Spending so much time in the studio, looking in the mirror, you have a strong sense of how you look. However, what you see and what’s actually there might be two very different things.
When I heard about the latest celebrity body shaming, I was deeply saddened. Did you see Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl? Or maybe you saw some of the negative messages about her body afterwards.
What thoughts popped into your head when you saw those pictures? Were they negative? Critical? Did they bring up thoughts about yourself and how you feel about your own body?
The dance world unfortunately does some high touch body shaming on its own. Usually on a much more intimate level. Many teachers and artistic staff give unsolicited body feedback daily. So from the time you’re young, you learn to see what’s “wrong” or not “ideal”.
“Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses:
- What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).
- How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.
- How you sense and control your body as you move – how you feel in your body, not just about your body. ” (From the National Eating Disorders Association)
I think from that last point especially, you can see the importance of a positive body image for dancers – it impacts how you feel in your body.
Disordered eating is like a rabbit hole and unfortunately for dancers it’s a very dangerous, unique and damaging one. Disordered eating is often about control. From what I’ve seen this is true even when it happens for dancers. And it can plague a dancer to varying degrees.
If you’re struggling technically, feeling stressed about getting a job or fighting to recover from an injury food might become that thing you’re able to “control” when everything else seems to be spinning out. Food can also simultaneously become a comfort AND your biggest enemy.
If you are struggling with a negative body image, come back to love.
When you receive unsolicited body advice or feedback say, “ok” and then move on. Don’t let those comments be the ones you hold onto.
Think of Gaga:
“I heard my body is a topic of conversation,” she wrote, “so I wanted to say, I’m proud of my body and you should be proud of yours too. I could give you a million reasons why you don’t need to cater to anyone or anything to succeed. Be you, and be relentlessly you. That’s the stuff of champions.”
So. Much. Yes.
Be proud of what your body allows you to do each and every day. You’ve got to give thanks to the vessel that allows you to deliver your beautiful art form.
*If things have gotten more serious and you’re struggling with disordered eating, seek help from a counselor, psychologist or medical professional.