Inside the mind of a Ballerina


It hurt me. Everytime I would look at myself in the mirror, those words would replay in my head, over and over again. “You’ve been eating a lot recently, haven’t you? Your body has a lot more fat, I can see it in your stomach.” I was speechless. My teacher laughed as the words slipped out of her mouth and I smiled uncomfortably, my face red as a tomato. Never has someone commented on my body looking heavy. 


“Thank you” I said as I walked out of the room to thank my teacher because class had just ended when my teacher stopped me. All the other students were in the room when she spoke. The words didn’t really hurt me until the train ride home where I replayed what she said over and over again. Those words shattered me. I felt embarrassed and disgusted at myself for gaining weight. “Had I gained weight? Was it that noticeable? Do I need to start limiting the amount of food I eat?” It was the start of my issues with body image and my unhealthy relationship with food. 


I had just moved to a new country and started dancing at a new ballet school. I hated everything about it. I never spoke to anyone unless I had to, and kept to myself. I can speak Japanese but since I grew up in America, I felt like I didn’t know enough for me to talk to the other girls. The environment of my new studio was completely different from my old studio where I danced. It felt cold and unwelcoming. I was always uneasy when I was at my new studio. 


I started dancing at the age of three and quickly fell in love with it. When I was younger, all I wanted to be was a professional ballerina when I was older. From a young age I’ve always been very petite and small, and never worried about anything that I ate or how my body looked. After living in Japan for a couple months, I had gained some weight from all the new foods I had been eating but I didn’t think it was noticeable. When my teacher made the comment about how my body looked, that is all I saw in the mirror. I watched what I ate and limited the amount of my food intake. I knew it was unhealthy but I needed to get skinnier. That is what I kept telling myself. If I ate a big meal, I would skip my next meal. If I ate unhealthy food, the next day I would only eat salads. I was miserable. 

I never hated my body until I was told to hate it. 


As a dancer, you are constantly dancing in front of a mirror. With the tight leotards shaping the outline of your body, it is very easy to compare yourself to others and to criticize every inch of your body. The words of my teacher in the back of my head whispering, “You’re fat. Eat less” as I would stare at myself in the mirror. My hatred for ballet grew and I feared that my teacher was going to say something about my body again.


My eating habits and the hyperfix on my body did not stop until I moved from the previous studio I was dancing at. I moved back to America from Japan and found a new studio where I am currently dancing at. I fell in love with dancing again. The feeling of serotonin I get as I leap across the room, sweat dripping down my back as I do an adagio at center. It is the reason why I started dancing. 


Everyday, I still go through struggles with body image but I am on a slow journey of learning to accept and love my body for the way it is. It gets better.