Naked and Not Afraid: Beauty and the Beast That is Confidence

Scarlett Vanderwoodsen // Columnist

One of the first things I ever took pride in was my expert knowledge of how to apply foundation, which I had learned before entering high school – and that I haven’t had cakey makeup since. At a young age, my parents put me in dance competitions during which I’d sit backstage for several hours. I’d be alone in a room full of strangers, granola bar and makeup train case in hand. I’d pout at my mom for smearing thick gobs of cream makeup across my cheeks. Having control over the way I presented myself gave me great joy, and being thrown into flouncy tulle and spandex costumes didn’t quite amuse me.

My exterior presentation has always heavily reflected my innermost appearance. I’ve come to learn that the mindset I’m in greatly affects my physical health and appearance. Ultimately, the more of a slump I was in, the more I’d let myself get out of hand with my diet and exercise, and from there it only spiraled more out of control.

Singing and dancing in front of strangers never seemed to phase me, until I was doing it in scraps of fabric. Something ultimately way more daunting when you need to come off as a confident character once the spotlight comes on. Performing alongside a mother of three with rock-hard abs and dancers that could kick my ass to the moon in stilettos isn’t the biggest boost for my confidence. Not working as hard on my physical appearance and health makes me feel lazy – something I would never assume based on anyone else’s appearance.

The allotted time for getting ready between show-day rehearsal and curtain call is usually a couple of hours. This is enough time for us to grab some dinner, do hair, makeup and a quick mic check, and more than enough time to take a look at the beautiful women around, and for the comparisons to begin. But despite the seeming perfection I notice surrounding me through my fluttering fake eyelashes, I’ve learned that everyone has desires.

My favourite motto has got to be “fake it till you make it” and that’s exactly what I do, along with every other performer. Feeling truly comfortable in your own skin is one thing, making people think you believe that you are hot shit is practically impossible. What I’ve found is that confidence is the sexiest thing. This isn’t something I had to read about in an issue of Cosmopolitan to comprehend. It’s something I’ve learned and grown accustomed to throughout my time doing burlesque. And it was never an easy concept to accept.

During our Valentine’s season’s set of performances, my confidence was at an all-time low. Having been in a toxic relationship, I was finding myself gravitating towards my old unhealthy habits that helped me cope with my depression, which included letting myself be completely consumed by negativity. Other performers seemed to be dealing with their own versions of this, and we all shared intimate details while assisting each other into our ensembles before showtime. Despite us all having our own stresses on our confidence, we managed to band together and push through a show because we spoke up about how we were feeling.

While that night acted as a bandage solution, it was the first step to healing all of our outlooks on ourselves. The real deal hardship is finding the root of our problems and really letting ourselves get to a place where we feel happy with who we’ve become. The truth is, I’ve never quite gotten there myself. But though I may have to fake my confidence at times to get through rough patches, the more self-exploration I take on, the more I’m slowly starting to believe that my confidence is real.

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