When I began freelancing, I felt like I had to fill every inch of my calendar with work related things. The reason for this came down to a few things, the fear of not knowing when the next income was coming so saying yes to every opportunity, feeling the need to prove to people I was busy/successful and guilt when I was not working. It was only after the constant burnout that I realised I could actually give myself breaks and that saying no does not end your career.
Work/ life balance is talked about a lot but not necessarily achieved. It’s difficult with aerial work to figure this out because it can be so irregular. The trap with this is that gaps in a calendar can be filled by working/ training/ planning things that can turn into work in the future and not actually taking a break. I know I used to feel guilty on, for example a mid-week morning, for having a lie in when I felt everyone else was busy working. Therefore, freelance can turn into a bit of a prison if you don’t let yourself have a day off.
A rest day is also not something you have to ‘earn’. You don’t have to exhaust yourself to earn a break. Your plan to take time off doesnt need to be approved by others. You don’t have to prove its validity to anyone.
So many things can get in the way of a work/life balance, and we aren’t excluded because our work is ‘different’ to a 9-5. Having some of the ‘life’ bit doesn’t make us less likely to achieve an aerilaists career. We shouldn’t feel shame about days off and aerial-free holidays. No sneaking in aerial technique books on the beach or home conditioning plans. We can have a complete BREAK from it all, it is GOOD for us and it does not make us less committed to our career.
Who struggles with time off and leaving space for breaks in the calendar?
This one is about people pleasing.
I have always been a people pleaser and I am getting better at not doing it now but it’s a lifelong habit I am trying to break. This is common with low self-esteem and usually means you are seeking worth from other people via their approval.
People pleasers commonly do things that they don’t really want to for approval and to avoid disproval of others. This means you are giving the people around you a lot of power and control over your decisions and how you live your life.
In terms of aerial this could be stopping you from making the type of work you want to make, training more than you want to, doing work/gigs that don’t serve you and generally not looking after your own needs. Over time this can get tiring and the lack of fulfilment often leaves you feeling burnt-out emotionally and/or physically.
I see this a lot in the aerial industry and it is clear that people feel they need to be a certain way or do things a certain way to be considered a successful aerialist. This external influence can encourage us to change our behaviours and ideas to ‘fit in’ and be accepted in the real and virtual world.
In my experience I lost touch with my own opinions and ideas on things due to external influence having such a strong hold over me. It’s an uncomfortable and confusing position to be in and took lots of inner work and therapy to get me out. I feel like I have a lot more control over my time and am starting to understand if I am doing something that feels fulfilling and authentic to me then the approval of others matters a lot less.
Can you relate to any of this and has it impacted your aerial work/ creativity/ career?
When I am teaching kids aerial I always say at the end when we are stretching ‘well done today you achieved so many things’ and there’s always at least one who says ‘I didn’t, I couldn’t do X move’. Then I break into an argument with them telling them how great they are. Breaks my heart to see kids not feeling ‘good enough’ at such an early age.
When we are focusing on a certain goals sometimes we don’t appreciate all of the little wins going on in the background. For example, sometimes in class people are in the air in some amazing position but trying to get to a certain thing and say ‘ahh I’m awful at this’. But to a passerby you are some amazing circus god doing the most impressive thing they have ever seen.
Achievement is a weird one when society has some mad suggestions on what we should have achieved by a certain age. I find achievements to be so personal. I used to think of it as a one size fits all and the first one to get there was the winner but I’ve discovered that’s not the case at all.
Over the last year sometimes even getting out of bed in the morning has been an achievement. But we put so much pressure on ourselves still.
I think we can go a little easy on ourselves when it comes to not having the perfect technique, career, home, partner, life, ect.
Celebrate your achievements peeps, no matter how small they might seem from the outside
So my research for my dissertation had the theme of self-worth come up wether that aerial increasing worth due to achievements and progress and also decreasing worth due to comparison to others and tight training clothes. It was very split and very personal.
