You Are a Breathtaking Goddess from Heaven, and You Need to Believe it

Happy Sunday Leaps readers!

I was just hired at a barre studio (See Related below), and this journey to become a fitness instructor in the midst of all of the rehearsals for my upcoming show, and preparation for my time at the American Dance Festival has taught me A LOT.  Not only has it helped me sharpen up my time management skills, it has showed me how to embrace challenge with a positive attitude.

Related: Xtend Barre Training

You would think teaching dance and teaching fitness is similar, but to be honest, they are very different. Dance teachers probably have a better sense of rhythm and timing than non-dancers training to be fitness instructors, however, being an effective and consistent fitness trainer is a lot of work, even for experienced dance teachers.

At first, this task seemed really daunting to me – how can I balance all of these goings-on while trying to retrain and adapt my teaching methods for fitness, on top of going through a lot of personal challenges? I have come to realize pushing the limits of my body, mind, and my teaching capabilities is such a healthy and needed challenge for me. These are challenge I didn’t know I needed.

There is one teacher at the barre studio I’ll be working at who I really enjoy, and at the end of every class of hers, she tells us to hold our hands in “prayer” pose, close our eyes, and tell ourselves “You are a breathtaking goddess from heaven who kicked butt today”. This resonates so much with me at this time of my life. Yes, we are ALL breathtaking goddesses from heaven. Even if our biggest accomplishment today was getting out of bed when we didn’t think we could, we kicked butt today. We have ALL of the power to go and get whatever it is we want!

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At the beginning of 2018, I told myself my goal for this year is to take a lot of risks. In January, I didn’t know how I could handle any sort of risk that put me too far out of my comfort zone. The thought alone caused so much anxiety, it made me sick. Halfway through 2018, I faced unforeseen hard challenges already, and have a lot of challenges ahead of me. Now instead of thinking, “How the hell am I going to do this?”; I’m excited and think, “This is going to make me work hard and I am going to gain so much from this experience”.

There is so much good happening from me taking on a lot of challenges at once, and I’m starting to truly believe I am capable of accomplishing everything I want. I hope you all know you too are goddesses from heaven who are powerful, phenomenal, and capable of whatever it is you wish to be. Embrace your own challenges, and accept new ones even if you are unsure of the outcome. Do things that scare you, and be powerful! And above all else, don’t settle for something less than what you want. Because you have the power to make your situation better (you’re a goddess, remember?).

Enjoy your Sunday goddesses!

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How Dance Helped Me Survive Anorexia (and Literally Everything Else)

My body has been through A LOT. I’m not just talking about injuries due to accidents that happen in life. I mean, my body and I have survived significant damage and abuse as a result of the actions of other people, and as a result of my four year battle with anorexia nervosa. I was 12 years old when I first noticed there was a disconnect between my body and my mind, and it later manifested into a full-blown eating disorder by the time I was 16. The only constant throughout my entire life is dance, and due to some unfortunate recent events, I feel it is important I share with my followers why dance has saved my life throughout my eating disorder, and the abuse I’ve suffered at the hands of others.

I am a professional dancer, and I have been involved with dance since I was 10 years old. Currently I am 22 years old, and I was 16 when I was admitted inpatient for anorexia. The program I attended was super strict, and I couldn’t even stand up for longer than 10 seconds before a nurse or tech would tell me to sit down. The two weeks I was inpatient, I grew increasingly antsy and upset that my E.D. had interfered with my passion for dance. I was prepping for senior year of high school, and auditioning for college programs, and I was alarmed that my summer potentially would not be spent being able to dance or work toward my goals. Dance was always the one constant in my life, and even with my eating disorder, exercise and dance were always positive places of solace for me, instead of outlets for negative behaviors.

“Dance gives me something to live for, a fulfillment I can’t find anywhere else”

For my whole treatment plan, I set my goal to be able to dance again, and to devote my positive energy and focus into dance as motivation to get better and stay healthy. I even was able to get special permission to attend my dance classes so I could finish my recital that year. With the help of my treatment team, I was able to keep my intake levels accurate and my weight gain on track while I finished my studio season. That summer, my outpatient team even helped me meal plan and prepare me for a dance intensive at a college I was interested in attending after graduating high school. I went to that dance intensive, and the experience changed my life. I had never been so motivated to live my life for myself and for my art which is dance.

