Body Image 101

Author: Alexandra Salerno, LPC, NCC

As a performer, expectations are coming and going from teachers, fellow peers, parents, and even ourselves. Over time, it can become harder to meet these expectations.

What makes unrealistic expectations?

Primarily, this is due to setting our expectations higher, than what we are able to execute in the moment. Within expectations lies the component of body image, and how we “should” be presenting ourselves on stage and in the studio. Within expectations, lies the opportunity for negative self-talk to develop. And within expectations, there is a potential for more opportunities to criticize our body. For an art form that depends heavily on our body as the instrument, it tends to be the first things we tear down when things aren’t going the way we want them too. 

Why do we do this?

This is one of the most common questions and also one of the most challenging to answer. Within performance, there is more of an opportunity to be cast based on our technique, body size, and shape. It becomes almost natural to want to “be like everyone else” and blend into the crowd. Thoughts such as; “if only I had longer legs,” “if only I were taller,” “if I was more flexible … then I might have gotten the role.” It becomes easier to pick out our flaws and yet, we tend to pick out characteristics that we are unable to physically change about ourselves.

What’s next? 

In order to continue to feel good about our performance, it can help to start feeling good about our body too. Reflecting on an aspect about the functionality of our body is a good start! An example may be: “I appreciate my legs because they help me to jump.” This allows us to focus on a fundamental skill, instead of focusing on the physical appearance of our body. Overtime, this skill can assist with body acceptance in the moment and body positivity in the future. Try finding something new each day! Remember, the more this is practiced, the easier over time it will become.

Finding a role model or inspiration can also be a helpful tool. Ask yourself: Is there a professional dancer you admire? What do you like about them? How might you want to incorporate their style into your dancing? By asking these questions, you can work towards being “your best self.”

Remember, there is not another “you” in the world. You are important, talented, unique and resilient. Make it great!