“Self-worth is so vital to your happiness. If you don’t feel good about you, it’s hard to feel good about anything else.” – Mandy Hale
I never really understood what it meant to look at yourself with unbiased eyes and actually, truly see yourself as beautiful. See yourself as confident and happy and pretty and…worth it. To look and be happy with what you see, both the inside and out.
But, it happened.
This semester, I decided to make a new start for myself. Leave Atlantic Studios–my home for the past 2½ years–and go to Stonestreet Studios to pursue what I’ve always wanted to do: film, television, and voiceovers. And I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous. Excited too, but nervous. I hadn’t known anything outside of Atlantic. I was moving onto a new environment and new philosophy of acting and the industry, and that meant change. Change can be scary, but sometimes you truly just need change–in scenery, pace, environment, people, way(s) of thinking, and so on. And it was time. I knew it in my gut since the beginning of last semester that I needed something new. I just hadn’t realized how much until I experienced the toxic energy within myself of comparing, competing, and constant negativity that was fostered where I was in those last four months of what turned out to be the sh*ttiest year, both on a personal and national level.
As soon as I got to Stonestreet, this lightness came about, and I could feel it in my heart and in my body. I felt lighter, happier, freer. My first day, we had to take headshots and it worried me because I’ve never truly been confident or happy with the way I looked (for many reasons). I went into the room, and my photographer and Stonestreet alum Pati was the sweetest. When I told her I was nervous, she immediately calmed my nerves. She took several photos and we were laughing and having fun! “You’re a natural at this,” she said. “And you told me you were nervous!” Her kindness and her excitement over the shots she had just taken made me excited, in turn. I seriously couldn’t wait to see them!
Our first week of classes came and went, and I was surprised by how fast everything was going already, how much fun I was having & not even noticing the time passing. This past Monday, I had to ask if our headshots were ready to be viewed & downloaded–I couldn’t wait any longer! 🙂 I found them in the Green Room in a folder labeled “HEADSHOTS” and I scrolled through all those beautiful faces of fellow actors/Stonestreeeters/collaborators and eventually I found my name. I was nervous, more nervous than I had been on the first day of Stonestreet. I hesistantly clicked on the 6 shots in the folder, and what I saw, what I felt, actually shocked me.
I didn’t hate the way I looked. In fact, I was proud of the way I looked. For the first time in a really long time, I liked the close-up photos taken of me, because it looked like me–happy, excited, confident, ready to take on the world. Head full of ideas, heart full of passion, eyes filled with wonder.
I posted one of the headshots on Instagram (I put it in black & white because I felt artsy! #artschoolkid #artschoolaesthetics, amirite?) because I was so excited and so happy to share it. It’s one of the few times I was actually really happy to share a photo of myself & what I looked like. Not because of selfish or vain reasons, but because it showed where I was as an artist & actor, and I was confident + ecstatic about where I was in my artistic journey. And I was surprised by how many people responded to it. And I kept looking at the photo, and from time to time I would open Instagram and just look at what I saw before me. Again, not because I wanted to feel vain or because I was into myself…because it was strange. In a good way. I haven’t been able to look at a photo of myself and actually feel happy or proud of the way I looked. I would always look with a critical eye and find something I wished I could change. And yes, there may have been little things here and there with my headshots I wished I could change, but not drastic things as I’ve thought about in the past (like instead of wishing I was thinner or hating on my teeth or skin, it was more that I wished that little wisp of hair had stayed in place! Lol).
What was so fascinating was that, for the first time (since elementary school, really!), I saw myself as beautiful. Very rarely does that happen, and the fact that these photos made me feel that way–that these photos made me feel confident in what I looked like because I looked like me, the me that I’ve always wanted to be–told me something important. I had made the right decision. I was where I needed to be. I was becoming who I was always meant to become, because I was going in the right direction: towards progress, growth, excitement & fun.
Don’t get me wrong, Atlantic did help change me for the better in certain ways. It helped push me in the right direction and allowed me to discover parts of myself that needed to be discovered, to unearth parts of my personality that needed to be nurtured, taken care of, and understood, & other parts that needed to be removed because they were toxic to my spirit and my growth. But towards the end, I think it was beginning to show me that it was time for a change, because you can’t remain in your comfort zone forever. Things won’t always stay the same, because time and life are always moving forward. You need to move with that flow, too. I gained some of my best friends in the world from Atlantic, plus some of the greatest teachers and life lessons that will continue to influence me for the rest of life. But, as Topanga Matthews from Boy Meets World said,
“In any good book, you turn the page and there’s another chapter.”
The story continues. And where it will lead, I don’t know. But I’m excited. And for the first time in forever? I feel confident in where life will take me, where I will take me. ❤