October 24, 2022
There is a trend that I love these days around adopting a body-positive perspective. I am encouraged that influencers and celebrities are touting a “love yourself” message. It gives me hope because I believe when everyone walks confidently in the person they were created to be the world becomes a stronger and more beautiful place. Most people probably have their own body shame story. Whether a loved one or a stranger, was involved, body shaming comments have the potential to derail our confidence indefinitely. I had an experience in my early twenties that almost threw me into a downward spiral of despair, destruction, and depression. I felt compelled to share one of the most intense body shaming instances of my life and how I managed the fallout.
It was a brisk fall afternoon in New York City. I was in my early twenties and had recently graduated from NYU with a degree in Theatre Arts. I had been regularly auditioning since my graduation, along with waiting tables to keep my supply of Ramen noodles flowing. For the first time in my very short professional acting career, I was going out for a TV role. The audition was in the late afternoon; fortunately, I didn’t have to work that day. I took extra care in selecting my outfit and was meticulous as I could be with my hair and makeup.
I grabbed my bag that contained my monologue material and headed for the subway station near my house. After three connecting trains, I arrived at the Fashion District of New York. I found the door to the audition. It was a dingy glass door squeezed between two stores that looked like they hadn’t sold any merchandise since the 1960s. I pushed through the glass doors to the hall that contained an old elevator. I stepped in and pressed level six.
As I stepped off the elevator, I saw other young actors crowding down a long hallway dimly lit by harsh fluorescent lights. The building was musty and dirty but the hall was full of optimism. Nothing was going to thwart my smile or excitement. A few actors went ahead, as I gave them a hopeful glance. Some smiled back; others scurried without lifting their eyes from the chartreuse carpet.
The casting director came to the doorway and announced my name. She was an eccentric woman, a typical NY agent with a shock of reddish-auburn hair and large oversized glasses accentuating her intense brown eyes. She walked to the far end of the room and sat behind a giant desk littered with papers. The room had ceilings that must have been 20 feet high. The windows lined the room, and although they were filthy, the sunshine filtered through and cast a hazy gray light. I waited as I watched the casting director. She wrote a few notes and motioned for me to begin.
I gathered my thoughts, took a breath, and found myself at the end without a hiccup. I paused, looked back to the casting director, and smiled.
Behind her desk, she shifted herself and appeared to huff. Although, I cannot be sure. It felt like she was in Connecticut from where I stood. She looked up, removed her glasses, and began her critique. Her fire-engine red lips, battled over her teeth to clip her words. The words were like knives.
“Well, you are clearly talented. However, if you are ever to make it in this industry.” She hissed.
“First, you will need to get a nose job. Second, your teeth will need to be straightened. Lastly, I recommend losing 10-15 lbs…you know how the camera adds.” She smirked.
It was as though she desired to destroy me. I felt panic begin to bubble up in my esophagus. Hot tears were forming fast, and I was not about to show weakness. After all, I thought the casting director could pounce at any moment and devour what she left of my confidence.
I bolstered my acting skills and nerve, “Thank you for your feedback. Have a great day.” I said with as much cheerfulness as I could manage.
As I left the room, I didn’t bother smiling or even look if any of my friends were there. I grabbed my things and rushed down the hall. I pressed the elevator button and got lost in a blur of toxic thoughts. As I stepped out into the street, it felt like the weather had turned colder. Maybe it was just my nerves. I pulled on my lightweight jacket and walked. There was nothing to celebrate. I didn’t even know what to think.
The terrible landscape of my imagination had been lit ablaze with tar and pitch from the devil herself. As I walked, I ran through the catalog of possibilities.
“I barely can afford to feed myself, much less spend thousands on a nose job.”
“Ten pounds? From where? I am already hungry most of the time.”
“My teeth. If she knew how many times I have tried to save to get that one little snaggle tooth fixed.”
These thoughts gave birth to ever more destructive ones.
“Give up on acting. You just aren’t pretty enough.”
“You could just stop eating. Starvation is the only way to become what you have always dreamed of.”
“Call your Mom; let her know you can’t hack it here.”
That last thought triggered an ACTUAL call to my Mom. She listened carefully like she always did. When I was done with my tearful rant, she asked a great question, “Do you believe any of that is accurate or true?”
“NO” I yelled.
I found myself at a mental crossroads. One road led to self-loathing and potentially destructive body behaviors, the other led to being content with who I was regardless of outward appearances and external feedback.
For years during my acting training, my coaches all reminded me that there is a part for everyone. No matter your size, shape, or color there is always acting work out there. I had one acting professor say, “If you aren’t finding work, create your own. If no one is casting for an all-female Hamlet…produce it!” I held to the idea that if I was too “ugly, fat, or unattractive,” for TV I would simply have to produce my own show for less-than-perfect 20-somethings.
I’d love to tell you that I succeeded in that endeavor and became a wild TV success despite my imperfections. That didn’t happen BUT I did continue to pursue an acting career and eventually moved to Los Angeles where body comparison only leveled up.
When I moved to California, I started a journey of defining who I was. I had already discovered who I was, but I began to be unapologetically authentic. This happened through a sequence of events and choices.
The casting director who attempted to plant a seed of permanent body shame was an acquaintance at best. I decided people who don’t know me personally do not get an opportunity to shape my body confidence or overall confidence long-term. She made a comment (hurtful to be sure), but I had to place that in a category on its own. I didn’t get this type of feedback from any other people in the industry and outside of it. Therefore, I cataloged that comment in the “reviewed and discarded” box. Sometimes we need to do this type of logical categorization with relationships as well.
When I moved to California I was moving for my career but also away from a toxic relationship that had threatened my body confidence for years. I let go of someone who treated me one way behind closed doors than he did in broad daylight if you catch my drift. I knew I deserved more and yet it took a move across the country to actually break the bonds.
The biggest game changer in my body confidence journey was discovering who God created me to be. I never FELT the truths about my value from the Bible, until I started seeking to understand God’s character and divine plans for my life. While I was still living in New York I surrendered my life to do it God’s way. It was only six months, and I was moving to Los Angeles. It was here that I discovered just how precious I was to Jesus.
Through reading the Bible, attending a fabulous church, and seeking to follow God’s ways I started to really like who I was. God had made me with a lot of quirks that I used to think only my mother appreciated. I discovered the more authentic I was, the more people wanted to be in my life. I even ended up meeting my now husband who played a crucial role in embracing my body as perfectly imperfect.
Jesus walked me through this season and showed me that no matter what any person said or thought about my body, He was pleased with me, and He created me uniquely. I began to take care of my body as a result of liking it more. I started personal training, I competed in a triathlon, and I stopped binge drinking and partying to numb how I felt in my own skin. Over a two-year period, I found a balance in my body. I won’t lie and tell you I never struggled with body confidence again, but those struggles were fewer and farther between.
This is why I created the 5 Quick Habits to Build Body Confidence Series. In the series share a little bit more about lessons I learned and implemented to find body contentment from a biblical perspective.
If you struggle with body confidence (feeling good in your own skin), I hope you will consider signing up for the free series. I’d love to hear your story of overcoming body shame in the comments below! If you are still working on building body confidence please reach out so I can pray for you friend.