Watching (and Loving) Your Dance

I am not a big fan of pictures of myself. Videos are even worse. In the age of selfies and social media this seems totally counterintuitive. I love pictures of my family, but I am usually the one taking them so I can stay comfortably out of the way.

First and foremost let me be clear that this is not about false modesty or backhandedly seeking out compliments from people. I literally, quite honestly don't like looking at myself. I think a lot of people are in this boat. 

It stems from multiple sources. When I was a kid my beautiful, talented mom, every time she saw a picture of herself, would always make a comment like "Who is that funny, fat lady?" I am sure she meant it with humor, and was probably doing that "say it out loud before someone else thinks it" thing that a lot of us do, but it's impact has been far reaching. 

Compound this with the fact that in my head lives a completely awkward 12 year old in a stone-washed jean jacket that has no boobs, a zit on her chin, whose nose is too big for her face and who always, always says stupid things. She is not the popular kid and beats herself up daily for not looking like the girls in Seventeen Magazine. She looks harmless but she can be pretty mean (to me anyway). Here she is: 

So, as I've talked about before, once a week I take a ballet class. I've danced in some capacity basically my whole life (minus a 15 year break from formal study betweens ages 22-37 that is). I've never been a super great dancer, but I enjoy the activity, I enjoy the challenge and it keeps me fit (I have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror, but we'll get to that). Last week I asked the teacher to record the dance we are working on with my phone so I could practice the steps at home. (My ability to remember steps from week to week has significantly declined with the onset of middle age).

When I got home I watched the video. I literally turned it off about 10 seconds in. I could not watch myself. I was SO HARD ON ME. When I could finally muster the courage to watch it all the way through, I spent the entire 3 min thinking about how I looked fat, old and awkward. 

Now my logical, adult mind knows that none of this is true. But in this instance my 12 year old mind took over and I could only see myself through her (completely illogical, unattainable, ridiculous) standards of beauty. Gone was the me who appreciates my strong, almost 41 year old body that I've worked 15 months on to make stronger than it has ever been in my life. Gone was the me who encourages others to dance and be themselves and create good things in the world. 

There was only 12 year old troll me with snarky, dark thoughts pointing and laughing at the fat, awkward, middle aged woman on the screen.

This makes me sad on so many levels it's hard to express, but I refuse to not TRY to improve this area of my life (and maybe help a few other people along the way if I can). I forced myself to watch the video again and again trying on different lenses each time. I tried to look at myself through my husband's eyes, my friends' eyes, my parents' eyes, my kids' eyes, the eyes of a stranger. 

It took me 10 times of watching through different lenses before I could finally forgive myself for not being perfect, or model thin, or perfectly graceful with dainty, perfectly pointed feet.

10 f***ing times.

What is UP with that????

WHY am I so awful to myself? Why are so many of us so awful to ourselves? 

I could go into a deep, long monologue about societal influences and female empowerment and the media and Hollywood and BLAME, but for me personally, that doesn't fix anything. I need to fix this very personal thing for myself, because those other, larger, more insidious problems aren't fixing themselves any time soon. I need to accept responsibility and give my 12 year old inner self a hug and tell her everything will be just fine.

So, in the spirit of modern social media therapy (!) I took a screen shot of myself and I posted it on my personal Facebook page. I put my raw self up there in a public photo. Because Goddamnit, even though I sincerely hate that I'm not perfect, I am frickin' proud of the things I do.

I am not perfect. No one is. But I do some pretty cool stuff. And there is no reason anyone, ANYONE should be ashamed of the things they can accomplish in the world because maybe their thighs aren't as thin as they'd like, or their mid-section isn't as tiny as it was before they had kids, or they have non-existent, saggy boobs (which successfully nursed 2 healthy kids by the way).

So I am trying my best to love me. And it's hard. I know some of you get it. I will never really be able to see myself the way other people do. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing I don't know. But I sure as hell am going to try to be ok with my imperfect-ness. It's a personal journey. And no matter how many times people say nice things to me (a sincere thank you everyone who said nice things on my Facebook photo!), it never sinks in. Maybe someday.

I wish I truly knew why this was, so that I didn't have to spend so much of my life's energy on making it right, but I need to. I need to for my kids and my friends and my mom and my nieces... and yes, even for myself. Because if I can conquer this demon, perhaps they can too, or perhaps they won't even have to deal with it in the first place.

So I will keep dancing and drawing and creating and parenting and loving the things I do, and maybe through that I will learn to love that 12 year old, and then the 41 year old, and someday the 80 year old me. And through that maybe others will learn to love themselves and whatever dance they do too. 

Here's hoping.


© 2017 Krysta Bernhardt. All Rights Reserved.