Killer Pole confidence – an interview with the fabulous Peach Lee Ray

If there’s one thing I think all pole dancers (maybe even all people deep down) would love to acquire it’s a genuine level of greater self-love and self-confidence. Our pole journeys can often feel a bit treacherous at times, with mountains to climb and hurdles to overcome that can feel fucking impossible! In order to boost the old self-love and get you feeling proud of yourself and your pole achievements, Chrome Chronicles caught up with the badass confidence guru Peach Lee Ray, who talks candidly and gives her inspiring advice for confidence both on and off the pole.

1- You have an enviable level of confidence Peach! Have you always been a confident person? If not, how did you create such self-confidence?

Thanks! The short answer is no, I wasn’t always a confident person.

As a teenager I was bullied for a couple of years for being ‘ugly’ by boys I used to take the bus with, it really impacted my self-esteem. I remember sitting in front of my bedroom mirror and stuffing socks in my bra and inspecting my face for imperfections that I wanted to correct. It’s tough being a teenage girl, regardless of if you’re bullied – we are all bombarded with these messages on what ‘deficiency’ we should worry about next.

Luckily, my confidence grew as I got older. I met my partner, and I know it isn’t very feminist of me, but having a boyfriend and someone who liked the way I looked really helped me in my confidence. I got a lot sassier with the boys at school, and by the time I hit university I was a lot more confident.

Since then, confidence is an on going journey, not a destination. So I always stress that I am not 100% infallible, I still have crises of confidence, and times where I am stressed and anxious. Remember always that you’re a work in progress, and there’s nothing wrong with having slip ups, down days and times where you let other people’s shit get to you – it happens and it is part of the process.

For me my number 1 tip is to be nice to yourself (I know, easier said than done!). What you think and do consciously, becomes your subconscious, which creates a feedback loop. Try to develop positive self-talk, and don’t be afraid to give yourself compliments and accept compliments readily.

2- What advice do you have for pole dancers who want to perform or compete for the first time? How do you muster up enough bravery to get up on that stage?

The first time I performed I was actually hypnotised to avoid stage fright, and I haven’t really had it since! But, part of my fearlessness is also my total lack of given fucks hahaha.

People always comment how zen I am before performing, but really, it’s just because I’ve accepted that whatever will be will be. If something gets messed up then it’s just what it is. I don’t get embarrassed easily and I think that helps, so I’m not concerned about making a fool of myself.

That attitude is really the one to cultivate – the idea that whatever happens on that stage, you’ve done amazing to even get there, and that actually, everyone is there to cheer you on and support you. If you ‘mess up’, no one is there to think you’re stupid or silly, they WANT you to succeed. Plus, if they do think you look stupid, then remind yourself ‘who fucking cares what they think?’.

If in doubt – just get hypnotised and you’ll be fine haha.

3- For those of us who have performed a few times, what tips do you have for really owning the stage and captivating the audience? Personally I can perform okay with minimal nerves now, but captivating the audience and owning a stage is a whole other kettle of fish!

I once talked to Anna Frost about this for a blog post I wrote, and the way she worded it has always stuck with me ever since. She said that performance, and being able to captivate the audience, is really about giving yourself permission to be vulnerable, and I can’t agree more. It is about allowing yourself to get out of your comfort zone, and trusting that the audience is right there with you.

The reason so many of us hold back on stage is because we do worry about ‘looking silly’, so we don’t commit to whatever it is we are doing. Audiences aren’t captivated by a specific movement, or a specific facial expression, they are captivated by the energy that the dancer brings to the stage with them. They are captivated by the performer committing, being vulnerable, offering up a piece of themselves, ENJOYING THEMSELVES.

If you fully embrace your character, your choreography, your performance, and really live your best life whilst you’re up there – then the audience will love it regardless of how ‘clean’ your technique is or how advanced your tricks are or whatever style you are doing. Take that audience on a journey with you, they are a part of your performance, not just something you are dancing ‘at’.

