautiful!” “Wow, my skin is looking great.”

There are so many things we CAN love about ourselves. How you feel about your body doesn’t need to have a label. We don’t need the pressure of saying “I love everything about my body. I’m the most body positive person in the universe!” You don’t need to be labelled as being EITHER a Body Positive Person, or a Body Negative Person – with no in between. Instead, we need to encourage everyone to find MORE things they love about themselves, than things that they don’t.

In the least, we hope that we can teach you to find things that you love about yourself, in hope that it minimizes the things you don’t love as much. That in itself can be hugely powerful, and will absolutely translate to all aspects of your life.