Thursday, June 5, 2014

Age 19

I eat. I am a size double zero. I am 5’1. I have big, green eyes. I have straight teeth. I have silky, dirty-blonde hair that shines in the sun. I have abs when I engage my core and a tight little stomach when I do not. I have toned, beautiful legs. I can do the splits, I can run four miles and for a petite lady, I can jump very high.

90% of the time, I cannot see these beautiful features in myself. It drives my friends and family crazy.

I am a pre-professional dancer. I am surrounded by the pressures and demands of this strange, beautiful field.

“Hold in your stomach!”

“Hollow stomachs, ladies.”

“You think you’re working hard now? You’re barely skimming the surface.”

“There is always something to be improved.”

“Study everything. Practice outside of class.”

“If you question whether you want to be here, if you have doubts, then this field is obviously not right for you.”

Body hate tends to be an unspoken necessity to the job description. It’s ironic, because the dancers are the most physically fit, active students at my school. We can do the superhuman, yet most of us can’t stand what we see. Staring at myself in a leotard and tights in front of a mirror for six hours a day does nothing for my body-appreciation. Especially not in such a competitive environment.

I am cruel to my body.

I read a quote somewhere that was along the lines of, “Would you have any friends if you speak to them the way you speak to yourself?” This quote completely describes me. Although I suffered from a nasty bout of EDNOS that was sending me towards the low 90lb range, today I am maintaining a stable weight. I am physically very healthy. The ruthless self-hate talk is all that remains. It is obsessive. It is anxiety-driven. It is unfair.

“If you don’t work out today, you will become fat.”

“You can’t wear that outfit, it will show your flaws. Go put on a baggy, black t-shirt.”

“You don’t deserve two desserts in one day! No one needs that. Eat some fruit instead.”

“You are out of control.”

“You can’t risk losing your figure. You do want a job, don’t you?”

“You are a failure. You will make nothing of yourself.”

I could never speak like that to a friend. Or a child. It dawned on me this evening that some parents do speak like that to their children. I tried to imagine how much worse off I would be if my mother spoke to me like I speak to myself. I wouldn’t want to be her friend or her daughter.

If I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of talk from anyone else, why should I tolerate it from myself? Why should it be something normal to think? It would make me angry if someone else told me that I wouldn’t get a job if I gained some weight. Or that I didn’t deserve two desserts – frankly, when should food be something to be earned? It is a human need.

Here’s to the people who understand what it feels like to be your own worst enemy. The beautiful thing about this is that we have the power to turn it around. The only thing we can control is how we feel about ourselves.