Peach and friend

4- Bringing it back down a notch now, it can be really daunting sometimes trying out new moves in class, especially those with a higher danger element and pain threshold! What advice do you have for mentally smashing through the fear barrier and giving new tricks a try?

I’ve got quite a few moves that have given me ‘the fear’ over the years. For me, the greatest way to conquer fear is to just do it, and I’ll explain why…

With any phobia they say the best way to overcome it is slow and gradual exposure. Re-training your subconscious to realise that whatever it is isn’t as scary as it first seems. It’s just like when you’re training your skin when you first start pole – initially it burns like hell to do a basic pole sit; your little pain sensors are firing like crazy because it thinks that what you are doing is dangerous “Stop! Stop! You’re going to rip your skin!” It takes time for your pain sensors to slowly realise that sitting on the pole isn’t dangerous, it isn’t going to kill you, and with time they relax a bit and stop sending the signals as much.

You need to do the same thing with your fear reflex. Just like your pain signals, your fear reflex is designed to keep you safe – an ancient fight or flight response in our DNA that stops us getting eaten by wild animals haha. It’s there to keep you safe, so don’t fight it; thank your fear reflex, it’s doing it’s job, and then, you can slowly and gradually push your comfort zone to re-train your subconscious to understand that this new phenomena isn’t as dangerous as it first appears.

I was so scared of cross ankle release when I first started training it, and the more I thought about it the worse it got. It wasn’t until I choreographed it into my first competition piece that I overcame that fear, because I couldn’t stop and think, I had to just DO. I didn’t have time to pause during a routine to consider whether to drop back. If I’ve had a long break from teaching it I’ll still get nervous, but I just DO it and I’m soon fine again.

5- It’s not unknown sadly to have drops in confidence from time to time in ones pole journey. How have you managed to conquer any confidence drops that you have encountered?

Oh boy – there’s been times I’ve sat crying in my car after a training session because I couldn’t do something… “I’m not strong enough / I can’t do crazy tricks / Everyone will think I’m rubbish”.

A part of my journey overcoming that was accepting that I can’t do everything. If you think of your energy pool as finite, and you can only divvy it up so many ways, you cannot be perfect at all aspects of pole. Looking at what you want, what your goals are, what is important to you is essential in having a healthy relationship with pole. Know your limitations, and recognise your strengths, and remind yourself of these when things get hard.

Understand that pole is a journey. You will have times you’re going great and progress is fast, and you’ll have times when you feel stuck in a bog of shit, your legs moving so slowly like you’re having a bad dream. Don’t beat yourself up when those low times come, they aren’t your ‘fault’. So many things can contribute to slow progress – how much sleep you’re getting, your overall health, your mental health, day-to-day stress, your body’s limitations, how much training you can fit in. We are all busy people and pole for most is a fun hobby – remind yourself of that!

And I said it before but I’ll say it again… just be nicer to yourself!! You deserve it 😊

6- How can the confidence we develop in pole class be transferred over in to every day life? Can you give any examples as to when you were able to do this?

Oh yes, so many ways!

Being more body confident, overcoming fears, conquering challenges, goal setting… there’s so much to learn from pole that can have a profound impact on the rest of your life.

Discovering that you can enjoy your body for what it can achieve, not just what it looks like. Finding out that you can be strong, sexy and sensual for yourself. Learning how goal setting and working towards something can give us a sense of purpose that many of us lose when we leave the structured comfort of education. I really believe the benefits of pole are innumerable.

Peachception

7- Lets talk body confidence and pole. Whilst I have found that pole has boosted my body confidence overall, I still find myself comparing my body to other dancers, both in terms of capability and appearance too on occasion. What is your advice for stopping negative habits like this and being 100% proud of your body?

I think ‘100% proud of your body’ is the first thing to address – no one is ever 100% proud of their body all the time, and to set that as a goal is the first stumbling block. When you set a confidence goal it is important for it to be realistic, otherwise it is easy to feel deflated and demotivated. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to always be confident all the time, slip ups are OK!

BUT – if you want to feel more confident overall, and work towards feeling good 95% of the time, then there’s plenty of techniques you can use.

