"Okay Nikki, go grab a leotard and a pair of tights, put them on in the dressing room and meet us in rehearsal room 1."
It was my first day of dance class and very quickly my excitement turned into dread.
"I'm supposed to just wear this, in front of everyone," I thought to myself as I picked up the black leotard and the darkest pair of tights I could find and headed in to the dressing room.
Growing up, I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I wanted to be taller, have straight hair, have a smaller waist and didn't want to be the biggest girl in a leotard in a room filled with ballet dancers.
I started taking dance classes because it was something I had always wanted to do. My best friend was a dancer and if I started taking classes we would be able to do it together. I never really thought about how it would make me feel about my body. Where it should have made me feel strong and capable, it instead led me to thinking that I was the DUFD of the group...the designated, ugly, fat, dancer.
The mind is a powerful place. It can grab hold of your attention, warp your reality and make you to believe that this flesh that you live in, is not just your home but also your worth. That the number on the scale and the size on the dress determines how good you are and how much value you add to the world.
Instead of basking in the joy of being a dancer, I often drowned in the weight of not feeling like I leveled up. Like the dance room was a place I never belonged and dancer was a title that was never meant for me.
Have you ever felt like that? Like your looks disqualified you from fitting in or doing something that you really loved? A feeling that your mind grabs hold of and instead of replacing it with truth, enforces the lies and cements them as facts.
I haven't taken a dance class in over 5 years but my mind is still often visited by the lies. The lies that I'm not skinny enough, that my body doesn't fit the mold, that I need to work harder and eat less. That I'll never measure up and who I am will never compare to our world's standard of beauty.
The beauty of it all, something that it took me years to learn, is that the world does not determine my worth or what makes me beautiful. The bible says in Psalms 139:14 "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works."
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. When the truth of that statement grabbed a hold of my soul it changed the course of my thoughts. I'm not a dress size or a number on the scale. I'm an educator, a daughter, a writer, a singer, a sister, an aunt and most importantly a fearfully and wonderfully made child of God.
My body is not something that I work against anymore but rather something that I work with. The food I eat is fuel for me to be able to have the energy to impact the lives of student, pour into friendships and relationships and to live a vibrant, Christ focused and joy filled life.
My body doesn't define me. It doesn't determine my worth or the value that I bring to this world and your body doesn't determine your value either. Marvelous are the works of God, every single one of them and that my friend, is truth.
"I will shed all of this skin, down to the very bone beneath it, if that's what it will take for you to come to the realization that appearance is not what makes a human beautiful."