When I was actively auditioning for roles at various theatres there was one obstacle I could not get over. I am tall. In real life I’m actually not that tall – 5’9” is really no big deal. But in the theatre world, where the men involved were probably not on the varsity basketball team in high school, I was a giant. So, even if I had the right look, the best voice, nailed the dance audition and was generally overall perfect for a given role, if the man they wanted to cast opposite me was too short, I was not going to get the contract.
At first I tried to embrace it. I would do monologues for my auditions that would state that I was tall. I wore high heels regardless of how much taller it made me look. I stood up straight and was proud of the way that I looked. But, as the years wore on and more and more roles were lost because of my height I began to shrink.
I started wearing a shorter heel. I ran more and went to yoga less, knowingly compressing my spine. I tried to become as thin as possible, so I was no longer the “tall girl,” but rather, “the skinny girl.” I started wanting to look like anything but myself.
It seemed impossible – height is the one thing you can’t change. If I was short I could wear four-inch heels and solve my problem. If I was too thin, I could gain weight. If I was too heavy, I could lose a couple of pounds. I could dye my hair any color of the rainbow, or change my makeup, but when you are too tall, there is simply nothing you can do about it.
And before it got better, it got worse. An artistic director had verbally promised me a role (and not just any role – it was a character I desperately wanted to play) at one of the theaters where I often performed. But, when casting was announced, I had been replaced by someone much younger than me. Now it wasn’t only my height that was an obstacle, but also my age.
When I discussed this with the artistic director he explained that he had to cast someone that could play a “Jet Girl” in WEST SIDE STORY and the role I coveted in the show that followed afterwards – it had to be a package deal. I understood his situation. At 5’9” and in my early 30s it would be tough for the audience to swallow that I was in high school.
So, after a few tears I picked myself up, tried to forgive the situation, and moved on. But a couple of months later the phone rang. The producer from the same theatre was calling to offer me the role I had thought I had lost. The younger girl had dropped out at the last second, broken the contract and they wanted me to replace her.
I was thrilled! Of course I took the role. And I was told I did not have to play a “Jet Girl.” They would work it out with the cast they already had for WEST SIDE STORY.
I must admit that even though I had gotten what I wanted, I was a little damaged because of it. I was the second choice. I was not the perfect fit. I was still not good enough.
That summer was tough. Rehearsals were going well and I was having a blast with the role, but I felt as though I had something to prove – that every time I took the stage, I was being compared to the girl who had originally been cast. I was depressed and down on myself, but had to consistently appear confident and push my doubts aside. That is, until I had a moment that changed everything.
I was running in the local park, as I did every morning to warm up my body for rehearsal, to pound out the doubts and fears that were plaguing my mind into the pavement. The sun couldn’t have shone brighter, the grass couldn’t have been greener. Flowers bloomed and birds sang sweetly in the trees. It was a noticeably gorgeous day.
At the end of my run I looked back over the park and the thought, “If only I was a beautiful as this day, this moment,” floated through my mind.
And for some reason, on the deepest level, I knew that I was that beautiful. That we all are. That as part of the collective whole we are as magical and enchanting as everything that is Nature. That in every moment the world is reflecting back to us what we are.
No matter what we may think of ourselves, whether it may be I’m too tall, overweight, short, unattractive, not smart enough, or not talented enough. It’s simply not true. We are as magnificent as the bluest sky, as awe-inspiring as the deepest ocean, and as full of hope and promise as the breaking light of day.
I have no idea where this revelation came from within that moment. But it forever changed me. It was time to let all of my hang-ups go. It was time to be comfortable being me. It was time to no longer hold value in other people’s opinions of me.
All of us have our self-doubts. As a yoga instructor I hear the doubts and fears of my students every single day. “I’m too old.” “I need to lose weight.” “I have an injury.” These little sound bites of negativity that rush through our head in every instant to keep us from realizing the truth. If I could erase every negative thought each student has with thoughts such as, “I am ageless,” or “I am perfect in this moment,” or “I am beginning my healing process,” imagine what could be accomplished.
So, as you meditate on yourself in your hot and drippy yoga class each day, I challenge you to pay attention to the self-talk in your head. Try to turn it into something that will empower you and will help you realize how truly amazing you are. Each one of holds gifts, talents, and beauty that was meant to make this world a better place. Embrace that and the whole Universe will be yours.