Whitney Thompson

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

 

The fluorescent lights on the ceiling wobbled in my vision as I pointed my foot in front of me.

“Spot!” my ballet teacher shouted over the music. I took a deep breath and focused on a picture on the opposite wall, keeping my eyes fixed as I spun across the room.  

At the end of class, I was gathering my bag when my teacher put her hand on my back.

“You look great,” she said. “Have you lost weight? Keep it up.”

I nodded, still woozy from a stomach bug that killed my appetite for days. I lost weight because I was sick, not because I was trying to. I wondered, did I used to be fat? Unsure of how to respond, I just smiled and politely accepted the compliment.


The pressure to control my diet in unhealthy ways was everywhere — from my teacher, from comparing myself to the dancers next to me, and from the floor to ceiling mirrors reflecting my spandex-clad silhouette back at me everyday.


When you’re an adolescent ballet dancer standing on her toes, weight matters. Leaping and spinning is just easier when you are lighter. The pressure to control my diet in unhealthy ways was everywhere — from my teacher, from comparing myself to the dancers next to me, and from the floor to ceiling mirrors reflecting my spandex-clad silhouette back at me everyday. Soon, I became preoccupied with my appearance.

Hearing my ballet teacher’s approval that day stuck with me. I wanted to look good and “keep it up.” I started to drink coffee and eat lollipops when I should have been eating meals. I controlled what I ate, but emotionally I was out of control. I had a bad attitude with my parents and struggled to pay attention in school. Eventually my parents took me out of dance classes altogether. I was disappointed, but over time I began eating healthy again.

In college I missed dancing and signed up for a class  — my first in years. It was a type of dance called “Modern,” and the emphasis was on movement in space and emotional expression, rather than modeling my body perfectly after the teacher.


It was the first time I felt free while I was dancing, like I could do what I loved and still honor God. It didn’t matter anymore how curvy my body was.


Growing up I wore ballet shoes that left my feet covered in blisters and skimpy clothes that showed off my body for high school dance shows. In this class, the students and I danced barefoot to bongos. The teacher actually reprimanded us for watching ourselves in the mirror!

It was the first time I felt free while I was dancing, like I could do what I loved and still honor God. It didn’t matter anymore how curvy my body was.

Now, I don’t want to throw ballet under the bus, because ballet taught me discipline and grace. But what I do want to throw under the bus is the notion that the approval of a woman’s appearance by others determines her worth.

The mistakes I made as a young dancer — comparing myself to others, determining my value based on my appearance, hating my God-given body — are things I think we all struggle with as women. They are temptations that we have an obligation to resist if we want to “Live Second.” We can’t love others if we are threatened by them or are preoccupied by self pity. And we definitely can’t love God when we reject the bodies we are born with.

As women, we need to remember that girls are watching and listening. When our body image is our priority, it models that for them. When we only praise girls for their physical appearance, it sends the message that looks matter most.

God looks at us and sees so much more than our appearance. In the Bible it says, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Essentially, what matters to God is our motives, how we are really doing, and how we are treating others. Dancing wasn’t the issue for me, but how I was doing it was. Shifting the focus away from my body, away from the mirror, away from myself, set me free.

 

Whitney Thompson is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas. She has written for several publications including Advocate magazine, Prison Fellowship’s Inside Journal, and Upper Room’s Teen Devozine.

 


 

More from Whitney

Kesha shouts redemption over resentment

Kesha’s emotional anthem, “Praying,” goes deeper with the theme of letting go of resentment. She hopes well for somebody who has hurt her, and it’s a reminder that forgiving those who have hurt us sets us free from hate that can hold us back.

 

I’m an undercover materialist  

In my gut, I know I’m going about this all wrong. I know because I wrestle with discontent on a regular basis. I wrongly believe nothing will ever be enough for my daughter. My double standard of clearance rack for me and on-trend designer dresses for my daughter tells the true story: I am an undercover materialist.

 


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Photo source: eskimo_jo

For Kesha — the pop star famous for chart topping dance songs such as “Timber” (and infamous for her party lifestyle) — the past few years have been no walk in the park. Involved in a lengthy court battle with her former producer, Dr. Luke, Kesha alleged that she suffered sexual and emotional abuse that led to her struggles with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder.

So the fact that Kesha just released, “Rainbow,” her first album in four years, is kind of a big deal. After her experience with her former producer, Kesha should be disenchanted with the music industry altogether. But the artist is back, and believe it or not, many of her new songs have positive messages that we should pay attention to.

With its themes of hope, recovery, and forgiveness, “Rainbow” appears to reveal a complete 180 from Kesha’s former days of swilling booze and “getting her drunk text on” (as she declared in her hits, “Tik Tok” and “Take it off”).

Considering her tumultuous past one wonders: Has Kesha found Jesus?

The short answer is: not yet. In a recent piece the star wrote for Lenny Letter, Kesha shares more about her album and spirituality, stating that to her “God is nature and space and energy and the universe.”

