The world we live in is full of propaganda and media telling us what we should look like, dress like and be like, especially in the dance world. We are told that we should have a certain body type to be taken seriously as a dancer. As dancers, we can often feel like our value and worth are dependent on what our bodies look like, so we spend our lives trying to fit into that mold, doing whatever it takes. Not eating, over-working out, etc. Truth bomb: Your reflection does not determine your worth!! As a dancer or as a man or woman!
A negative body image always comes from a place of fear. Fear that in some way, we won’t measure up. But what are we measuring ourselves against? That fear comes from two places:
Comparison & Expectations
Comparison keeps you small. You diminish yourself every time you compare yourself to another person. You slowly chip away at the beauty in yourself. As long as you are comparing, you will never feel good enough. We were never meant to be exactly the same as each other. That is part of our purpose in this life, to uncover what our strengths, beauty and truths are and then live those to the fullest, unashamed! There will always be more. Someone that has more money than us, that is more flexible than us, that is skinnier that us. The vicious comparison cycle never ends. You have to stop it.
Expectations are often placed on us by others, especially in the professional dance world, but most of the time we place the expectations on ourselves. And usually they are ridiculous and rigid. We set up these expectations based on things we have seen or believe, when in fact they are not reality. We have to stop should-ing all over the place. I “should” be doing this or I “should” look like that. Who says?? Let go of those expectations and accept your truth and the truth of this moment.
We have to redefine what beauty and health mean to us. Is beauty only reflected in what something or someone looks like? Is health defined as being skinny? No! A dancer's’ body is an instrument for their benefit, not just something to be admired on stage. Beauty comes from what our bodies can do, not from what they look like.
Here are four things to implement into daily life to help change the way we see body image:
Making the mind + body + spirit connection. We can connect our minds by being conscious and aware that media and dance can portray body image in a way that is not realistic or healthy. Staying aware of yourself and your truth can help fight the comparison and expectations. We can connect our spirits by doing those things that remind us of our divine nature and power. Prayer, meditation, or whatever you use to tap into that truth that you have a purpose beyond what you look like. And connecting our body by building strength, health, and self control. Make the purpose of health and taking care of yourself be because your body is where your soul resides. It is an instrument rather than an ornament.
Write a list of things that make you unique. The more you can come up with that aren’t body and looks related, the better. Put it somewhere that you can refer to it when you are in a negative place with your body. Be proud of the uniqueness that is you!
Make decisions based on your body from a place of love, not fear. Are you exercising because you think you are too fat to do a really good grand jete or because your flabbly stomach is hanging over your dance pants? Or are you exercising because you love how it gets those “feel good” endorphins going and how much energy you have afterward? Are you choosing to skip two meals a day so you will look better in your costume or are you eating healthy foods to fuel your instrument so you can make beautiful art on stage? Be aware of your choices and then start making them with love.
Change how you talk to yourself. Be aware of your thoughts and recognize when they are shameful and negative. If you are aware then you can make the change. The way most of us talk to ourselves, we would never say those things to our friends or people we loved. When you find yourself thinking those negative thoughts, immediately replace them with a positive one.
I love this quote by Melissa Ambrossini from her book Mastering Your Mean Girl, “All that matters is how you feel within yourself and how you take action everyday to live a happier and healthier life.”
Coming to love your body is a journey, but learning to do so can bring you freedom.