“This is your reminder that you are more than your appearance…”
Body dysmorphia defined: you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance- a flaw that appears minor or can’t be seen by others. you may feel so embarrassed that you may avoid social situations (mayoclinic.com)
Alright, I’ve said it once and I will say it again.. I am not a mental health professional and while I have done research and have some knowledge about these topics, I am not a professional and if you think you need serious help with some of these issues, there’s no shame at all in seeking that out, I’m just here to share my story.
It was crazy last week when I put a little question box on my IG stories and asked if anyone had experienced body image issues… soooo many were shared and by people that I would have never expected, as well. I also received a message saying that I seemed so confident, they had no idea I felt this way…
Well let me say, I am a 24 year old woman, single, in the dance world since age 3, as well as pep squad throughout high school, dancing in college, now having a career as a dancer, and possibly trying to pursue further performing opportunities. Body image issues? I THINK YES.
Growing up, I was always hyper aware of the weight and stature of girls around me. Not only did I see it before my own eyes, but once social media came out, you were constantly surrounded by highly edited and filtered pictures of gorgeous women with tiny waistlines and perfect legs. As a dancer, or a woman in general, media has been the thing has shown us time after time exactly what we are supposed to look like and what is “beautiful” at that time… For awhile it was super super skinny, with no hips, no boobs, and no butt, then there was the introduction of being fit and toned, but not ripped, can’t be too muscular! *insert eye roll here* then getting your lips bigger and your jaw more defined. How about now we do want boobs and a butt, but you have to have a super tiny waistline. What about being “thicc” but making sure you’re not toooo “thicc”??? How the heck are women supposed to keep up with these trends?? Our bodies aren’t trends.. They are how they are made to be and while yes you can lose a few pounds here or gain a few pounds there, who are we to judge what the ideal beautiful body is and how are we are supposed to attain that when the ideal is changing every few years… not to mention, all of these celebrities that we look up to for beauty standards that talk about diet teas and training programs, while they themselves are spending countless hours a week getting poked, prodded, injected, and surgically altered, something that most of us don’t have the ability to pursue even if we wanted to…
As a dancer growing up, I wanted to be skinny. Like see my ribcage, skin and bones, no fat, skinny. I looked at these gorgeous ballerinas and they didn’t have hips, no boobs, no butt, they were tiny and toned and thin. What about all those models in magazines, so gosh darn skinny and I just didn’t understand why no matter what I did, my shoulders were wide, my hips were wide, and my ribcage was wide… I always felt like I had too much pudge around my waistline and didn’t understand why even after almost 40 hours a week of dancing, I still couldn’t gain a six pack or have zero percent body fat.
These are issues that plagued me for years, even now to tell you the truth. I got told once that I wasn’t being casted because I had gained a few pounds.. I also got told that I wouldn’t fit a costume because my shoulders were too wide.. I pondered and obsessed for ages on how the heck I could shrink my shoulders… our bodies don’t work like that and it’s been a process to try to accept that.
I’ve had friends get told they were perfect for specific performance jobs, if they could lose some weight, or that they were gorgeous, except for their “crooked” smiles and muscular thighs.. I’ve heard every body part picked apart from multiple different experiences and being told by professionals that you are wrong, you look wrong, your size is wrong, this, that, and the other need to be fixed because you are almost beautiful, but not quite there…
So what’s beautiful? Beautiful is subjective, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, beauty comes from more than just these outside looks and the outside appearances that we have. I wear makeup because it makes me feel confident, I like dresses because it highlights the portions of my body that I’m proud of and hides the other parts. I watch what I eat because I know if I eat the “wrong things” then I will break out and my face will get chubby. I workout because my legs are one of the only parts of my body that I could actually say I’m proud of, and even then, I could pick those apart too…
I’ve told myself that I don’t deserve to be with certain guys because I’m not skinny enough, I’ve told myself that I’m not allowed to wear certain things because I’m not thin enough, that I can’t wear bikinis, that I can’t post certain pictures, that I’m not allowed to eat because I’m not skinny enough… Yeah, there was a certain period of time where I wouldn’t eat before going to work and dancing because I thought it would make me more beautiful if I lost a few pounds… almost passing out every time and being extremely irritable and hangry…
So how do we fix this? How do we start and maintain a conversation around this topic to create a society where women don’t feel this insane pressure to be a certain way to be considered beautiful? How do we ensure that we keep the dialogue open and continue to talk about it and be honest about the way we are feeling?
I can assure you that I could ask any woman walking down the street if they have any body image issues and every single one would say yes, probably a lot of men too. Women aren’t the only ones with pressure on them to look a specific way. We have this culture now where we are constantly shown images of others and what is considered beautiful and what’s not. We pick apart ourselves based on what we see in others and forget how easy it is to edit out a little bit of cellulite or pinch our waistline or elongate a photo. All things I have been guilty of doing.
I’m not quite sure what the solution is, but we can start by being kinder to the women around us and creating a community where women feel beautiful just as they are. No pressure to look a specific way, no reason to feel doubtful about wanting to wear something specific or be a certain size. All of these things that cause us to take a step back and evaluate ourselves in an unhealthy way.
I intend to keep this conversation going and either start a podcast or incorporate it into IG lives with other women that would like to speak on this topic so that we can continue talking about it and allowing for there to be different perspectives.
Here’s my final word. I can’t sit here and tell you to get over these insecurities, or that all of a sudden people will stop modifying or editing themselves on both social media and in real life, but I can tell you that you have to have such a strong sense of self love that you stop hyper-focusing on all the things wrong with yourself. You start being more gentle with yourself and speaking more kindly to yourself. Start loving your body and you body will love you back. We are each built and made and created differently, and a lot of these things can’t be changed, it’s just the way our genetics made us. So learn to be happy, and confident, and beautiful JUST as you are and spread the love because we could all use it a little bit more.
“You can’t hate yourself into a version of yourself that you can love.”