(This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.)
A young dancer pulled me aside this week and confided, "I have body image issues."
This always breaks my heart to hear.
Of course, I nod. I know. I can see that you are struggling in your own skin (I think but don't say). I can see you're uncomfortable and that discomfort is effecting your ability to interact with other people; your confidence; and your ability to trust yourself. I can see that your discomfort is inhibiting your ability to move - and this is what I wish you'd do. But moving in a place where you're uncomfortable is scary. And unfortunately, the only way to get beyond that is to dive in and do it. Ignore the mirror. Ignore your own thoughts of judgement. Ignore your fears. Ignore the voices of your past telling you you can't do it. This is terrifying and just the first step of facing the fear of movement can be inhibiting. But you came to class. You took that first step. You showed up. Congratulations!
I think that most people struggle with body image. (I would say women and dancers especially, but there has been increasing research on boys and men having body image issues) We're shown so many examples of what should be, and many of these examples are manipulated, thanks to amazing developments in technology. And, even though we know these images are manipulated and we can see the originals, there is still an internal struggle when we don't measure up to perceived expectations.
So, who is asking you to be __________ (skinny? muscular? blonde? red-headed? taller? shorter?). I've found that oftentimes, it's your(my)self. The pressure is perceived, especially if the people with whom you're (I'm) working really care about you (me) as an individual.
I told this dancer, "Yeah, I get it. I have issues too."
"Yeah... most people do. It's okay, but don't let that stop you. I don't care how big or small you are. I care that you're moving and trying and doing the work to make the dance happen. And honestly, the more you move and the more you practice, the better you'll feel."
That's the funny thing about living in this body... the more we use her, the more comfortable we'll be with her. Just like any healthy relationship, the relationship with our bodies and with ourselves takes work. Practice. Patience.
I think most dancers have had that moment of standing aside and watching and trying to figure out the movement in their brains. AND THEN - the dancers who are successful figure out the movement in their bodies. And we fall. We make mistakes. We look silly... sometimes really awful and uncomfortable - but that's the purpose of the studio and class. We're allowed to make mistakes. And the only failure is not getting back up and trying again. And again. And again. And again...
"We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot." ~Eleanor Roosevelt
"Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free." ~Jim Morrison
"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." ~Bruce Lee (or one piroutte 10,000 times....)
"There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."~Edith Wharton