standing in shame...
So there I was, standing in front of a table of prominent casting directors and agents. I had just finished my “audition night” at the end of a month long theater class I paid for. I don’t remember all of the feedback that was given, but what I do remember was the moment that one of them looked me up and down and said “Now Sara, normally you look fabulous, but I don’t know what happened tonight”. He went on to comment about my “unsupported boobs”, how I looked like a Middle Aged Mom and that nobody needs to see that. I remember the others in the room gasped a little bit, some laughed and I just stood there still as can be in the center of the room. I had no idea how to respond other than to put a slight uncomfortable smile on my face and simply nod along. I remember walking out of the room, the other people who were waiting to go on asking how it went and I just kind of stood there, muttering something like “ok, I think but “blank” didn’t like my dress” even though it was so much more than that. My face was flushed and I couldn’t wait to get out of there, I was in shock.
Looking back now I want so badly for that 27 year old version of myself to look that person right in the eye and say “excuse me? Who do you think you are to speak so openly about my body in that way?” I wish I had walked out of the room and demanded my money back because I did not need to be paying for my own body shaming.
It’s taken me a long time to understand how wrong that was. It’s taken me a long time to heal from not just that, but years of body shaming moments. Like when I was told how huge I was at a beauty salon while 7 months pregnant. It seems that it has been always open season to comment on women’s bodies.
The hardest part however is that for so long, I accepted it as ok too. And in fact I am SURE I did my own fair share of shaming others simply through my inner judgement. It is a sickness in our society and none of us have been immune.
That still doesn’t excuse how pervasive this problem is, especially with those who have some power. That night standing in front of that panel, that casting director knew how badly I wanted to be liked by them. He knew how much I wanted to succeed in the business. Whether or not he knew at the time he was wrong (and I truly hope that he does now), he took that little bit of power and played with it in such a harmful way. But honestly, I am not writing this post to make it about him. He doesn’t get to have that much attention.
I am writing this for the girl who stood in the middle of that room and couldn’t defend herself because at the time she didn’t believe that she had enough power within herself to speak up and say “Nope, that’s not ok”. She didn’t know because from a very young age she believed that how she looked was a part of her currency and what she brought to the table. The girl who never wore the dress she wore that night again, even though it had been one of her favorite dresses. How I wish that I still had it so that I could actually put it back on, this time with my unsupported boobs that really are that of a middle aged mom who birthed and nourished her child with them. I also wish I could tell her then what I know now which is that your body, how it looks is never open for discussion and she is so much more than a body and how it looks.
In these last few years of deep self-care work, I have discovered an unwavering feeling of empowerment and passion that wasn’t present over a decade ago. I share this story with you, not to claim my victimhood. Nor do I look to “cancel” this particular person out. Quite frankly, I have some issues with the so called “cancel culture” and how it limits our capacity to learn from one another. I want to point out that it’s possible to go from the girl who stood speechless in that room, to the woman who feels strong enough to speak up, honestly share this experience, even if it is 12 years later. The truth is that I was able to give my power away in that room because I didn’t believe that I deserved to have any. I was in the constant practice of putting other people on pedestals above myself and allowing their opinions and judgement to mean more to me than my own. It wasn’t until I started to really get in touch with myself on the regular that I realized how valuable I actually am and that my voice deserves to be heard, especially when something isn’t right.
I wish this issue was a thing of the past but alas, just today I read about a high schooler who has been experiencing body shaming for being fat in her school theater productions. She was much more brilliantly able to stand up and speak her truth in the moment than I was and I was so proud to read that. I suspect however, that she is still one of few rather than one of many and so I want to say here and now as a mantra for us all “No one has the right to comment on your body”. Not your friend, not your parent, not your spouse, not your boss, not the casting director across the room, or the costume designer taking measurements. No one gets to take verbal ownership over the space that is literally YOUR container. You body, your bones, your skin, your muscle, all of it the packaging for something much bigger than what it looks like on the outside.
I do believe that the path to finding this power to stand up and speak up is directly connected to how we care for ourselves in the first place. If we are taking the time each day to love and nurture and cherish who we are, as we are, we will be much better equipped to handle the tougher more adverse moments of our lives. We won’t be so willing to hand over the reigns of our personal power to those who would use it to cause harm. I recently read a quote that said “Every next level of your life will demand a different version of you”. I don’t continue to shame myself for what I wasn’t able to do back then because I was not yet the version I am today. But I do use it as a reminder often of how far I have come and the work that it has taken to get myself here. I am immensely proud of it. And I believe so strongly in taking this kind of action that I work every single day to support more and more women in their ability to cultivate unwavering self-love and worth so that no one person’s ignorant comments can penetrate that which they can create for themselves, a deep rooted power of self love. This kind of thinking wasn't being taught or talked about back then as much, but thankfully it is now. My hope is that we are currently in a time of major upleveling, in all directions.
On March 1st I will begin leading a group in a 31 day meditation challenge. This is that practice that has become the foundation of my daily self-care and self-love rituals. It is how I connect to the part of me that no one can see or take ownership of but me. I hope that if this story resonated with you in some way that you will join me. You can sign up HERE.
And just because I can, here is a picture of me in THE dress.
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is a Mama, Wife, Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Coach, Writer and Activist. You can read more about her here.