In about a week, I’m going to be in a play.
It’s a really fun play. It’s short–25 minutes–and has a lot of ridiculous comedy. I get to play a character totally out of touch with reality, and I get to sing. It’s basically everything I’ve missed as I’ve focused on administration and writing over the last few years.
I’m not nervous at all about the play itself. I’ve been memorized for over a week, and there’s not very much (touch wood) that should be able to go wrong.
But I’d be lying if I said I weren’t feeling self-conscious about it.
See, I’m going to be in this play…in a bikini.
Another example on the same theme: Today I was in a training session, all day, about effective presentation-giving. Part of the training involved video-taping ourselves giving presentations and then critiquing our posture, our stance, our eye contact, our voices, etc. Again, I wasn’t overly nervous about it–I’ve had literally decades of training on how to present myself to people (thanks, theatre!). I got great feedback and only a couple of things to work on. Guess what was hardest about watching the video of myself?
It reminds me of the time we first watched the recording of the version of “Cabaret” that I was in. As Sally Bowles, I was confident, unself-conscious, ready to fling myself at my Cliff without worrying how I looked. As someone watching the performance, I was suddenly mortified. I had no idea that I looked like that in that dress. I had no idea that my workouts had made so little progress. How could people have suspended their disbelief and seen me as this ostensibly irresistible woman?
We all know that it’s easy to find the problems with yourself, and especially with your own body. Also that the camera adds ten pounds; also that no one sees or cares as much as we do. I know that no one gets to tell me that my body is anything other than what it needs to be. I know that judging on appearances is shallow and that I should rejoice in how I look because my body helps me do the things I love.
I know it in my head. Sometimes I’m able to know it in my heart. Right now, though, it’s my stomach that is having a little trouble getting the message.
But hey, this is what it is to be a woman in the performing arts. Honestly, it’s what it is to be a woman. Truly honestly, it’s what it is to be a person.
What I’m trying to say is that body issues and worries don’t necessarily just go away for good. You can have good days or months or even years where you’re completely at home in yourself, proud of how you look no matter how you look. And then one little thing can set you off again. It’s really easy to start worrying, and a lot harder to gain back that confidence.
So what am I doing about it? Well, I’m keeping up my exercise routine, which is something I genuinely enjoy and that is good for me. I’m eating healthfully and trying not to eat when not hungry. But most of all, I’m going to play the heck out of this role, and I’m going to send a big “screw you” to anyone who thinks it’s their business policing or critiquing the way I look onstage. I’m going to be there to play a part–a funny part, I hope. If you can’t focus on the way I do that?
Don’t let the stage door bump you on the way out.