When Tanisha and I set out to create SPIRA, we wanted to design a line of leotards that would make every dancer feel beautiful in their own skin. We spent years disappointed that it seemed like every leotard was tailored for just one type of ‘ballet body’ when the beautiful, powerful, inspiring dancers around us were all different shapes and sizes. Why do we expect dancers to all fit in the same box (or leotard) while simultaneously encouraging them to dance freely and uniquely?
It just doesn’t make any sense.
The dance community is on a continuous and never-ending uphill battle when it comes to personal body confidence. The reasons for this struggle are complex. It likely has something to do with the hours spent examining our bodies in the mirror as we work to execute intricate movements and nuanced patterns. It’s not a great leap to think the line of an arabesque has to do with the shape of your thigh. (In case you needed to hear this today: It doesn’t!) Struggling with body confidence also definitely has something to do with a very specific set of standards western society has conditioned us to believe equal beauty. There’s no need to spell it out. You already know what you’re “supposed” to look like. This idea could not be further from the truth. The truth? There are as many types of beauty as there are women.
Since being in LA, a city known for its vanity, I’ve realized that even my friends who most closely resemble the “skinny (but not too skinny), fit (but not manly), curvy (but only in two places), perfect” type... still experience lack of body confidence. We are all insecure about something, no matter how beautiful we seem to those who see us for who we really are.
So what’s the answer?
Learning to love your body is a forever journey, the marathon of a lifetime. Sometimes, when you feel far, far, from self-love, this journey can feel beyond scary. Maybe the first step is not expecting the way you feel about your body to change overnight. Try to see it as a process and lean into the journey. Engage your curiosity in exploring how different experiences and influences make you feel about the skin you’re in.
Here are our top 5 tips for building body confidence:
1. Surround yourself with body-positive people.
Finding friends who have a positive outlook about their bodies is a great first step. There’s a difference between sharing our insecurities and vulnerabilities with those we love, and normalizing shaming ourselves. If you spend time with people who can’t stop talking about their stomach, thighs, arms... you’ll pick up on it too.
Try this: The next time a friend brings up something they hate about their body, tell them why they should love it instead and turn the conversation into a positive one.
Find things you love about your body, and say them out loud.
Bonus points: say them out loud to someone else. A girl who loves something about her body? What a radical idea! You might just give the people around you the permission to celebrate themselves too.
2. Look at yourself in the mirror (Naked).
Most of us hate standing in front of the mirror naked. I actively avoid looking at myself when I get out of the shower. Our first reaction can be to focus on the bits that we dislike the most. This is depressing, so it’s best not to look at all, right? Wrong. Stay there with yourself a little longer. Without even trying, your brain might offer you a new thought: you might find something about yourself that you had never really thought about before to be quite lovely.
Gameplan: Spend some time doing your hair, putting on makeup, brushing your teeth... in the nude. You will start to feel more comfortable with yourself in the mirror, with or without clothes.
3. Post-It Up!
At one of my old studios, we had an incredible private bathroom with hundreds of affirmations from other dancers and staff. There were affirmations and love scattered on sticky-notes EVERYWHERE - a colorful explosion of positivity. Changing the way you talk to yourself takes time, but surrounding yourself with the positive messages you hear about yourself can go a long way.
Start writing down every compliment you receive, big or small. (This is useful and fun whether it's about your body or something else). Place these all around your room, on your mirror or in a special place... wherever you’re most likely to see them and smile.
4. Name Your Body Bully
Listen to the negative thoughts you have about your body. If you let them speak by saying them out loud, they might even have a “voice”. Where does this voice come from? Has anyone ever made fun of your body? It could be one specific person or a combination of people. Thinking of this voice, these mean thoughts, as belonging to someone who isn’t you, can help you realize how you came to feel this way and take steps to change it.
Give this voice a name. For example: A girl name Carly told me I was “disgustingly skinny” back in grade 7. Now, every time I’m having a negative thought, I say “Carly, get the F&*! out!” It’s not your voice and it’s not the truth.
Take it Further: The next time you hear one of your friends being hard on themselves, tell them to “stop being mean to your friend”, like you’re telling off a bully. I remember the first time someone said this to me, I laughed out loud and realized what I was doing. I felt seen, loved, and supported... and Carly? She F***ed right off.
5. Smile and Make Eye Contact
Whenever someone makes eye contact with you, rather than assume they’re judging you, SMILE. The truth is, you have no idea what they’re thinking. Forcing yourself to smile can unconsciously trick your mind (and body) into thinking they might be looking at your amazing, glamorous, beautiful self for a good reason. The more you do this, the sooner your insecurities will fade and the more confident you’ll feel. “Fake it until you make it” has never been so true. Besides, that wam smile you just shared, probably just made their day.
Feeling bold? Pay them a compliment. Maybe they’ll post it up on their mirror ;)
What are your body loving routines? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.