Affirmations can be great. Remind yourself that ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’.

Try to stop negative intrusive thoughts in their tracks. Maybe give that little voice their own name and character, and then have a good old argument with them whenever they decide to pop into your head.

Remember we all have strengths and weaknesses, some of us hide them better than others. I have hypermobility in my shoulders, don’t think there’s times I look at everyone doing their twisted grip so-and-so and not curse my body??? I’ve many times had sleepless nights wondering if my body just ‘isn’t made’ to be a pole dancer, because I was judging my ’worthiness’ by a paradigm that has been very popular in pole as it has developed – of tricks tricks tricks. I was told once ‘well, it’s a POLE competition, how can you expect to score if you don’t do any pole?’, when I was discussing whether tricks should be weighted so heavily compared to low flow, implying that ‘tricks = pole’ and low flow = what exactly? Not ‘real pole’ at least. Luckily this trend seems to be changing somewhat with more low flow comps and routines becoming popular, and carving their own spaces out.

Regardless, my point is, we all have things we can’t do, but we also have things our body is uniquely made for. Whether you’re super flexy, super strong, super flowy and graceful, or just super fun and sassy. We need to embrace and remember what our body is so perfectly and uniquely designed for – rather than trying to wonder ‘what if…’ and comparing our bodies to other people.

8- Back over to competing now, do you have any awesome tips for those who have a competition on the horizon? I can imagine it’s pretty daunting dancing in front of judges who have their beady eyes on you’re every move!

I’m not always the best person to ask for this, as I so often do competitions simply for the chance to perform, rather than to win. So, it really depends what you are going there to do.

If you just want the experience, to have fun, and to try it out, then my only advice is to focus on THAT. Don’t worry about score sheet, don’t worry about being ‘good enough to win’, just go out and do something that is authentically YOU.

If you would like to place however…

My first advice is to choreograph to the score sheets as best as you can. If tricks, low flow and floor all encompass 25% share of score each, then make sure that weighting is reflected in your choreo.

When incorporating tricks make sure that they are ones you can really do cleanly. If you are training intermediate tricks, then most of what you want to choreograph will be beginner, with maybe one or two of your most confident intermediate tricks included. It is better to be spot on techniques wise, than as difficult as you can muster.

I like to watch myself back and see how ‘finished’ my moves look. If something looks at all rushed or incomplete I will go back and see how I can smooth it out or extend through it more. Video is an invaluable technique and I will often scrutinise my dance (but it is important to not judge yourself or be harsh, you can recognise areas of growth without beating yourself up!).

Look at what is trending – this is cynical as fuck but sometimes having themes, props, moves and style that fit with what is currently popular in the pole scene can increase your chance of placing. (I’m often told I’m too opinionated, I say these things from a place of love haha).

Don’t neglect your costume, make sure it is unique, and it encompasses your theme. Cut out your labels, especially in bras and underwear because you know those are attention seeking fuckers who will try and take your stage time. Remove stickers from the bottom of your shoes.

Take some anti-poop medicine, and always carry an emergency tampon.

9- You teach badass confidence coaching 1-2-1’s and workshops. What inspired you to start building people’s confidence? And what do you love most about teaching?

Well, I loved seeing people’s confidence grow during my pole classes, and I wanted to find a way I could help them to reach their full potential. Pole classes can take you so far in your confidence journey, but like you said yourself, sometimes we still have stumbling blocks that can hold you back.

My coaching workshops and sessions allow me to give people the tools and techniques they need to grow and embody their confidence journey. Seeing people become happier, more secure, more sure of themselves is the most rewarding thing about this. I’m so happy that I get to offer these session in person and over skype… I’ve had coaching clients from as far as Canada!

Regardless if I’m teaching pole or my confidence coaching it remains that changing people’s lives and helping them to live in a way that is more authentic and more fulfilling to them is absolutely what I love doing the most. I never expected to be a dancer OR a teacher when I left university, but it’s turned out to be two of the things I’m best at, and I’m so humbled and full of gratitude to be able to share this with people every day.

Octopeach

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