I don’t think Kesha’s spirituality means followers of Jesus should just write Kesha off completely, however. Here are three truths that her album helps us remember:


In “Learn to let go” Kesha touches on the truth that we are broken and need redemption.


“Been a prisoner of the past
Had a bitterness when I looked back
Was telling everyone it’s not that bad
’Til all my [expletive] hit the fan
I know I’m always like
Telling everybody you don’t gotta be a victim
Life ain’t always fair, but hell is living in resentment
Choose redemption
Your happy ending’s up to you”


We all need forgiveness.


Kesha’s emotional anthem, “Praying,” goes deeper with the theme of letting go of resentment. She hopes well for somebody who has hurt her, and it’s a reminder that forgiving those who have hurt us sets us free from hate that can hold us back.

“I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’
I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come”


In Kesha’s title track, “Rainbow,” the artist opens up about trusting that there is hope in the midst of the dark times.


“I’d forgot how to daydream
So consumed with the wrong things
But in the dark, I realized this life is short
And deep down, I’m still a child
Playful eyes, wide and wild
I can’t lose hope, what’s left of my heart’s still made of gold
And I know that I’m still [expletive] up
But aren’t we all, my love?
Darling, our scars make us who we are, are
So when the winds are howling strong
And you think you can’t go on, hold tight, sweetheart”

Looking ahead, I’m excited to hear more music from Kesha’s journey of recovery. And I’m reminded of the power that exists in sharing your life in a way that draws fellow survivors together, reminding us all that we aren’t struggling alone. So what’s your journey of recovery? Where are you in dealing with the pain of your past? Comment below to share your story.

 

 

 

Whitney Thompson is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas. She has written for several publications including Advocate magazine, Prison Fellowship’s Inside Journal, and Upper Room’s Teen Devozine.


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Katy Perry: Witness for the darkness- You read this song and you keep waiting for God to show up, for the ending to turn happy, but it never does. But that’s why I love it so much.
You need to read what Justin Bieber just said about Christianity–because he’s right- I never thought I’d say this: Justin Bieber understands Christianity better than a lot of people I know. And there’s a lot about Justin Bieber’s Christianity that I want.

#simplicityday

Just one more thing won’t hurt, I think to myself, adding to my online shopping cart. It’s a tiny lie, because right now, every surface of my house is covered. My kitchen island is a showcase of unopened mail, a highchair tray covered in half-eaten toast, and toddler clothes that I don’t even have time to cut the tags off of. The funny thing is today is National Simplicity Day, but in all honesty? I want more.

It wasn’t always this way, at least for me and my husband. We took pride in keeping things simple while he was in graduate school. Our financial circumstances kept us from owning much at all. Secondhand furniture? Wearing clothes from nine years ago that still fit? Rice and beans every night? Check, check, and check.

But then we had a baby. Now I can’t take a step without tripping on her stuff. I bought all of this stuff for my daughter, so that makes it OK, right?


In my gut, I know I’m going about this all wrong. I wrongly believe nothing will ever be enough for my daughter


I buy toys that claim to make my daughter smarter, clothes that will garner compliments, enroll her in group classes in hopes that she will make more friends and excel more quickly than the other children. I want the nicest SUV that will keep her the safest and for her to attend the school that will give her an edge in life. I want all the things.

In my gut, I know I’m going about this all wrong. I know because I wrestle with discontent on a regular basis. I wrongly believe nothing will ever be enough for my daughter. My double standard of clearance rack for me and on-trend designer dresses for my daughter tells the true story: I am an undercover materialist.

Becoming a parent triggered this in me, and now it’s a constant battle for me to be OK with a simple life.

Materialism is subtle and sneaky because it masquerades as good intentions. Wanting to belong is OK. Wanting great things and opportunities for our children is OK. But when what drives our spending is comparison, fear of being left behind, or even worse, addiction, we’ve crossed over to the dark side. It’s not about stuff anymore. It’s about God, and not believing what he has given us is enough. Or that he is enough.


Materialism is subtle and sneaky because it masquerades as good intentions.


But practically speaking, how does one live simply with children? I don’t know. I’m a first time parent, and like the rest of us, I’m winging it. But I do know this: Every day I have the freedom to choose. Do I choose to keep my eyes on what works for my own family or allow them to stray and long for what isn’t mine? Do I choose to enjoy spending time with my daughter or do I wring my hands because I can’t afford to throw her the swankiest birthday party on the block?

When I’m “jonesing” for more stuff the most, I try to stop and breathe. Does my daughter have what she needs to thrive? Yes. Is she happy? Yes. What more is there?

In honor of celebrating National Simplicity Day, will you join me in being thankful for what you have already? Let’s enjoy being alive today, the friends we do have, the work we have, heck, even the mess on the counter tops. For just one day, let’s slow down and believe that what God has given is good. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll have eyes to see that the stuff itself isn’t what we want more of after all.

 

Whitney Thompson is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas. She has written for several publications including Advocate magazine, Prison Fellowship’s Inside Journal, and Upper Room’s Teen Devozine.