Lacey and Brianne, We Need to See You in My Office…
I remember the conversation vividly. It was a Wednesday right after our morning schedule of dance classes. My 16 year-old self and my best friend, Brianne, were called into the artistic director’s office. We didn’t know what to expect. We knew we hadn’t done anything wrong. We’d been taking non-stop dance classes all week from a guest choreographer and were having the time of our lives learning his amazing repertoire. Surely, whatever she and her husband had to talk about had to be about something good…
Artistic Director: We need to have a difficult conversation… We know this will be hard to hear, but we love you both SO much and only want the best for you.
Me and Brianne: *Nodding our heads*
Artistic Director: After talking with guest choreographer who will remain nameless, he confirmed what we’ve thought for awhile, but never wanted to address with you because we know it’s a sensitive subject.
Me and Brianne: *Nodding our heads*
Artistic Director: He thinks, and we agree, you two have a lot of potential – the most potential out of all the dancers in the company, but what is holding you back now and what will hold you back from being hired by companies in the future is your weight. We think both of you need to focus on losing at least 20 lbs.
Me: *trying to stay calm and just breathe*
Brianne: *tears welling up in her eyes*
Artistic Director: Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah….
That’s about all I heard after that. As soon as we were dismissed, we jumped in the car and drove straight to Taco Bell. Brianne got a taco salad thinking that was the healthy option and I got a Chili Cheese Burrito, Mexi Melt, Cinnamon Twists AND a Dr Pepper. HA! Take THAT, Mrs. Artistic Director! You tell me I need to lose weight? Fine. I’m gonna do the exact opposite! Binge till my stomach is full and my heart stops hurting.
Hello, Shame. It Sucks to Officially Meet You.
My screw you attitude was in FULL flight, but deep down – I knew they were right about me. Now, Brianne, on the other hand, was already thin. I think I was more pissed at them for telling her she needed to lose the same amount of weight as me. But, whatever. Anyways…
My artistic director confirmed what I had told myself my whole life. I was too fat to be a professional dancer.
That moment, introduced me to shame like I had never encountered before. What hurt the most was my artistic director wasn’t just my teacher. She was my mentor and my hero. I wanted to be her when I grew up. I know she meant well, but when the person you admire the most thinks you’re not enough, what do you do then? You fall into the vicious, non-stop cycle of shame – That’s what.
Shame by Definition
I’ve been reading a lot about shame lately. ICYMI, it’s the latest buzz word in the counseling world (along with vulnerability and authenticity). Shame doesn’t care who you are – we all experience it whether we realize it or not.
A shame researcher (yes, such a thing exists), Brené Brown, defines shame this way:
Shame sounds like the voices in our head that tell us:
Who do you think you are?
You are never enough… and you never will be.
Shame Has Babies
You know what shame breeds? Perfectionism. You know what perfectionism breeds? Comparison.
Just so you know, dancers are some of the most perfectionistic people on the planet. Bless our sweet, little hearts… Not only are we required to have perfect technique, but we’re required to have the perfect body to execute this perfect technique. And, while we’re striving for perfection, all we see are other dancers around us who have better technique and better bodies. Shame… Perfectionism… Comparison… It’s a vicious, non-stop cycle… and it’s exhausting on every level.
And, guess what? This cycle easily transferred over to my career in dance education and full-time ministry. How fortunate for me…
I never thought I was enough…My work, my body, my choreography, my teaching technique, my creativity, my singleness… I am not enough. Unfortunately, shame makes you do things to prove you’re worthy of love, acceptance and belonging… and they’re not always good things. For me, it made me open and susceptible to sin. The kind of sin I could allow God to forgive me of, but couldn’t forgive myself.
Then when you add in my personal shipwreck known as the first eight months of 2016, the shame cycle about destroyed me beyond what I thought was repairable.
Getting My God-Glow Back
On August 9, I made a conscious decision: This is NOT how my story is going to end. I was no longer going to let my story be narrated by shame, perfectionism, and comparison. Something clicked. I decided to be the woman my mother always told me I was. I decided to believe what God believes about me. I decided to get my God-glow back.
I had spent eight months grieving my past, wanting things to go back the way they were before the shipwreck. But, it hit me…. I was a broken, hot mess of a person who never felt like she was enough. Why in the heck would I want to go back to her and that place in my life?
So, I adopted a new mantra I learned from Steven Furtick:
Christ is in me. I am enough.
So now when shame, perfectionism and comparison try to tell me I’m not enough or question my audacity, I literally say that mantra out loud. Multiple times if I have to. Thinking it just doesn’t cut it. I’m sure people who hear me think my crown is a little crooked, but I don’t give a crap. It works. I know this to be true because a friend recently told me I was getting my God-glow back. Ya dang right I’m getting my God-glow back…Christ is in me. I AM ENOUGH.
The Art of Self-Compassion
You know what else has been essential to getting my God-glow back? Self-Compassion. This a completely new concept for me. I’ve been nothing but mean and cruel to myself for so long. If I treated others like I treated myself, I wouldn’t even want to be my friend!
Trust me, I am more aware of my flaws than ever before (and so is everyone else), and guess what? I’m okay with them. I’ve accepted them, and am learning to give myself grace in every area of my life. It’s amazing what happens when you’re kind to yourself. It feels a lot like freedom.
You know what makes me laugh? I used to place such a high value on productivity. It didn’t matter if I was at work, in the dance studio or at home. You know what that was, right? The hustle… the striving to be enough. To prove my worth to myself and others. Guess what is NOT on my list of things I place high value on? You guessed it: Productivity.
If anything, I have learned:
The most productive thing I can do for my heart and soul is be compassionate and kind to myself.
The person I am becoming will always be deeply flawed, but I’m liking her so much better already. She’s kind to herself. She extends grace to herself. For the first time, she’s taking care of her body, heart, spirit and soul. The grace she’s been shown has changed her forever. She’s moving forward – only looking back to see how God has used everything – and I do mean EVERYTHING – for her good.
But, most importantly, she believes that Christ is in her and she is enough… And so are you.