One of the questions I get asked the most is ‘how do you become a professional aerialist?’ and I still don’t have a answer. I used to think it revolved around a form of perfection and I ran into a bad spot chasing that tail.
For me it’s not about strength, flexibility, body and other fluctuating things. It’s not about how known you are on social media. It’s not about how well known the company you work for is. It’s not about how much money you make.
Basing our value on these things is risky because circumstances can change so quickly and therefore that would mean your value could to. But should we lose value overnight because we can no longer ‘do the splits’?
Not that the things above don’t have value, of course they do, but they don’t equate your value. I think it’s about feeling value in yourself. Believing that you have got something worth sharing and working towards keeping that belief on the good AND the bad days.
Like any stage in a career, you can wait for someone else to tell you that you are worthy of moving forward or you can fast track to believing it yourself first and not accepting anything that says otherwise.
Finding this value in ourselves is scary and messy but comes with long term stability. I’m deep in all the ugly stuff at the minute. But the more at home I can feel in myself, the less I need to keep looking elsewhere for my worth.
Would love to hear your thoughts on value 🧡
At the end of my research questionnaire I left a open comment box and I got 235 comments from aerialists about what affects their self-esteem (thanks to everyone who did this🤗).
Many people mentioned how comparing themselves to others affected their self-esteem negatively. On social media, in class, in a training space, etc, comparing body size, skill level, strength, etc.
As you can see from the chart this was a lot more common in the comments of professionals. Does this surprise you?
I guess as professionals we are competing against eachother for work?
I get that there’s a completely healthy side to comparison. We are naturally going to compare things as humans, it’s how we learn. However, it can be a way to repeatedly tell ourselves that we are inferior and I think this is how it’s affecting how we feel about ourselves.
This one is about procrastination as requested.
What I know about procrastination is that it is a form of stress relief and NOT laziness. So, when I am looking at my to-do list and for example it says ‘make invoice’ I’m not stressed about the invoice. I am stressed about something going on in the background and my brain is thinking ‘wait a minute why don’t you scroll Instagram instead so it’s nice and easy and responsibility-free’. Then it’s been an hour I’ve been on 90 different Instagram profiles and still no invoice.
I noticed the more stressed I am, the more I get behind on everything and then I get stressed about being behind on everything and feel guilty and awful about myself for ‘messing everything up’.
I am no pro at dealing with this but what has helped me is changing procrastination from being a bad trait that I have to a coping mechanism for stress. Then I am able to take the guilt away and look at what the stress is and how I can lessen the impact of that or acknowledge the stress is there to look at it later and do the thing.
I have found that now I am not looking at it in a negative way I also can’t use it as a way to self-sabotage.
I tend to procrastinate about things that are important, as in responsibilities that I need to do or things that are important to me. The things that are important to me (in a work sense) tend to be scary things like creating the work I want to create or working with people I admire so my mind likes to pick less scary things to do.
I am still trying to figure this one out but @melrobbins has got loads of information on this.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this 🧡
I’m curious to know if fear is a source of drive or retraction for you?
Fear was a driving factor in my life for a long time. Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of rejection. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of my body.
All of this motivated me in a way. I used the fight or flight to get things done, to avoid facing a Fear. Running off adrenaline, my nervous system constantly activated and I rarely felt calm or at peace.
This only started to calm when I started to accept myself and lessened the power I give to other people’s opinions (usually just opinions I had made up anyway).
Working on lessening the fear did wonders for my nervous system but then without fear I struggled with motivation. It was such a steady source of energy for me that when I lost it, I lost my drive too. Why would I do a 7 minute plank if I wasn’t fearful of my body changing?
What it did filter out was the things I discovered I wasn’t that passionate about. The things I only did because of fear.
Don’t get me wrong I still have a lot of fear. I even get scared every week putting these vulnerable posts out there. But I feel so much more grounded than I used to.
I’m still trying to figure this one out. Would love to hear your thoughts
As performers we get critiqued as part of our job and I used to think this made me more resilient but I’m not sure if it has or if I have just got better at pretending it doesn’t affect me. I think I have rarely been in a place in my life where I have been secure enough in myself to healthily take critique.
One way of dealing with this is being your own biggest bully. ‘If I state all my flaws, I get in there before anyone else can and protect myself from the pain of someone else noticing my inadequacy’.
Though this protects us, to be constantly looking for our own flaws can be exhausting and let’s face it not great for the old esteem.
The voice that we hear the most is the one that’s in our head and for many of us our inner voice is crueller than one we would use on an enemy. We are our biggest critic. So sometimes the thought of self-love / compassion or even acceptance can feel ridiculously unachievable.
Like anything, the more we hear something, the more we begin to believe it. So, the more I tell myself that I am a failure the more I will look for things to confirm that that’s true. This can eat away at us. We are only human. Ofcourse we don’t want to feel unworthy so it’s not a long term solution.