I later auditioned for that college, was admitted into the school and dance program on a merit and dance performance scholarship. Four years later, I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in dance performance, a B.A. in psychology, and a minor in dance/movement therapy. I am now performing professionally, teaching dance, and looking into dance/movement therapy graduate school. Dance truly helped save my life, and I am forever grateful that dance was a part of my experience with my eating disorder. Dance gives me something to live for, and a fulfillment I can’t find anywhere else.

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I’ve FOUGHT for years to have a healthy relationship with my body. I treasure and value my body, and try to practice body compassion every day of my life. When someone or something happens that puts my body in a vulnerable, compromised, or damaging position, I must remove myself from whatever negative stimulus is causing me and my body harm. Toxic people, situations, and stress only lead to that mind/body disconnect I suffered for so many years as a kid and young adolescent. I have come too far into my recovery and my life to allow myself to tolerate any sort of abuse or direct harm to my body and mind. I’ve come too far in my dance career to allow an eating disorder or other people to abuse my body.

Dance gives me a purpose and a reason to rise out of bed every morning. Life is truly so much better when I can dance through it, and I am blessed and very lucky to have discovered my love for dance at such a young age.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, the link below will direct you to the National Eating Disorder Association’s confidential Helpline

NEDA Eating Disorder Helpline

Until next time,

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My Manager Body-Shamed Me at Work – Here’s What I Learned

I’ve worked in retail the past four consecutive years. Recently this summer, I switched my retail job from a popular retail chain to a new retail store that just opened in the mall I work at. I like this new job, it pays better than what I was previously making, and I’ve met a bunch of wonderful young women who I enjoy working with. The only bad experience I’ve had, however, was a time when my manager made a remark to me about my body and compared my body to hers.

The day this happened, I had just worked a four hour shift as the fitting room attendant (I was actually covering for someone who called out and wasn’t supposed to work that day). After my shift, I decided to try on a few cute tops and rompers we have because I was in need of a cute outfit for a trip to Georgia I am taking later this month. My manager on duty (or MOD) was helping me find sizes and she said,

“One rule: You have to show me everything you try on!”

I was thankful for her help and I was also excited to get a second opinion on how things fit.

I didn’t know what size I was in our clothes, and the store I work at has a full run of sizes ranging from XXS to XXL. We don’t carry many XL or XXL sizes in store, but there are some available on the sales floor. The funny thing about women’s clothes that all of us women can relate to, is that no matter what brand, store, or size of garment you are trying on, it is going to fit differently than when you tried the same garment on at another store. In some cases, even the same size of the same garment can fit differently in the same store. This happens to be the case for the store I work in. I wasn’t sure if I was a small, medium, or large in rompers or tops, so I grabbed a few sizes, and whatever else I needed, my MOD grabbed for me.

I tried on a few different tops, and I came to one top that was a peplum fit and a size medium. It was loose in the chest area, and my MOD was in the fitting room waiting for me to show her what I tried on. She saw that the chest area was loose, and ran to grab me a size small. The romper I tried on earlier was a size medium and fit perfectly, but as I said before different garments fit my body differently, so I was hopeful the small would fit better.

My MOD came back into the fitting room with a size small in the top and I proceeded to go into my dressing room and try it on. As I came out, I noticed another fellow employee was in the fitting room to see how the top looked (and to open rooms for customers since my shift had ended 20 minutes earlier). The small top fit a lot better than the medium in the chest area, but I didn’t like the way the peplum fit cut my torso. I am 5’8” and have a long torso and long legs – peplum is not meant for my body. I ask my MOD what she thought of the blouse and she said something so incredibly ignorant I still can’t wrap my head around it five days later.

She said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”

I assumed what she was about to say. A lot of the time I work with this MOD, she always made comments about her weight or how small she is.

“This is why I can’t shop in our store.”

I wasn’t expecting this response and gave her a puzzled look, not understanding. So she elaborated –

“Well Julia, that’s a small. Look at me.”

