“If you treated your friends the way you treat yourself, would you have any friends at all?”
“Aaaand Rolling!…. Cut! Chelsea, you have to stop looking at the camera.”
Only day one of my first screen acting job and the director is already having to tell me what I know so well; the first rule of screen acting, don’t look at the camera.
“I’m just so excited! I want to watch the director doing his thing!” And everyone laughs and I get told to do it right on the next take.
Okay, so maybe I’ll have to leave the famous breaking the fourth wall to the greats like Miranda Hart and Ferris Bueller. I just really want some lime light.
I have and always will be a diva. From my first bright blue feather boa when I was 5 years old that had people screaming my name (well, my mum… because she was sick of vacuuming up feathers) to when I got up from my office job earlier this year, told my supervisor I was done and sauntered out of the building like a boss. Broke and jobless, but a boss.
This big personality I try but fail to keep under control hasn’t always made life fabulous. High school was more dramatic than a drag queen in a costume shop. I thrived on what people thought of me. As an aspiring actor, what other people think of me is hugely important in order for me to get my foot in the door. As a teenager I quickly adopted a loving nickname, slut. This wonderful word followed me to five different high schools and reminded me every day how the world valued me as a young woman.
Walking into Upper Hutt College, an innocent 14 year old with hopes and dreams of being a country singer in Nashville, I was often greeted with the word by boys a few years older than me all because I had refused to kiss one of them. As I moved schools and even cities, I was met with the reminder that my peers thought that my worth lay with my figure and how I dressed, which by the way was usually just jeans and hair bows.
People saw my bubbly, friendly and out-going nature as being a flirt or “asking for it” and this even follows me around today. It’s what saw me put myself at the back of the class when learning the routine for All That Jazz out of fear. It’s what saw me quit multiple jobs over the years when it was decided for me that my “no” was really a “yes”. It’s what inspired me to do a performance in the second year of my degree where I literally made a song and dance out of it. The thing is, no one has a right to tell you who you are or what your worth is.
It took me a long time to discover that my worth isn’t found in other people. I still have to rediscover it on a regular basis. Many times I still feel like that 14 year old girl, wanting to be loved and admired and instead being met with verbal assault, and often it’s me throwing the knives.
I was 18 years old, nearing the end of my schooling years, auditioning for the academy of my dreams, getting straight A’s, being what I thought everyone else wanted to be, and having a little secret of my own; controlling my weight. To everyone else, I was the singer, the girl with the cool, academic group of friends, the one who got a lot of attention from boys and always had her makeup done immaculately. I was bullying myself to the point of being sick. I would start the day with a cup of tea, pack a carrot in my bag to keep me going through the day, and then try to limit my dinner portions without being caught by my mother.
Everyone said how good I looked. “Chelsea you’ve lost so much, you look amazing.” Putting on the pretty moss coloured ball dress I had picked out, I reflected on the words the sales woman had said when I had been there a month ago, “you might want to go for another dress, this one is a bit too tight”. I looked at my reflection in this dress that now fit a little too loosely and felt proud. I did this. I did this to myself and it felt good. Except I couldn’t stop.
I had gone from Chelsea the Slut with chubby baby cheeks and a guitar, to Chelsea the Perfect Girl with not an ounce of body fat, with lots of praise and perfect makeup. I had forgotten my Proverbs 31 woman.
This path of self destruction in order to feel accepted lead me to being a very sick girl. I was now five kilos underweight and I was in pain because of it. My body couldn’t process food the way it used to and I was getting questions from my gym instructor about my eating habits. The year to follow was probably the hardest year of my life. But so I don’t waffle on and overwhelm you with the details of it, I’ll save that story for another post! Allowing myself to starve meant I nearly sabotaged my dreams, and for what?
I distorted who I was, punished myself because of what other people thought of me.
Why give them the power?
My worth ultimately wasn’t decided by them, it was decided by me when I chose to believe the lies that the world was telling me. That to be loved I had to be skinny, that to be special I had to be my peer’s version of beautiful.
Even when I thought it was up to me to make myself worthy, my worth was really decided when God paid the ultimate price for my life. I was bought at a price, and no vanity purpose could ever change that.
No one has the power to decide your worth. Just like you can’t decide someone else’s because of how you feel. You are beautiful. Your tallness, your shortness, your skin colour, your gender, your hair, your eyes, your tiger stripes, your scars, your cellulite, your slim figure, your curvy figure, your off-key voice, your wacky sense of humour, your laugh, your smile. It doesn’t matter, because you are so uniquely you, and because you can’t change that, you may as well start loving it!
Oh and by the way, if you want to stare into the camera and flash a smile, just do it.
“On the darkest days when I feel inadequate, unloved, and unworthy, I remember whose daughter I am and I straighten my crown”