Dancers at all levels struggle with poor body image and/or body dysmorphia, which further leads to disordered eating and/or eating disorders. With the #balletbodiesunite movement making waves throughout our industry, dancers worldwide are speaking out against unrealistic body ideals. But how can dancers truly overcome the desire to fit such an unrealistic mold when the industry continues to exemplify instances of body criticism?
A major part of my program, The Healthy Dancer, encourages dancers to rewrite their body script as a means to gain a new perspective around his or her body shape, size, and goals. To gain more insight into body acceptance, let’s walk through the basic framework I use with dancers on the journey.
#1 Reclaim Your Story
First, grab a journal and pen. Now, think about your body’s history. Do you remember a specific time when you began to second-guess the shape or size of your body? Where did this thought originate from? Was it the result of a comment from a teacher, director, or choreographer? Maybe it was a family member or a friend? If you were told to lose weight, then who was it that suggested this to you? Perhaps it wasn’t a person, but rather an image or social media post you stumbled upon. Once you identify the origin(s) of your negative body image, we can work to strip away the criticism. Journal these thoughts and comments. Let’s face these words together.
Disclaimer: this is not easy and may require support. Consider my 5 Days To Body Confidence Challenge for a network of dancers rewriting their body script. It is also encouraged that you reach out to a licensed professional such as a Mental Health Therapist or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist if you’re struggling.
#2: Make a Positive Mental Shift
Have you ever discredited a compliment? For example, if someone praised your new haircut, have you brushed it off as “thank you, but it wasn’t what I…?” It’s common for dancers to focus on negative talk. Rewriting our thoughts is a major step in rewiring our emotions. This eventually impacts our behaviors.
Build a list of positive affirmations that will help you rewrite your mental self-talk (learn more about this technique here). Once you construct your positive conversation, consider writing yourself daily reminders. My favorite technique? Adding these affirmations as reminders in my phone. Schedule them as alerts throughout your day and/or week. Hold yourself accountable for the changes we work to build!
#3: Keep Doing The Work
I say this often because it’s critical to understand: body acceptance is a journey, NOT a destination. There will be days when you feel great and there will be days when you feel not-so-great. But if you let those negative days overpower the positive ones, then you’ll risk falling into unsustainable habits. This is when we risk dancer burn out.
Whether it means journaling your new body truth, adding daily reminders to your phone, or perhaps turning to a helpful app for inspiration (I like ThinkUp!), you’ll have to continue the work in the long run. For additional resources, read the following articles and comment below. I want to hear about the first step you’ll take towards body acceptance!
- Actionable Tips from a Licensed Therapist
- A Lesson To Learn From Colleen Werner, Dancer and Leader in the Body Positive Movement
- Defining A Dancer’s Healthy Body Weight
- Stop the Comparisons