By Theresa Christine
I started dancing burlesque in my young 20s in New York. From my first gig, I was hooked. It combined a lot of things I love: lingerie, performing, history, glamour, and glitter, to name a few. Every performer has his or her own motivations for continuing to dance burlesque. Mine is to empower women. After performing recently, I wandered out into the audience to watch the rest of the lineup. A woman came up to me, looked me straight in the eyes, and very sincerely said, “Thank you.” I thanked her back for coming to the show and being such a great audience. She repeated herself, and then leaned in close to me. “I had a boyfriend tell me once that I wasn’t beautiful. And I look at you, and I think we have kind of the same body type, and I think you’re beautiful. So thank you.” And that is, without a doubt, the most touching compliment anyone’s ever given me after a show. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I’d accept my body as it is. That’s 24 years of not completely loving and admiring everything I was capable of, and how amazing I looked. I have stretch marks, a little belly, and weird thumbs, but I’m glad that I have all of that, because it’s who I am. And while you might not be able to admire all the wonderful things about yourself right now, I think it’s possible for everyone to get there someday. Here are some things I’ve done that have helped me truly love my body, and I hope they work for you!
1) Look at yourself naked in front of the mirror once a day. There’s no better way to get acquainted with your body. It might feel a little strange at first, but just try not to judge yourself or compare yourself to someone; instead, only observe. Make note of anything and everything–that birthmark on your lower back, the mole on your shoulder, or the light wispy hairs on your arms. If a single negative thought goes through your mind, remember that there are people out there who think you are the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen, even if they never said it to your face.
2) View other women nearly naked. Attend some burlesque shows! You’ll see a wide variety of body types: ladies with big boobs, small boobs, cellulite on their asses, six-packs, love handles, stretch marks, cesarean scars, tight muscles, and spider veins. What’s even better about burlyq shows, though, is the audience. You will never witness a more accepting crowd of every single person who graces the stage. The burlesque scene is a loving one, full of enthusiastic, body-positive people who will inspire you.
Photo credit: David Morton Photo Sheik
3) Make a list of all the things you like about your body and the amazing things it can do.
I love my breasts, even though technically they’re a little big for my frame. I have a scar on my leg from an achilles repair surgery that took years to recover from. I can burp louder and stronger than any guy I know. Hell yes, I’m proud of those things, and acknowledging them and seeing them written down in front of me is an instant mood booster. Sure, there are things I don’t like as much about my body, but there are 5 kajillion other things I do love, and that’s more important!
4) Eat well. I was obsessed with counting calories and eating low-fat foods in high school, and I’ve never had a more miserable relationship with food. I wasn’t enjoying it, and the tremendous guilt I experienced after binging made me feel awful. Now, I just eat well. “Eating well” is different for everyone, so consult your doctor or a nutritionist if you’d like help figuring out what you should be nomming on. For me, I make sure to get fresh veggies and fruits in my body, but I don’t deny myself anything I really want (PIZZA, COOKIES, CHEESE!). Because I do this, I feel happy–never guilty, never deprived. 5) Get outside. A few times a week, get outside just to get outside. You could take a 30 minute walk around your neighborhood, go to a nearby hiking trail, or bike down the road. You’ll get some fresh air, have some great thinking time, and exercise in a fun way.
6) Surround yourself with ambitious people. “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” -Eleanor Roosevelt. Remember that in the grand scheme of things, how you look doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you want to do with your life. If your friends are constantly critiquing others’ bodies, or even their own, you’ll be part of that circle. If the people you’re always around are talking about their aspirations and what they want to do to achieve them, you’ll find yourself just as invested in your own achievements. One of my roommates is starting her own baking business, and the other is managing new projects at her company. If they came home from work and I was all, “Did you see the picture of [insert celeb name here] in her bikini?” they’d be like, “Re-evaluate your life, plz.” Your friends should inspire you! They should make you want to do and be better.
7) If there’s someone in your life sabotaging you, let them know. Although it might seem obvious to you, sometimes people aren’t aware that their actions cause other people pain. A simple, “I feel really sad when you say things like that,” can open up a discussion. I have some friends who’ve told me horror stories of the mind games their exes used to play on them, making them feel inadequate and ugly. Emotional abuse like that is not okay. Your body isn’t a punchline, a punching bag, or a vessel that others can use to feel better about themselves–it’s the single body you’ve been given for this one amazing life, and you deserve to feel good about it. If this person continues to hurt you, then it’s time to question whether or not they deserve a place in your life. 8) Quit trashy magazines. A few years ago, I decided to stop looking at the magazines that made me feel inadequate. I won’t name any names, but you know which ones I’m talking about. The pages are littered with photoshopped models, oodles of ads, and celebrity affairs. Once I stopped allowing myself to be brainwashed, my body image improved dramatically. You have to remember that what you see in those magazines has been perfected, altered, and adjusted for one goal: to sell. Don’t drink the kool-aid!
9) Compliment others often. It just feels good! Sure, you might get some in return, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to see the beauty in other people–their personalities, their capabilities, and the great qualities about them. I try to compliment someone once a day, even if it’s something small. When you start to notice and verbalize the wonderful things about other people, you’ll start to see and love the wonderful things about yourself. The road to self-acceptance is a long one, and just like a relationship with any other person, loving yourself takes constant work. But it’s the best relationship you’ll ever have, so it’s worth it!