Unapologetically is a Yahoo Life series in which people get the chance to share how they live their best life — out loud and in color, without fear or regret — looking back at the past with a smile and embracing the future with excited anticipation.
Cheryl Burke is stepping into a new phase of life. The Dancing With the Stars pro, 38, recently split from her husband Matthew Lawrence. Now, she is learning how to feel comfortable in her own company after “grieving” the end of her marriage. For now, she’s “choosing not to date,” she says.
“It’s just me and my Frenchie,” she tells Yahoo Life. “I’ve been sober now for four years, and with that comes self-reflection. I’m like a sponge and I’m just learning to love myself and really learning to be alone instead of lonely. I think it’s very important for me to establish that relationship with myself so that I don’t continue on that same pattern of men and relationships.”
When the time comes for the Dance Moms alum to date, she says she’s shunning the dating apps in favor of a more old school approach to meeting someone.
“I’m all about matchmakers,” she says. “I know statistics show that they have a high rate. It’s not just about swiping left to see who looks good and what occupation they do — it’s deeper than that.”
The relationship she’s most focused on at the moment, however, is the one with herself. Burke, who previously opened up about her past with sexual abuse, has a self-care routine that includes meditation and therapy. One important thing she has learned through both practices was the idea that “we are not our thoughts,” but rather “observers” of our thoughts.
“It’s trying not to define yourself by outside sources,” she notes. “So your job, your friends, your family, your name… it’s developing this foundation within yourself and knowing your self worth without all of that.”
That includes shutting down people-pleasing tendencies she’s relied on in the past.
“I used to put everybody else in front of me and my needs, and I realize that I’m doing myself a disservice,” she explains. “I think it’s very important to just take a breath and be kind to yourself because this is not easy.”
Burke, who struggles with body dysmorphia, says that what she sees in the mirror “isn’t necessarily what everybody else sees.” While she is trying to change the “vocabulary” around her self-criticism, her body is something she thinks about often.
“I think it’s really hard for women to accept who they are today,” she muses. “Especially if you’re in a business like I am in the entertainment industry…comparison is the devil.”
“I hope one day my body dysmorphia goes away,” she adds. “But I also have to … give it grace, and same thing with age. It’s like, you gotta accept it for what it is and just know that you’re working to be better…And I think the more you own it internally, the more you’ll see it externally.”
When it comes to feeling sexy, Burke says, “What makes me feel sexy every day is loving myself, is really giving back to me and putting me first.”
She has also spoken out recently about never having had an orgasm through sexual intercourse — a story, she says, that has been “misinterpreted” a bit by the press.
“I’ve had an orgasm before through sexual acts,” she clarified. “But when it comes to me being molested, when I was a little girl, [there are] sexual acts that I don’t want to necessarily be performed on me, because it’s a triggering thing when it comes to my mental health. I know a few women who have gone through something similar who also feel the same, or you just completely disconnect and sex just becomes the act, and there’s nothing meaningful behind it.”
Now, Burke says she is “most unapologetic” about sharing her “life story” — even when some people complain she is “oversharing.”
The reason, she says, is because of the “amount of feedback and emails and comments I get from people saying, ‘Thank you. I know I’m not alone.'”
“That to me … means the world,” she shares. “It takes away any shame, even just speaking it, because I’m hopefully leading by example.”
—Video produced by Olivia Schneider.
Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life’s newsletter. Sign up here.