For a couple years I struggled with a fear of spinning in public. There were a number of silly insecurities floating around my head that really made me resist wanting to bust out my poi around a bunch of strangers: I’m not good enough, I’ll draw attention to myself, I don’t want to look like I’m showing off, etc. Ultimately it came down to being worried that others will judge me.
This isn’t something that everyone goes through. People’s brains are all wired differently, and where one person struggles, another won’t even regard it as an issue. I have friends who would be confused as to the reasoning behind that kind of insecurity. It’s just something they’ve never worried about.
Insecurities are just thoughts, though, and to have them rule your life is as unnecessary as it is painful. People are always going to judge you no matter if you’re concerned about it or not.
Think about if you saw someone doing something strange in a park. You probably think to yourself, “That’s weird,” or absolute worst case scenario, “What an idiot,” and then you move on with your day and completely forget about it.
When I thought of it this way, I realized how foolish it is to spend my mental energy worrying what people might be thinking. Instead I want to focus that energy on practicing, which has a much more beneficial outcome than fretting.
I wasn’t without insecurity overnight, and at the same time as paying attention to my unhelpful thoughts I was gradually desensitizing myself to public places.
For anyone struggling with similar hang-ups I wanted to explain my thought process that started chipping away at my insecurity, as well as give a few tips on how to slowly gain confidence by putting yourself in increasingly difficult situations.
This list worked for me, and I hope it can help some of you out as well.
Step 1: Spin Around Friends And Family
Practicing in a private room where no one can see you is fine, but if that’s the only place you practice then of course it’s going to be scary when you’re in the middle of a crowded park or street.
Start by bringing your poi around loved ones first. They are the least likely to give you a hard time, and even if they do you’ll know that it comes from a place of love. Make practicing a social event; any time you’re just hanging out with your friends, bust your poi out so you can chat and spin.
You might get a bit of that unwanted attention on you, but after 30 seconds everyone will forget about the poi and their focus will drift elsewhere. Once that happens, it’s a lot easier to loosen up and start spinning how you want to.
Step 2: Go To Parks With Friends
It’s always easier to have some base level confidence, which you can derive from having friends with you. It makes it look like you’re all out doing something, which makes it easier for your brain to accept spinning as a normal thing to do.
It also means that passer-by’s looks won’t be directed solely at you, but at the group as a whole.
PS. This is also a great way to always feel like you’re making progress even when you’re just relaxing with your friends.
Step 3: Go To Empty-ish Parks Alone
At some point you’re going to have to rip the band-aid off and go spin on your lonesome. Hit a park that you know isn’t ever busy, or go at non-peak hours. The bigger the park the better, because if someone does show up, odds are they won’t loiter around you.
This gets you used to exposing yourself because you’re in a public place, but there’s still comfort in knowing that hardly anyone is going to see you or interact with you.
Step 4: Spin In Different Locations
This is an important step if you really want to be comfortable wherever you go. Practicing in the same place is fine, and it grows confidence for when you’re there. However, if you go elsewhere you might find that the insecurities come back because your brain isn’t used to its new surroundings.
If you make an effort to spin in as many different situations and locations as you can, I guarantee that you’ll quickly start forgetting about where you are or who’s around you and just start spinning.
Step 5: Bring Your Poi Everywhere
I’ve said this before in previous articles, but it’s some of the best advice I can give for a number of reasons.
If you always have your poi you never have an excuse not to spin if you feel so inclined. And if you don’t feel inclined, be brutally honest with yourself about the reasons you might not want to.
Often times, I find the unwillingness to spin originates from being afraid of doing it in my surroundings. This will quickly morph into a stream of rationalizing thoughts like, “It’s too crowded, it’s too inconvenient, maybe I’ll find a better spot, I’ll have to get them from my backpack, etc.”
The trick is realizing these thoughts and being able to shut them down and spin anyway.
Step 6: Do It A Lot!
As with anything, getting comfortable spinning poi in public means spinning in public a lot. There’s no real shortcut other than this. Everyone is at their own comfort levels, so remember to go easy on yourself and give yourself credit when you overcome something.
It doesn’t matter if your best mate is confidently spinning fire in front of a thousand people; if you were scared of performing in front of your siblings but just invited your aunt and uncle to watch you spin, you’re killing it. Focus on your own progress, and no one else’s.
Step 7: Build Your Skills
The better you are at something, the more confident you’re going to feel while doing it. That’s not to say you need to be showing off or performing all the time. If you are, you aren’t going to make as much progress with your skills because you’ll tend to stick to moves you know well so you don’t screw up and look bad.
To get better at poi, you have to be willing to mess up over and over again, which doesn’t look impressive to a crowd. Still though, having a good talent base will always be in the back of your mind, helping give you the confidence to mess up without fear.
I wrote this article using entirely my own experience. At this point, it is almost nostalgic looking back at how reserved I was when it came to public spinning.
I have to say, the most important realization that I solidified in my head is that people really don’t care. It’s hard enough to keep people’s attention when you’re performing for them, and it requires careful choreography to hold it for even five minutes.
So if you’re ever at a park and hesitant to pull out your poi because there’s a group of people hanging out across the field, remember that you’ll get a max of one head-turn out of each person before being completely forgotten.
Pull them out and spin!