I Spent Three Months Away From The Mirror

“I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see” - Jimi Hendrix

 

As a dancer, I’ve spent half my life in the mirror. Literally.

Watching myself grow and change so closely, physically and artistically, has been a blessing. Dance is one of the few art forms where we can visibly see growth and that idea empowers me. But more often than not, the mirror has made me an enemy to my body… and mind.

 

My unhealthy relationship with the mirror began when I started to have a normal but rapid period of weight gain my senior year of high school. My body transitioned from a tiny ballerina to a woman. But this transition was far from a blissful journey into womanhood. It was terrifying. I watched myself closely as I began to develop breasts, thighs, and hips I had grown up thinking were “wrong”. Distracted by a reflection I did not recognize, my mind responded by becoming my bodies enemy. I lost control of my work ethic and the connection I had with my body. I literally felt that I had been displaced from my own body. As if it kicked me out and didn’t leave a key to get back in. Hating what I saw felt like an easier solution than fixing my relationship with the mirror.

 

When I got to college and was surrounded by talented, hardworking dancers with healthy strong bodies I recognized the damage I had done. I had somehow forced myself to believe I wasn’t good enough and that my talent lied in a size double-zero pair of jeans. At first, I tried to shift my focus out of the mirror while simultaneously working to develop a healthier relationship with food. But the habits I had engrained were strong and my mind was sending me toxic messages I couldn’t send back. Hitting delete was going to be a lot harder than I thought.

 

During my summer of freshmen year I knew I was committed to making my career in dance and if I was going to be spending the next three years in a BFA program, I needed to fix my relationship with the mirror. I had never taken more than a month off from dance since I was fourteen years old and the idea of spending my entire summer break (3 months) away from my daily technique classes and most of all, the mirror, was terrifying. But I felt hopeless and desperate and I wanted my body to become my friend again. I still danced; I danced outside in the open fields of my home and on the beach while hiking with friends. I danced when my body told me it was craving movement and I listened to what it had to say. My mind slowly creeped its way back into my body. I fell in love with an improvisation based movement method called “gaga” in which you’re led through a series of different directions to connect the mind to the body. I slowly began to eat and take care of myself better. I listened to my body and let it tell me what it needed. When I got back to school and found myself in front of the mirror forty hours a week again, I relapsed into negative thoughts and judgement. The first few weeks I would leave class in tears, missing the freedom of dancing in open fields and against windy beaches. But every night, I would go home and I would feel compassionate towards this journey I am struggling through as a dancer and a woman. Every week got easier and I began to have control over my thoughts again. I know that my passion for dance is greater than any obstacle I will encounter within myself and I am committed to finding a healthy relationship with my reflection. Whether we’re dancers, women, or just human beings we all struggle with self-acceptance and love. We look into the mirror and allow it to defeat us, but we should all find the strength in ourselves to challenge it back.