What’s good about our internal voice is that we can change and control it. We can use it the other way around. By putting more emphasis on positive traits we are able to look out for qualities instead for flaws.
I know I am a very insecure person and I am not sure how relatable this is but I know from my research on aerialists we are great at performing offstage as well.
Would you let someone talk to your best friend the way you talk to and about yourself?
I completed a psychology masters in 2021 focusing on different aspects of aerialists. I am posting about topics from personal experience combined with my research findings looking at psychology from an aerialists perspective.
To read my ponderings you can choose topics or scroll through..
As aerialists we are committed to a career / hobby / business that requires a fair amount of work. Whether that training, conditioning, lesson planning, stretching, book keeping, funding applications, creating, choreographing, etc. So, we have an infinite number of things that we can be ‘getting on with’.
This can be SO overwhelming. How can we have time for anything else when there’s so much we can be doing?
In the past this has led me to fill every inch of my schedule with ‘productivity’, max out my to do lists. I can rest /take a holiday when there’s nothing left to do.. but there will always be something and we can always think of something.
Productivity can easily be connected to worth and success. Which means we can see ‘non-productive’ moments in the day (when we are not box ticking) as failures, setbacks, proof that we are ‘not enough’.
I wanted to write this, week two of January, after the week with the most expectation and pressure. Diving headfirst into the depths of our 2022 bucket lists and figuring out how cruel our own expectations have been.
I’ve never met an aerialist without passion and drive. Which is great.. but probably makes it harder to find the work/ life balance.
Finding a balance does not equal giving up on our hopes and dreams. It makes the journey there more enjoyable.
Just a bit of food for thought day 10 of the year.
How is your work / rest / play balance? Do your expectations of yourself need altering at all?
The start of the year is perfect for letting go of habits and introducing new ones. However, when we are deciding these things it’s important to be aware of the why’s.
Am I setting goals and habits because I want to and it will be good for ME? or because without them I am less of a person/professional, a failure?
The intention makes all the difference.
It is important to make sure that this is not fuelled and designed by our self hatred. I know in the past I was using exercise and diet as punishment and for complete control of my body. I was also setting a lot of unrealisitic goals and I would attatch my whole worth to them so if I ‘failed’ that confirmed I was a ‘failure’. Then I would set more goals from self hate and that would become part of an unhealthy cycle.
Although I am now in a healthier headspace, it’s difficult not to slip back into habits of restrictions and complex training plans. After the chaos and lack of routine of Christmas all I want is structure. But I know too much structure can be really counterproductive, especially if I end up back in that cycle.
Also for me, creativity laughs at structure. It does not like to be confined, so I can’t try and squash it in a box. We can’t schedule an idea to arrive or a burst of creative spark. Things can move and shift and that’s ok.
Although aerialists seem superhuman. We are not. Go easy on yourself
One of the biggest lessons I learnt this year through my research is that things are not as they seem. People are very good at hiding struggles.
This time of year it seems like everyone is full of festive spirit when in fact it can be an extremely difficult time for so many reasons. So take care of yourself!
You don’t have to be feeling full of joy or feel guilty for not feeling full of joy. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone through gifts and outfits (note for us people pleasers). You don’t have to train over Christmas. You don’t have to punish yourself for training less and eating more. You don’t have to have everything together for heading into a new year. You don’t have to be anyone else.
This time of year happens every year so its easy to fall back into similar habits and traditions which may no longer feel right. So we can decide what we want to keep and what we can let go.
If you are like me and feeling guilty for not feeling absolute JOY then you are definitely not alone
So with Christmas around the corner it’s highly likely that a break, however little, is around the corner too. Breaks for the mind and body are great for us but for some of us they can be difficult.
In the past I had so much fear of breaks and the changes that came with them. Losing muscle, gaining weight, eating unhealthily, losing strength, losing stamina, losing motivation, losing routine, losing opportunities, ect. I found it so difficult to get any benefits from them because all of this was whirling around my head. I would often even try and fit in a workout on Christmas morning and I couldn’t really be present as I found the change so stressful.
The main reason I think I was feeling this was that I had completely attached my identity and career to my body and its physical abilities. And so every day/hour of rest was taking me a step closer to ‘failure’.
Now I have spent time rebuilding my identity without my body as the focal point I am able to gain more benefits from breaks and make them a lot more stress-free.
Social media can also have a similar effect if you are 5 Christmas movies deep and see everyone hardcore training when you scroll. Even though we know Instagram is a lie we still somehow torture ourselves with this.
Remember it’s ok to have rests. We are no less of person/ aerialist/ artist for doing so. Time away helps us come back with a fresh body and fresh ideas.
If this is something you struggle with, you are definitely not alone!