Putting yourself first is not the same as being selfish
Amanda came to pole at age 44 amid a separation from her partner of 24 years. After driving past Vertical Academy in Denver for four years, Amanda decided to take her first class with a Groupon. “I was so nervous,” she says, “because I thought, ‘it’s going to be all these young, perfect body women who are really great at this and I’m going to be totally out of my element.”
She told everybody she was going to take a pole class so she couldn’t back out of it. She fell in love at that first class. She converted her Groupon into an unlimited monthly membership and took as many classes as she could. Amanda says, “I had never been in any sports, never been in gymnastics.
"I had never been in dance. I had never competed. I had never done any of that in my whole life… This was something I know I was not good at, at first, but it was just fun.”
The three and a half years since have held a lot of pain, which pole helped her through. Amanda decided to divorce her husband, and that journey came with ups and downs.
“[The good days] were the days I could just go to dance and to just enjoy myself, but it was the days that were hard… That community of women, we were all there just to celebrate one another’s successes, no matter how small,” she says.
A year and a half into her pole journey, her father had a stroke, one of her dogs died unexpectedly, and her grandmother passed away. Then, her ex-husband took his own life. Amid all this, her favorite instructor, Estee Zakar suggested she start competing in pole, telling Amanda it could be therapeutic for her.
At first, Amanda was resistant to the idea, but then she decided that was a reason to do it, rather than one not to. “You’re never too old to step outside your comfort zone,” Amanda says. “Is there a chance you could fail? Absolutely…but you also at least put yourself out there. I think for me that was the thing that I wanted to prove to myself.”
She had a row and a half of family and friends cheering on her first competition piece at PSO Mountain 2019. “I was really upset with myself when I came off stage,” says Amanda. “I missed sections, I was ahead of my music, I got going too fast on spin pole and I had to come down.
Somehow, I had ended up in a pose I had never done before… I revisited that video a few weeks after and I thought, ‘You can’t be upset about it because look what you did. I went out there and I’ve never competed before in my life… This is a sport I just started.’ I am proud of that.”
Amanda once heard a speaker say the best decision she ever made was to put herself first. “At first I thought, ‘Gosh how selfish is that,’” says Amanda. Now she sees the value in it. “
Putting yourself first is not the same as being selfish or self-centered. I think, sometimes we don’t know that. Honestly, I don’t know how, without the pole community, I would have made it through such a dark time in my life.” As she trained, she lost weight, she grew stronger physically and she grew stronger mentally. “I found that I was giving myself some self-love,” she says.
Amanda started making better decisions for herself, from filing for divorce to ending a damaging friendship. “I’ve tried to start giving myself the things I gave so freely to other people,” says Amanda.
“We talk about relationships being such hard work, and most of us forget we’re actually in a relationship with ourselves first and foremost. We’ll give so much to everyone else, but…we didn’t give ourselves anything that day. I started giving those things to myself first.”
Amanda is now poling at the Sankalpa Collective in Denver and is training to be a pole instructor.
Interview by Sara LW Schreiber
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