Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.
"You're very funny, Sherri. But because you're fat, you'll never play anything but the neighbor or the best friend." After my manager said these words to me, with a pat on my back, I heard her voice and her words ring in my ears for years.
For a long time I was self-conscious about my body. As an actress, I never felt pretty enough or skinny enough to compete with the women I saw on television and on the big screen. But thank goodness for that other voice inside of me, the one that would say: "You can do this girl! You're funny, you're pretty, you're funny…"
Even when I didn't believe in myself, I kept putting in the work—going to acting class and on auditions. I acted "as if"—as if I were confidently walking into the casting director's office… as if I were going to book the job… as if I were a star.
And I let my skills and preparation do the talking for me, instead of the negative voice ringing in my ears.
I listened to other loving, positive words in order to help me overcome the angst, doubt, and unworthiness I felt in this industry. One time, I sat myself in a chair in the middle of a bunch of my friends and had them each say what they thought was special about me that set me apart from others.
From this exercise, I learned that I have a beautiful smile that brings joy to others and that my sense of humor made people forget their own problems. I learned that my knock-knees (which I always hated) made some guys lustful. And I discovered that I am not the sum total of my size 16 clothes or body parts.
My big knees didn't get me a host job on The View.
My ample girth didn't secure me a role as the first African American to play the Evil Stepmother in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella on Broadway (and, to be fair, my horrible singing voice didn't either!)
My fleshy arms didn't get me my own show, Sherri, on the Lifetime Network (where I got to engage in hot kissing sessions with Malcolm Jamal Warner—yeah baby!)
My size 9 1/2 feet and my thighs rubbing together didn't land me a top spot on Dancing with the Stars.
My round face didn't get me a successful wig line, Sherri Shepherd NOW.
In my new NBC comedy, Trial & Error, I play a paralegal who suffers from a host of rare disorders that create a lot of humor in the show: short-term memory loss, no tear ducts, facial blindness, foreign accent syndrome, Stendhal's syndrome (fainting around beautiful artwork) and pseudobulbar affect (laughing uncontrollably at funerals). She's a very funny character and if me having a double chin somehow helps with this wacky character, then thank you Lord, I accept it.
I walk out the door every day with a bright smile and easy laugh whether I am a size 16 or not. And I've only played the best friend once.
And best of all, when my beautiful son, Jeffrey, rubs my belly and says "Mommy it feels like a Buddha" I laugh. Because the very thing I always hated gives the most precious person in my life joy.
Me. All of me.
This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident: 101 Stories about Loving Yourself and Your Body © 2016 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.