When I teach dance classes, one of the things that I always talk about is that, while I’ll be giving choreography, it really doesn’t matter. The dancing is all about enjoying moving your body, and getting the steps right isn’t important in any way.
Inevitably at the end someone will tell me that one of the things that made it really fun for them was that I gave them permission to make mistakes.
I’m going to tell you a secret…I don’t actually have any special permission giving abilities. I can’t give anybody permission to do anything. What I actually do is invite the people in the workshop to give themselves permission to screw up, and some of them take me up on the offer, and they generally have a better experience for it.
I risk public failure all the time. Dance performance is, by its nature, an instantaneous art. A painter works on a piece, starts over, adds to it etc. until they feel that it is ready. They put a sheet over it and take it to a gallery. They take the sheet off and the painting looks just like it looked at home. As a dancer I choreograph a piece, I rehearse for hours, but when I step on the stage there is no guarantee that it will look like it looked in the practice studio.
It goes by in nanoseconds that you can never get back. I could slip, I could lose my balance, I could forget the choreography. I’m a perfectionist by nature and by choice. My mistakes haunt me and push me to improve, that’s who I am as a performer and I don’t apologize for that.
But everything is not a performance, and sometimes being willing to screw it up is more important than trying to get it right. When I decided to move from a dieting lifestyle to a Health at Every Size lifestyle, I had to give myself permission to screw up. No longer was my eating dictated by what came in a plastic bag of microwaveable highly processed food, or a packet of processed pre-digested soy protein shake. I had firmly rejected the idea that Jenny Craig knew better than I did what my body needed. I was not yet sure how to trust my body’s signals, and how to make choices.. It meant unlearning a lot of myths and lies that I had bought (and paid dearly for) and re-educating myself and that meant “screwing up” by my definition at the time – not eating enough and ending up hungry in the middle of a dance rehearsal, eating something that gave me heartburn or made me feel yucky etc. all kinds of “screw ups.”
Had I not given myself permission to do that, then I would probably still be confusing health and weight, hating my body, less healthy than I am now (physically and mentally), and hoping somebody somewhere would just tell me what to eat. What I learned for me was that it’s not about right or wrong, there aren’t really screw ups – it’s a continuum of making decisions, learning things from the results, and then moving on.
Obviously, you don’t have to choose to practice HAES, your decisions about how to prioritize your health and the path you choose to get there are yours to make, and they are not matters of social commentary or morality. If you do practice HAES you may never have the issues that I did, everyone’s experience is different and that’s totally cool. But, on the off chance that you’re looking for an invitation to give yourself permission to screw up then here it is, knock yourself out!
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I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.
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