A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity of visiting Heritage Treatment Center. They asked me if I could specifically speak to the girls attending the school. They told me that they’ve been focusing on the theme “This Girl”. After taking a few days to think about what I was going to say to them that would impact them in any sort of way, I thought that there was no better topic for these girls to hear than that of loving themselves. I also wanted to be relatable to these girls so I decided that they needed to hear my story. My real story. Not just the highlights of living in Hollywood and dancing on T.V. but how I got there and how I had to fight emotionally, mentally, and physically to get where I am today. This is what I shared with them that night….
Main goal: Love Yourself
Hi everyone! I am so excited to be here tonight! I actually just spent the last 3 months on tour with Dancing With the Stars. I finished on Wednesday and flew home to be with my family for a few days… and catch up on a lot of sleep. But I’ve been so looking forward for today!
▪ I grew up in Utah. Just a normal kid. I am the 5th of 6 kids. It was inevitable that I was going to be a dancer because my two older sisters danced and when I was 3 years old I started dancing and fell in love with it.
▪ Knew from a very young age that I wanted to pursue dance and hopefully make it my career
▪ But I was never the most naturally gifted dancer- I remember when I was 12, there were auditions for the junior ballroom team at my studio. All my friends made it but me. Which also meant everyone had a ballroom partner except for me. Although this seem like a very silly experience, this is what initially planted in my head the need to prove myself. Which in some situations was great. It pushed me to work harder and exceed expectations. But it made me WAY to concerned with what people thought of me. I obsessed over comparing myself to others…. Please don’t make this same mistake.
▪ When I was 14 years old I experienced my first episode of “depression”. I didn’t understand the emotions I was feeling and didn’t know how to deal with it. I remember being overwhelming sad and angry most of the time and had no explanation for feeling this way.
▪ This triggered years of self doubt and a lot of insecurities. I started to seclude myself from social settings and ended up not having many friends throughout high school. I was terrified to let anyone in and see the real me.
▪ Being a dancer I spent hours and hours standing in front of a mirror. I would stare at myself and pick a part every inch of my body. In my ballet class we were required to wear an elastic band around our waists. Every time I had to put this band on my waist I would spend the whole class looking at the other girls and comparing myself to them. Why can’t I look like her, my band it way to tight, I feel ugly. So many negative thoughts continued to fill my mind. This started my battle with body image and eating disorders.
▪ My parents saw this sad and angry person I had turned into and encouraged me to follow and fight for my dreams. I graduated high school and moved off to Los Angeles, California in pursuit of my dance career.
▪ A few months after I had moved, I made it onto a reality tv show called SYTYCD where I finished in the Top 4 girls. This had been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. If competing to be America’s favorite dancer on National television for millions of people to watch isn’t stressful enough, it was inevitable for me to compare myself to the other dancers. I lost sight of all that I had to offer and why I was originally chosen because I was too occupied over what everyone else had. “She has a better costume than me. They have a Sonya duet. I’m always in the bottom three.” Only 20 dancers across America were chosen to be on the show and I was one of them !!!! But I ruined this once in a lifetime opportunity because I was so focused on what I didn’t have.
▪ A few months after the show finished I was blessed to be offered a job with another hit reality tv show, Dancing With the Stars. I was shocked and absolutely ecstatic!! This was legitimately a dream come true!
▪ But talk about feeling insecure. If any of you have seen the show you probably know how insanely drop dead gorgeous each of the females dancers are… the men aren’t so bad either. But I was this little 19 year old with hundreds of insecurities walking into work everyday with goddesses. Or so I thought. I felt like I had to be just like them and had to prove myself to Hollywood. Those were the worst years of my life. I didn’t value who I was and had no self worth whatsoever. It took me 3 years to figure out that everyone, even the most famous of celebrities, have their own issues. After getting to know these girls and creating some amazing friendships with them, I found out that they ALL have insecurities, just like me. They all struggle with self confidence, just like me. They all feel alone in a world so focused on appearance, just like me.
▪ That’s why I decided I had to be a voice. I wanted to represent young women like you who feel so pressured to be somebody that their not. Society is so evil in making us feel like we need to be as skinny as a runway model, have lips like Kylie Jenner’s, and that we need to photoshop our bodies on social media. There is a quote I love that says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I was so sick of comparison and not loving myself that in August I started a blog to open up about what real life is like. What my struggles are, what I have been through the last 4 years, and how I was able to change.
▪ There is a book called “Love Yourself – Like Your Life Depends On It” that has completely changed my life. I don’t want to give it all away but in a nutshell the author tells his real story about how he thought he had lost everything. He was experiencing sickness, heartache, grieving a friends death, supporting his failing company. Everything was going wrong. After much depression and sadness he decided he had had enough and made a vow to himself that ended up changing his life forever. He wrote it down on a piece of paper and ever since that day he has committed to the promise to love himself. Repeating the phrase “I love myself” over and over again in his mind. At times even saying it out loud. The constant reminder eventually turned into a natural habit and acceptance of loving himself. He said he went from a month of misery to his whole world changing right before his eyes. He got back into shape, things naturally fell into place for him, and he was beaming with happiness. He even describes his life as pure magic.
▪ These past few weeks I have also been practicing saying, “I love myself” throughout my days. Anytime a negative thought about myself or someone else circles around my head I immediately repeat “I love myself, I love myself, I love myself” and the thought gets pushed away. It really is incredible how much happier and at ease I feel with myself as well. I bought each of you a copy of this book and I really challenge you to first read this outstanding book, make a vow to yourself, and then FALL IN LOVE WITH YOURSELF! Let your love for yourself shine for the world to see. Now, loving yourself the right way doesn’t mean you are prideful and have a huge ego…. to me it means that you aware of your flaws, your insecurities, your short comings, and you accept them for what they are worth. You learn from them. But most importantly, you love yourself through the process.
I can tell you that right now I am nowhere near perfect. Everyday is a battle but I am happier than I have ever been because I choose to love myself. I hope and encourage you all to do the same!!
I then spent the next hour taking questions, signing autographs, and hugging these smart and beautiful girls. I think I left more touched and inspired by their stories than they were by mine. I am so grateful for moments like these. It truly puts everything into perspective. Especially in the industry I’m in. I never want to lose sight of the pure and raw beauty that comes from within. I tend to get wrapped up in having to fit this criteria of what it means to be “famous” but I don’t EVER want that to define me and who I am as a person. I hope everyone continues to love themselves and help support one another in that journey. This week especially has been very tough for me. If you hadn’t heard, I have decided to take this season off of DWTS. It was one of the scariest decisions I’ve had to make because I am taking a huge risk and jumping blindly into the unknown. But I can say that because of all of my fans thoughtful and encouraging messages I have felt so much more at ease with my decision. I am really grateful for you guys!! Thank you for always being there for me. Until next time 🙂
Meet Tati and Annie (the bottom picture). When I tell you that we became dear friends in the most RANDOM way possible… we did. But I love them and grateful that they invited me to come speak to their girls.