After watching Lady Gaga’s incredible Super Bowl half time show, I picked my jaw up off the floor, immediately cranked up The Fame Monster on Spotify and carried on with the rest of my day, putting a little extra hip-swing into my washing up stance than usual.

But later in the afternoon, when I returned to my computer, the internet, as standard, had gone insane.

People had actually taken the time to go online and insult, degrade and shame Lady Gaga.

People were watching her incredible performance. Watching her sing LIVE without missing a beat in front of an audience of millions, whilst running, dancing and performing aerial acrobatics—for 13 minutes (bearing in mind, I consider myself reasonably fit and can barely teach my way through an invert demo without getting gassed… MORE CARDIO NEO!).

They were watching all of this but instead of complimenting her incredible stage presence, her stamina, her athleticism, her signing voice or the creativeness of her show stopping act, they chose to make comments like this…

Has the media and the uglier side of the fitness industry really warped our perceptions so much that this perfectly perfect, insanely fit, nothing but badass lady performing her heart and soul out on stage is being criticised for her BODY?

And if Gaga can’t meet the unrealistic beauty standards of the media, what hope do the rest of us have?

This shit drives me insane! It’s this attitude and comments like these that are the reason why women shuffle timidly into my pole class with Bermuda-short-length shorts and baggy tops to hide their perceived “imperfections”.

It’s the reason my clients say “oh, excuse my saggy skin there” or “ewww, my cellulite is gross” whilst I’m spotting them in a move.

It’s the reason that when you look back at the videos/photos of your pole moves, instead of seeing how strong and badass you look hanging upside down by only a thigh that Wonder Woman would be proud of, all you see staring back at you is that roll on your tummy that you just can’t seem to shift.

And it’s the reason why polers post a picture of their awesome invert/Ayesha/leg hang/[insert other awesome pole move here] on social media but feel the need to qualify it with statements like:

“Excuse the belly rolls but I’m really proud of this move” or “It’s taken me so long to get this so I don’t even care that I look fat”.

NO. NO. NOPE.

“Check out this awesome shit I nailed. I’m really proud of this.” will do just fine.

Let me be clear about this: the majority of people that look at your pole pics aren’t looking at what your tummy rolls look like. Or your stretchmarks, or that bit of cellulite on the back of your thigh.

They’re looking at the incredible feat of strength/balance/agility you’re performing on the pole. And the small minority that might be looking at those things and judging your body—these are the same trolls making these ridiculous comments about Lady Gaga.

And they usually make these comments/judgements because they are unhappy with their own completely normal, perfect human body that has rolls/cellulite/stretch marks too, just like every other human body on earth.

They have fallen hook, line and sinker for the media’s impossible, massively Photoshopped beauty standards and they’re pissed because they don’t measure up to them either.

But here’s the thing: NO-ONE does! Even a fit-as-hell Gaga doesn’t make the grade!

Self-love not self-loathing

I’m thankful that the culture of body shaming being normal/accepted/ignored is slowly changing and that we’re starting to see more and more body-positive stories, conversations and marketing within the fitness industry. But this reaction to Lady Gaga’s performance shows that we’ve still got a long way to go.

It’s sad for me to say that as pole dancers, because we tend to have a lot of skin on show, we’re subjected all too frequently to body shaming on social media.

We can’t stop people commenting and judging, but what we CAN control is our own negative self-talk.

There will always be someone ready to criticise you and bring you down, just PLEASE don’t let that person be you!

I know, it’s hard to learn to love your body, it really is.

It takes serious work to undo the self-loathing caused by years of reading Women’s magazines and being subjected to advertisements telling us how to get that perfect ‘flat tummy’ and that ‘beach ready’ bod.

It’s difficult to see beauty in the mirror when the media has dictated to us what ‘beauty’ does and doesn’t look like.

But as a start, please stop over analysing your pole photos. Stop being your own worst critic, and for goodness sake, please, please stop apologising for your self-perceived imperfections when you post a photo on Facebook or when you’re busting out moves in a pole class. You rock – end of.

Let’s be part of the solution, not part of the problem! #strongwomenlifteachotherup