This MOD is 5’3” and probably weighs around 105 lbs.

Now my MOD said this not only in front of me and my fellow employee, but also in front of the mothers waiting in the hallway of the fitting rooms for their daughters. I not only felt embarrassed for a moment, but also shocked she would have the audacity to say this to me in front of customers and fellow employees while she was working.

My MOD is not only 27 years old (she is a grown-ass woman), but she also has a college degree and is looking into graduate work. She lives in an apartment and pays her own bills. She is by no means an un-educated woman. She loves to read and always has her nose in a book. I actually admired this MOD until she made this comment to me.

Fortunately for me, I have really thick skin. I’ve dealt with body-image issues for basically most of my pre-pubescent and teenage life. I’ve shared this with this MOD in private conversation previous to the day she made her comment. I shared with her that at 16 years old, I was hospitalized for anorexia nervosa, and had suffered eating issues since I was a kid. Not only was this MOD’s lack of professionalism, empathy, or decency appalling, but her crass and insensitive approach to her comment and comparison of her body size to mine brought me to a couple of realizations.

Realization #1: This woman clearly didn’t think about the power of her words before she spoke. In retrospect, when I think back to all the conversations her and I have shared thus far, I realize every single conversation involved her making one or more comments about her weight, her size, or how small her body’s proportions are.

Realization #2: This comment was intended to hurt my feelings and make me feel bad. I am not saying this woman is a bad person, or even a mean woman for saying this to me. What I will say, though, is that her disclaimer, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but..” really didn’t do anything to soften the blow of her words. How was I supposed to take that comment? Is there any “right” way to take a comment like that? I believe the answer is no. The comment she made was pointless and was not needed in the discussion of clothes I am buying for my vacation. Additionally, as I mentioned before, our clothes fit differently depending on the garment. There are definitely clothes she could fit into in the store. Yes she is tiny, but she isn’t too small for any of the clothes in our store. Thus, her comment was totally uncalled for and unnecessary.

Realization #3: This woman might have some unresolved body-image issues and I feel awful that she is in that position. I used to be in a position where I felt so badly about my body, I made sure I was skinny enough so people made comments about how small I was. In my eating-disordered state of mind at the time, my disease needed that recognition in order to fuel itself. I needed people’s approval of my size. I’m not saying this woman has an eating-disorder and I am not trying to diagnose anyone, but I know when women body-shame each other, it is so they feel better about themselves – it’s as simple as that. Nonetheless, although I felt bad for her because she seems like she is self-conscious about her own weight (as many women are), I became extremely grateful I have been strong enough to fight through my illness and become the healthy, able-bodied woman I am today. Not only have I fought to be healthy and strong enough to maintain my perfectly-normal-sized body through college (I’m entering my junior year and am a dance major on a performance track), I have fought to be able to filter my own thoughts on my body-image and push through negative emotional obstacles.

What I learned through this experience is that no matter how hard you fight through your own issues, there is always going to someone going through their own issues. Sometimes people take their own insecurities and self-aggressions out on others because they don’t know how to handle what they are going through. I always try to look at the positives when I come face-to-face with challenges to my recovery such as this, and this is going to sound strange, but I am grateful this MOD said those words to me. It could have been another employee of ours who was trying on clothes who isn’t in a stable or self-loving state-of-mind, and the harsh and ignorant words of this MOD could have cut her to the core. It could have even been the last straw to throw another girl over the edge and push her to try to drastically change the way she looks. I also think this experience was a big stepping-stone for me in my own recovery – I was strong enough to take the MOD’s words with a grain of salt and not let them disrupt my own happiness or thoughts about my own body.

As women, I am a firm-believer we should be lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down. We need to be each other’s cheerleaders if we want to see progress in women’s issues, and also to have a stronger identity as women. There is power in numbers. If women stopped shaming each other and started appreciating each other for all of their similarities and differences, there could be some awesome progress in the advocacies that effect women today. Gender issues aside, I think we also should remember the golden rule our parents used to tell us as kids – If you don’t have anything nice to say, refrain from saying it at all. You never know how your words will effect someone.