As a kid I was so quiet that I always expressed myself in dance, art and music because I wasn’t a fan of speaking in front of people. This become so much of a second nature to me that there was no line between who I was and my creative projects. If they didn’t work out I was a complete failure as a human because who was I without it?
I’ve noticed (particularly in counselling training) that a lot of my own insecurities around being an aerialists were rooted in my low self-worth which I have had since I was little. Every ‘failure’ or non-pointed foot validated that I was not good enough and I think this would have happened in any field it just happened that aerial brought it out.
When your art is your body it is hard to separate its failure and successes from your own self-worth. (Me and @kalinasuter spoke a bit about this in our live last week). I felt like I was physically wearing my CV as I assumed if I didn’t look as strong people would think I was going though a but of a career dip. I understand now that that was how I was viewing myself and it was just feeding my insecurities.
I didn’t realise going into a performance career how exposing it would be when you are off stage but I honestly think it makes us so resilient. It’s only recently I have realised that I don’t have to find my worth externally or through audience feedback as that’s a risky little game. However it’s a work in progress.
Does anyone else get caught by this?
A big learning curve for me was learning how fearful I am of the judgement of other people. In the counselling course I’ve just done a key skill is being non-judgemental towards a clients because that in itself can be healing. When you think about that it shows how impactful judgement can be.
When I take other people’s judgement out of the equation I am way more creative, authentic and generally better at what I do. It’s so liberating to not worry about what other people will think and it is something that I have never been able to do, though it sounds so obvious.
It’s amazing the power of the judgement or potential judgement of one person can have. This person might not even judge you in a bad/wrong/negative way but the thought of them doing so is petrifying.
I don’t know if this is more common in performers because we are generally judged more often by audiences and in auditions. But I know my work goes through a lot of filtering of ‘what will they think’ when I am feeling particularly vulnerable.
My new task is for each person who makes me feel like I can’t fully express myself I try to find where it is coming from. Once I realise the ‘why’ it often makes a lot more sense and I can get past it.
I am not sure how alone I am with this🤔 Who else has the judgement fears to the point were you can’t run with an idea, share your creativity with people or be your full self?
I wanted to do a post about comparison because it has come up many times in my research questionnaire.
Comparison is everywhere with social media and its talked about a lot in terms of how it can be detrimental to self-esteem and worth, particularly if its already low. Instagram is a game and it’s easy to comfuse your ‘points’ (likes) for a scoreboard of achievement/ worth/ success ect.
I know growing up wanting to be a dancer I would compare myself to everyone and always valued myself as worse in one way or another. It’s only over the last few years I have tried to get rid of the comparisons and accept where I am at.
A lot of people spoke about comparing themselves to others in a aerial class or training space and it making them feel awful about themselves. Whether that skill, body, strength or flexibility it is always going to have the risk of negatively effecting us.
Also a lot of people mentioned Instagram and how constantly comparing skills to people they follow can really eat away at their confidence.
I used to think comparison was good because it can motivate improvement but with comparison there’s always a ‘better’ and a ‘worse’ so either rising yourself or ranking someone else below you.
Not one person said ‘I compare myself to others and it feels great’. So the question is what is it actually doing for us?
Why haven’t I achieved as much as them?
Why cant I do X move after X years and they just did it in a couple of weeks?
Why don’t I have as many followers?
Even comparing yourself to yourself. I know its great to watch your progress but what if you can’t do, for example, as many pull ups as you used to? Do you then label yourself as worse? I know I got caught up in this, constantly thinking I was regressing, particularly in lockdown.
Now I am trying to leave the comparison game to the auditions and the funding bodies who get paid to put me up against other people. Looking at others for inspiration instead. We’ve all got something different to give and different ways of getting to places.
Do you compare yourself to others in the aerial world?
This post is on the sensitive topic of food and eating…
I am amazed at how many people mentioned that aerial played a part in healing eating disorders and anxiety around food. The idea that food became something to fuel aerial instead of something to be feared and controlled. It was an emotional read and something I feel so strongly towards.
