I’ve never looked at myself naked in the mirror and thought, “I’d hit that.”
In fact, the better part of my 41 years as been spent trying to eat less, workout more, and staring daggers into every clothing label ranging from a size 1 to 10 since the women’s clothing industry seems to thrive on making a woman’s self worth attached to a number most likely derived from a team of interns stoned on some serious Wizard of Oz kind of weed.
And this is precisely why yesterday, I stood mostly naked in front of 11 people.
I’m taking an acting class at Black Box here in Chicago right now. From day one, I’ve been challenged to be more by doing less (because I’m already enough). I’ve been given permission that I haven’t been given in daily life — to do, feel, and say everything we’re not usually allowed to on account of social decorums. Why?
Because people don’t pay $60 to watch an actor act.
We were challenged to bring in an activity that scared us to perform. Something that challenged each of us to a new level of scary.
And I couldn’t think of anything scarier than standing (mostly) naked while 11 people sat in judgement of my 41-year-old body.
So I did. That’s what I did. I decided to get dressed for a date, all the while having to interact with a scene partner doing the requested exercise.
Here’s how that went.
I laid out all of my clothes. My prettiest dresses — the ones I feel beautiful in. My favorite sexy shoes (thank you, Donald. J. Pliner and Charles David). Strapless bras in a few colors. And of course, Spanx.
I took off my jeans and top in front of the mirror, clad only in my bra and undies, and grabbed the Spanx (as one does). I pulled them on and while pulling them up…
I was instantly deflated. You’re kidding me, right? I’m putting on the Spanx because I already feel like my “enough” is too much and you’re going to RIP on me?
Fat, fat, fat, fat, fat. I just stood there and fought back tears. Emotionally ruined by a rip.
And then there came a knock at the door (which I had to go answer), and my scene partner takes one look at me standing there in my blue bra and high-waisted (and RIPPED) ragged, nude-colored Spanx…and starts laughing.
There wasn’t once for the entire duration of the scene that I noticed the nine people in the audience. Even after I’d continued my process of getting dressed, taken off one bra and put on another.
When the scene was over, I was drained. Wiped out like my chances of ever being a successful actor in my father’s eyes (much less a successful female actor because, “That’s a tough row to hoe, especially if you’re a woman” — thank you weekend catch up conversation with Dad. Sigh.).
“You have to own that you’re not perfect.”
Those words were spoken by our instructor a bit later in the evening and I jotted them down in my notebook.
For every fear I had of having 11 people sit in judgement of the sandwich I ate for lunch — not to mention 41 years worth of sandwiches — something happened and I realized that I’m not perfect. That this body — complete with fan(fucking)tastic store-bought breasts and all — is what I’ve been given and when I’m on that stage, I have work to do.
And that work can only be brilliant when I bring every ounce of my insecurities, competencies, failures, and life experiences along for the ride.
So let me ask: do you own that you’re not perfect?
I had no idea that I’m more comfortable with that excruciatingly uncomfortable concept than I thought I would be until yesterday.
I’m 41 and until yesterday, I’ve never looked at myself as anything but…well, someone who needs a little work (and sometimes more work than I’d like to admit).
Because we live in a society that whitewashes and photoshops the truth. Models never have a little bit of something above the elastic waitband of their underthings. They’re all a perfect size. Our friends are “Facebook happy” and don’t share the bitter and less-than-pretty truths that comprise the other side of their seemingly brilliant and teflon lives.
So today, here’s my one truth — and I know this to be true:
I will never be brilliant — truly brilliant — until I own that I’m not perfect. Neither will you.
Imperfect.That delightfully human side of yourself, that’s the side the world craves to see. The parts where you cave where you should be convex and convex where you should give way. The part where you can lay in bed for hours with someone and not once think about sucking in your stomach because the sheer presence of the person next to you is ever so much more important.
When you fucked up that thing and no one saw but it’s eating you alive from the inside because you should have done better but you’re too embarassed to say anything.
Your triumph over an insurmountable situation where you surmounted the fuck out of it and you can’t wait to share your Wookie-style battlecry of joy with the world.
The moment when you have on no makeup and are, out of nowhere, kissed — and wholly.
The moment when you don’t even notice she has no makeup on and you kiss her because there’s no way you can’t.
You launched something or other and it failed. But no one fails on the internet so you must be some special sort of screwup when you’re not really a screwup at all — just an unwitting victim of Facebook Happy and photoshopping.
Those moments. Those imperfect moments where you dare to stand (mostly or completely) naked and do the work that needs to be done. Whether it be cry or laugh, sit and watch an episode of @Midnight, or look at something you’ve built and be amazed by how completely useless and fucked up it is…
Those. Those precious moments that pursuit of perfection will steal from us because we’re too busy worried about the fact that we’re not perfect.
When we were never designed to be, as being whole and real and vulnerable bring us every memory worth making.
I’m not perfect. I wonder how long I’ve been trying to me. And you’re not perfect, either. But the good news?
Today is the last day you have to try to be perfect.
Instead, be you. It’s easier and more honest. And you are the person life will wholly kiss — winged eyeliner or no.