A Productive Summer Break – Things That Make Me Happy

Hey y’all! I’ve been thinking lately how I’ve been doing a good job of keeping myself busy this summer. Not only did I take a summer class (and pass it with top marks, might I add), I got another job that I LOVE, I started this blog, I renewed my library card (THE BEST IDEA I HAD ALL SUMMER), I started working out at least three times a week at my gym, I started going to yoga class a lot more, I’ve written countless letters to my love, and on top of it all, I’ve been able to catch up on Game of Thrones! That is a few of the many fun things I’ve been doing to keep distracted and busy while summer break is underway.

A lot of the things I have listed above are activities that make me happy. I have gone through a lot of my teenage years struggling to find myself and the activities I value most and the activities that make me the most happy. As my 20th birthday approaches at the end of this week, I decided I’d write a list out (not just for you readers, but mostly for myself) listing some of the many activities, people, and items that make me a happy Julia. I will try to utilize the list to make my summer even more productive and meaningful for me. I also think writing this list out is cleansing. In the stressful world we live in, I find myself sometimes questioning what really makes me happy anymore. When I try to be superwoman and do a billion things at one time, I lose sight of the things I value and love in life. Sometimes, as the cliché goes, I have to sit back and smell the roses – well in my case, daisies. I love daisies!

What are activities or objects that make you all happy? You should write a list and try to do those activities or find time for those people at least once this summer! What is life without indulgence, right? I don’t think doing things that make you happy is over-indulgent though. It is important to keep yourself happy and satisfied – unless it’s at the expense of others’ happiness, which in that case I advise you to find other healthy activities to do. Regardless, keeping yourself happy is key to a healthy life.

Things That Make Me Happy (In no real particular order)

  1. My family
  2. DANCING
  3. My friends from high school
  4. My boyfriend
  5. My dog
  6. Animals in general
  7. Food – good food, healthy food, junk food, cheesy food, FOOD
  8. Books/the library
  9. Traveling
  10. Writing
  11. Going to church/praying/Jesus Christ
  12. Working out
  13. Yoga
  14. Boating on the lake
  15. MUSIC
  16. Floral print shirts
  17. Colored jeans
  18. High-rise anything
  19. Taking photos
  20. Cuddling
  21. Hearing people laugh – especially my little brother
  22. Playing the ukulele
  23. Hiking
  24. Helping other people/Making other people smile
  25. Trips to go get ice cream or frozen yogurt
  26. Build-Your-Own Salad/Wrap bars
  27. Any type of arts and crafts activity, like knitting or smashbooking or DIY projects
  28. Driving on a sunny day with my sunglasses on and good music playing
  29. Monetarily being self-sufficient
  30. Baking anything sweet or cooking a yummy meal
  31. GAME OF THRONES
  32. All of the holidays!! Especially: Halloween, Christmas, and New Years
  33. Sleeping
  34. Iced teas, milk teas, bubble teas, hot teas
  35. And on that note, coffee (hot or iced or blended)
  36. Even further on that note, smoothies!
  37. Cozy socks
  38. Vitamins
  39. Warm blankets
  40. Movies, any kind as long as they are quality! But a “B” movie is good occasionally too!
  41. Daisies, sunflowers, daffodils
  42. Stud earrings
  43. Getting good grades in school (and by good grades, I mean pushing myself to get all “A’s”)
  44. Listening to live music
  45. Going to the chiropractor (If you’ve never had muscle stimulation, you’re missing out)
  46. Hugging my loved ones
  47. Makeup (doing it, buying it, playing with it, following tutorials, etc.)
  48. Spending time with my grandparents
  49. Broadway shows
  50. Blogging
  51. Going to the park
  52. Poetry
  53. Autumn leaves, pumpkins, hay, ANYTHING FALL RELATED
  54. Pinterest-planning my wedding day (which will be in the fall, of course)
  55. Disney!
  56. 1940’s-1950’s era clothing, music, memorabilia, etc.
  57. Seafood and shellfish
  58. Babysitting my baby cousins (I love working with kids in general!)
  59. Vera Bradley (I am a crazy fan of her pocketbooks)
  60. Massages