When I was fat, I went to ballet summer courses that were too fast for me, to inspire and challenge myself. I carried a Prix de Lausanne bag. I wore thick slipper socks to warm up. I stayed after class to stretch. I felt like a dancer and was not ashamed to behave like one.
Now, I am ashamed to carry that bag and almost ashamed to wear warm socks or leg warmers or jumpers to warm up. I am ashamed whenever I make a mistake or when I can’t get a combination right. I am ashamed of my figure because for a dancer, I am fat (although I am thinner than ever now, 158 lb.) I have developed impossibly high standards for myself (must do every step as perfectly as possible, must be among the best) and invented weird rules like: Those warm-up boots are only for people with thin legs/you are not allowed to practice penché in public before you can achieve an angle over 135°/Prix de Lausanne bags and t-shirts only if you are an advanced or preprofessional student etc.
It’s silly. I am embarrassed by the way I used to look (even three months ago). The way I used to dare take myself seriously as a ballet student, looking like that. The way I used to dare take myself seriously as a person, weighing 290 lb for eight years. If I don’t lose weight for a week or even gain a pound (like today), I don’t like myself anymore. I have started to identify myself with being thin and hating the idea of ever having been anything else. The thinner I am, the more worth I feel I have, the more right to do and say what I want. I have fantasies and secret wishes to be thinner than certain people, as revenge, as a way to be better. At the same time, I’m having trouble keeping up the (very relaxed) diet. I had horrible cravings last week and felt tired and sad and depressed. For two days, I was ill, mostly lying in bed. All my passion seemed gone. I was immune to my music. I was going to be sad and saggy and lonely forever.
I used to wonder what other women had that made them attractive, apart from beauty. Now it seemed perfectly clear: charm. Confidence, lightness, a quick wit, a ready smile or laugh. I’m far too serious, too intense. Love seems a life-or-death matter to me, nothing to smile or laugh about or take lightly. How can this be attractive?
And I noticed another thing that had changed: I no longer felt as if I wanted a lover to give something to, to share my energy and life with. Now I felt as if I needed somebody to give me something; attention, love, happiness, a feeling of worth. This is wrong. These things must come from myself or I will always be dependent. I want to get back to the other way of thinking.
There are two sides of me, two self-images, and they are both extremes. One side adores myself and thinks that I am a beautiful, exceptional, interesting, deep, delicate, noble, fascinating, wonderful person. The other side thinks the opposite: I’m ugly, selfish, rude, vulgar, stupid, boring, silly, conceited, spiteful, jealous, hateful, greedy, lazy, mean and horrible. I go back and forth between them. A compliment or good ballet class will lift me up, a cold greeting or (even imagined) disapproving look will pull me down into the dumps again. Rationally, I know that I am somewhere in between. I just can’t stay in the middle and be stable. The outside world is a bad reference point, since most feedback can be misinterpreted. I know I’m not perfect, and I don’t’ even want to be. Perfect doesn’t exist. And my ideals change all the time. Things I disliked about myself a few months ago may suddenly seem ok to me now. That’s fine. I do want to ‘advance, and never halt’, after all.