With aerial being such an intense activity, nutrition is important. However, I know my brain loves jumping to extremes and there was a chunk of time, particularly in my dance days, were I got too caught up in only eating the ‘right’ ‘best’ ‘good’ foods which spiralled out of control.
There were also many comments that also said that aerial impacted them negatively around eating from comments and judgement in studios, comparing images/videos on social media and watching videos back from training.
There seems to be a complete mix of experience in the aerial community around food, from complete non-judgement, to extreme judgement on what you ‘should’ be eating as an aerialist. I think its important to be aware of the negative impact this can have. Personally I think it can be harmful to be told what to eat or be judged on what you eat even if it is not coming from a hurtful place.
When students ask me about my diet I used to get insecure about it and want to say “a very strict athletic meal plan”. When in reality I usually eat what I want to eat (took a while to get there) and that can change drastically week to week and I try not to judge it.
Not to mention there’s also the practical issue of when to eat when you have just squeezed your insides with a apparatus 🥴
It’s a very intense and weird thing that we do and as we are all so different we are all going to fuel our bodies differently and that is ok.
Im going to do a story comment box if anyone wants to comment on any of this anonymously
I am now on the home stretch with my dissertation. Finding it hard to keep motivated and typing after a busy year 🥴
I wanted to talk a bit about strength. A lot of people who took part in my research mentioned strength, feeling strong after training aerial and how exciting it was seeing muscles develop. I know I used to want people to think I was a strong person so I wanted muscles to prove that. I remember someone once said to me ‘don’t you have to be strong for that aerial stuff?’ and I was annoyed for weeks. I made myself an intense training plan and wrecked my arms so much I had to wash my hair upsidedown for a week because I couldn’t lift my arms enough.
I used to have a fear of rest days as in my head I saw strength as a momentum which was either progressing or regressing and could not be maintained via stillness/rest. With a constant progress plan and spreadsheets on building each muscle it all got a bit overwhelming and I felt like I was going backwards if I took a break.
We all have different mental and physical strengths that aren’t visable just by looking at someone. In the aerial world I feel like extreme strength is something to strive for and is often measured in abs, biceps, reps, the hardest straps move you can do.
How much does strength mean to you in terms of your aerial training? Are you striving for a certain ‘level’ of strength or is it something you don’t pay much attention to?
I have lots more to share about my aerial and psychology research..
Anxiety around being strong enough, fit enough, or looking good enough getting back into training/performing post lockdown has come up a lot.
I think lockdown changed all of our lifestyles and only a lucky few had access to upsidedowness. I know for me it caused major anxiety about losing strength and skills at first. I put a lot of my worth as a performer/teacher/person on what I could do in the air so I reached a bit of an identity crisis when I wasn’t in the air at all. It took months and lots of tantrums to get past this and sometimes it still catches me off guard when I can’t do things as well. I am not sure how much strength I have lost because I am purposely avoiding measuring it but I have seen people being really hard on themselves and disappointed trying to match pre-lockdown reps/skills. I have also seen others being patient and having a more relaxed training schedule. I know I am now way more relaxed about training and have dropped the intense conditioning which I hated anyway.
Have training habits changed post-lockdown?
I am in the middle of analysing the data for my dissertation (aerial self-esteem and body image) that a lot of you lovely people helped me with and there are so many things that keep coming up. I want to start sharing some things I have been finding with you as it seems that a lot of us are struggling with the same things.
There seems to be a split between aerial leading to body confidence and appreciation for what the body can do. But then also comparison, performing in tight costumes, mirrors in studios and pressure from teachers/coaches having a negative impact. I agree with both and it is so interesting reading different experiences.
Many people have wrote about wanting/ needing visable abs and muscle definition to be accepted as an aerialist. I was surprised as this seems to have become a ‘rule’. Coming from the dance world years ago it was so refreshing for me to see so many different body types in an aerial class but now I am hoping body pressures in aerial are not increasing in the same way.
Is there an ‘ideal aerialist body’ in the aerial community and where is this coming from?