If I told you that body confidence is a current issue in today’s world, you likely wouldn’t fall backwards in shock (I mean, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years in which case you have MUCH bigger issues to deal with first). And if I told you this is a blog post about body confidence you probably wouldn’t think “wow, how original and new!”
Because duh. It’s a blog. It was bound to happen eventually.
Yet I’ve felt compelled for a while now to write something about it even though had no idea what new insight I could offer. But here goes.
I like being the "perfect person" and I've gotten really good at it. Everyone looked up to me as the girl who could handle anything, manage hard tasks, succeed, stay strong. And I saw myself as being an example. I felt that I couldn't afford to show weakness. But what I'm now learning is that by carrying on this facade of perfection, anyone who sees me sees something unattainable. Because perfection IS unattainable. So I've decided it's high time I let some of the cracks show and come out to everybody as the imperfect insecure person I've been for years--I think people will relate to her better anyway.
I’ve had self confidence issues my whole life.
No-duh Sherlock—you’re a human being.
I did in fact have an eating disorder at one time (I’ve actually never told anyone that—what better way to out myself than on the ever private and safe world-wide web?)
I, too, have stood in front of the mirror in my underwear analyzing what needed to be “fixed.” What was “wrong,” where I’d like to lose or gain inches. Pinching at lumps in my face, hips, stomach, back, shoulders, arms; trying to take stock of what I was going to have to do to “fix” it all.
And ironically enough I did all of this behind closed doors while maintaining of a façade of happiness and health and encouraging my friends to love themselves as they are. While telling my clients (I’m a personal trainer) that weight loss was a slow process. While telling them that they needed to lose the “fix it” mindset and instead learn to love themselves as they were and they should first and foremost aim to improve their health—not their physique. Do as I say, not as I do, right?
Here's the kicker. Being a performer means that my body is a crucial element of my job. Being analyzed, compared, and criticized is a part of daily life—an unavoidable element of the job. On more than one occasion I have lost a gig because I wasn’t “right” for it (too big, too small, small chested, too short, blue eyes, whatever the case may be). No big deal—move on to the next audition. Except that:
When you take someone and tell them repetitively that they didn’t fit a role or fulfill the needs of the director, they’ll stop hearing “you weren’t right for this” and they’ll start to hear “You aren’t good enough.”
And when you take a group of people whose livelihoods depend on being “good enough,” they’ll take that criticism hard and start to believe that they are insufficient, wrong, ugly, etc. And that they need to “fix” themselves in order to be successful.
When you work as a performer in any medium, you can’t pretend that you aren’t going to be scrutinized. You are. It’s the nature of the business. And no matter what you do SOMEBODY is going to think you’re “not right.” Somebody is going to think you’re ugly, somebody is going to think you’re too tall, somebody is going to think you’re too skinny, etc. And often times these people will have no qualms about telling you exactly what is wrong with you.
“No pressure, but if you don’t lose ten pounds/clear up your acne/get more built, you won’t work.”
Try adding THAT kind of pressure to the societal standards of “perfection” that already exist and you’ll have a better understanding of why actors/models/singers/dancers etc. often have issues with drug abuse, eating disorders, and alcoholism. You’ll get a better understanding of why we feel guilty about missing a session at the gym, or eating something other than rabbit food and coffee. You’ll understand why some of us (guilty) are weirdly proud to announce “I haven’t eaten anything today” and follow it up with a list of all the ways we’ve physically exerted ourselves anyway.
Over the last few months I’ve been actively trying to pull myself out of this dark hole of insecurity. I am learning to not compare myself to people around me (after all, comparison is the thief of joy—Theodore Roosevelt). I’m figuring out that I, right now, without any alterations, have a lot to offer.
I had to ask: If they think I'm not good enough, am I allowed to disagree? Am I allowed to be confident and love myself anyway? Or do I have to fix myself to line up with their standards (after all, they're calling the shots for actors everyday) before I can be confident?
Anyway, earlier last week I was at the theatre early before Footloose rehearsal. It had been a long day and I was scatter-brained and needed time to get in the right mindset before rehearsal that evening. I went up to the rehearsal hall and played some music and started dancing, stretching, doing some yoga. Basically letting off steam and clearing my head.
The rehearsal room was warm. I was wearing a baggy shirt that kept falling off my shoulders. It was in my way….but I never dance in a sports bra….I don’t have the right body for that….right? …but I guess it’s okay….nobody else is in this rehearsal room…but what if someone walks in and I’m just in my shorts and a sports bra?...they’ll see me….they’ll judge me….but the door is locked…so if someone starts to come in I’ll hear them and be able to put my shirt back on in time.
Let’s talk about this for a minute. In retrospect I can look back and see how messed up this is. The reason I finally felt comfortable taking off my baggy shirt to dance/stretch was because …I could put it back on if I heard somebody start to come in.
I was so uncomfortable with my body that I was willing to make my warm-up less productive for the sake of hiding it. (IN AN EMPTY ROOM) But at any rate, I took off the shirt. And I kept warming up. And I made a discovery that I did not expect to make.
Wow. I actually don’t mind how I look right now. I actually think I might like my body.
Repeat: I actually think I might like my body.
I still had love handles. I still had rolls. My thighs still touched and jiggled as I danced. And it was okay. All these “flaws” I had previously hated about myself were now merely features of the body that had carried me through life thus far. That had run over 1000 miles (I know—my app keeps track ;) ) That was alive and moving and flexible. That was stronger than it was last month. They were elements of this body that can leap, twist, bend, stretch. How cool that my body can do all that? And that it can be trained to do even more?
My body stopped being a burden I'd been cursed with to "fix" and started to be the blessing in which I could live life to the fullest extent.
Why should we expend energy worried about what our bodies look like when we can expend that same energy using them to their greatest potential? When we can travel, run, dance, kiss, hug, climb, tumble, eat, drink, laugh, and sing in this body, why waste time starving it? Criticizing it? Worrying what it looks like?
Now I’m not going to pretend that this was a magical moment of revelation that changed my life forever. I’m going to criticize my body again and I’m going to struggle with insecurity again. My weight will continue to fluctuate and I will be stressed before a costume fitting again. But with any luck I will have progressively more moments like this in the months and years to come.
I will still be criticized. I will likely lose out on certain jobs because of how I look. And while my job as a performer puts me in the line of fire for criticism and rejection, I, myself, am ultimately the ONLY one who gets to decide whether or not said criticism defines my self-worth. Just because I’m not right for a part, doesn’t mean I’m not right. Just because a certain director/casting agent/etc. doesn’t love me, doesn’t mean that I’m unworthy of love (from others or myself).
I used to think that self-love was narcissistic and that the way to be humble was to openly hate myself.
I now know that confidence is not synonymous with arrogance.
Confidence is my responsibility: to both myself and to others.
Learn to love yourself because you are worthy of self-love. Learn to love yourself so that others can learn from your example. Learn to love yourself for the sake of your friends. Learn to love yourself for the sake of your daughters. Your s/o. Your mother. Your sister. Your brother. Your castmates. Your peers. Your future children. Your cat (okay, maybe not your cat.)
Be careful how you talk to yourself. Because you are listening. And so is your friend. Your daughter. Your S/O. Your parent. Your sibling. Your peer. Not your cat.
I don’t look like other people. But I’m not supposed to. And you aren’t supposed to look like me. Or that girl on TV. Or that athlete. Or that one Dad. Or your sibling. Or your parents. Or your best friend. Or that guy who plays a superhero.
Don’t deprive the world of YOU by trying to be someone else.
We don’t fit their ideals of beauty.