I started dancing when I was in third grade and never looked back. I bounced around from style to style but once my dad finally convinced me to try ballet, I fell in love. It came extremely naturally to me and I moved up the ranks quickly, getting my coveted pointe shoes within a few years. Before I knew it, ballet became my life; I lived and breathed it. I would dance at least five days a week for multiple hours at a time, all my friends were at the studio, and I was reading books on the history of ballet for fun. Anytime I wasn’t in school or at home I was in the studio. I saved all my money from babysitting jobs to go away for weeks at a time in the summer to dance. I had plans to follow dance in college and eventually be a professional. However, throughout all of those years, I didn’t realize how much dance was actually wearing me down. Yes, I had been through injuries and disappointment about casting but I never knew how deep it went.
It was a subtle start that began with teachers giving me corrections which led to constant self critiques. I eventually began to believe “my critiques” were me.
Dancing led me to constantly comparing myself to others. It started in the studio but towards the end of high school it spread to every corner of my life. I was told I was too big to be a professional and then I started to adopt this ballet mentality into my self worth. I slowly but surely began to only see my flaws; in my mind I was not good enough, not worthy. When I got to college, I decided to pursue nursing and put dancing on the back burner. I was still taking ballet classes three times a week but I was telling myself I wasn’t “serious” about it. When I made this decision I was extremely excited and also slightly heart broken. My good friend describe it perfectly by saying, “It was like breaking up with a bad boyfriend you really loved.” I was taking a step in the right direction but now I was completely lost. Ballet was my religion and now I had lost my daily ritual of self-sabotage. It seems silly, written out like that, but it was my reality. On a particularly bad day, I called my friend and he said, “This is the Catholic in me but you should definitely pray about this. Give it over to God.” This got me thinking. I was Catholic and had been to Catholic schools longer than I had been dancing and I had definitely prayed before, but this seemed different. Why would God want to help me with this?
I rarely prayed or even went to church at this point, why would he listen to my petty problems? In my mind, I wasn’t being a very good Catholic, I thought he should help the people that prayed a lot and go to church more than a couple of times a month. Why would God want to talk with me or help me, when some days I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror? Fortunately, timing was perfect when my friends urged me to sign up for a retreat called Search. It was a weekend to “reflect on your spiritual life, build stronger relationships, and dive into the deep questions of life.” I had done many retreats growing up so I was comfortable with the concept and was not really expecting anything to come of it. It turned out to be an extremely transformative weekend and I learned many lessons that I am still trying to apply to my life. One of the main concepts I took away from this weekend is a phrase that I continue to tell myself daily:
You are from love, of love, and for love.
I was concerned that I couldn’t ask God for help because I had strayed away from him so much. I definitely needed to go to confession, or something, to start over. I needed a redo. I did not feel worthy of His love; I had screwed up too much. As it turns out, God never gets tired of forgiving, we usually get tired of continually asking for forgiveness. When I felt I could turn to my faith, I could finally start sorting through these deep scars. One of the talks given at the retreat really stuck with me. The speaker, discussed being broken and how she turned back to God. She said, “God doesn’t need the picture perfect you. God loves all of you. God loves you with your wounds.” This really hit me. God loves you with your wounds. (And I definitely have some wounds going on).
He loves me despite my lack of regular church attendance; he loves me despite my struggle with my body image; he loves me despite my flaws. I always knew somewhere deep down that God loved me unconditionally but I don’t know if I ever really believed it or really understood what unconditional meant. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go to this retreat and come out totally cured and confident. I still struggle with this stuff daily but it something that I am not going through alone. To anyone reading this right now, I want you to know, even as a potentially random internet stranger- It doesn’t matter what you wear, how much you weigh, how much money you have or whether or not you are a professional ballerina, God loves you at the core of who you are. He doesn’t need all the extra stuff that we continually surround ourselves with.
You are from love, of love, and for love. Now my relationship with God is what I live and breathe for and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When you get off track with your relationship with Him, you are loved. When you really screw up with a friend or a sibling, you are loved. When you tear yourself down a bit too much, you are loved. God is here for you and he loves you through it all.
Do you struggle with having a healthy body-image? Then Read Rebekah Perryman's article: Two Steps to a Healthy Body-Image.
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