The Kids Are Alright Spring 2011

photo by Jill E. Williams

Oh, my students are just so wise.  With the end of the semester approaching, I am in the midst of reading their final papers- an assignment that’s called a process paper where they synthesize their learning and evaluate the class.  Always, I am wowed, humbled, touched by their wisdom.  And this semester is no different.  Here, some great insight and strategies from my spring 2011 students:

I am definitely the girl that would stand in the line at the grocery store and ask myself “I wonder what she eats to look like that… I bet she runs every single day and never skips… I bet she would never have this Snickers bar that I’m eating right now, that’s why I don’t look like that… Didn’t she have a baby like two days ago??!…” . It was nice to see the raw pictures of the movie stars, not to see their flaws, but to see that what I have desperately been seeking is not real. After that day in class I felt like I could move on and let the unrealistic goals go for good. I have ultimately been happier with myself after seeing those photos – somehow that day gave me some peace within that I am okay, that I am human, and I have cellulite – just like Faith Hill.  Ashton Holland

I have always felt as if I was supposed to live up to the images portrayed in the media, and if I didn’t, there was something wrong with me. I now realize that this is the exact goal the media industry sets out for.  The fashion industry and the movie business specifically exploit an unattainable concept of body that women and men everywhere attempt to achieve. It’s like playing a rigged game at a carnival. You can throw a little ball as much as you want at the three blocks, but if they are glued together, you cannot win without defying some type of law in science.  Jenah Sinclair 

Thinking positively about my body was easier said than done initially. Three weeks into the class, I was still practicing many of my old routines of critiquing myself; I knew I had to get rid of this habit. I eventually came up with this technique that whenever I criticized something on my body, I would force myself to follow it up with “oh well, it’s mine.” So, for example, one day, I found myself saying, “I hate my legs” and right after I forced myself to say, “oh well, they’re mine” This was a way to psychologically help myself get comfortable with my physical appearance internally, because, after all, everything on my body is mine.   Jamarl Rickard

I now treat myself differently and look at myself differently and it goes beyond what society has said about my body. I realize now that I decide what is deemed acceptable for me and my body, and the unhealthy messages and hurtful words that I have heard from past boyfriends, the media, whoever… I’m done with those thoughts, and I am now allowing myself to have fun and enjoy my life and my body the way it is. My body is always changing, everyone’s is, and it takes too much emotional energy to be upset about it; live your life. Allow people to love you beyond your appearance; only surround yourself with the people who love you beyond anything physical.  Ashton Holland

I will never allow anyone the power to dictate how it is that I feel about my body or myself… This is a concept I will use for the rest of my life. I even sense a different type of intimacy between my four-year-old niece and me. Instead of telling her how pretty she is in her pink tutu, I tell her how great she is at soccer, how smart she’s been in preschool, how strong she is at tae kwon do, and that she doesn’t color inside the lines. She has enough people telling her how cute she is but that her hair will never be manageable… With this class, I have realized that she will always have an overflow of people making her feel awkward and inadequate, all I can do is supply her with the certainty that her best will always be good enough and that beauty does not have to be her social currency.                       Nicole Thomas

Before, all I ever focused on for the future was how I will keep my weight off, work out, and eat healthy while working as a full-time nurse. It was insane. I now feel so excited about any adventure that comes my way. I know that no matter how my body changes, I still exist in the same manner as before. I am me, despite my body.  I realize that if I continue to allow a negative body image to rule my life, I will never truly live. I want to live life to the fullest and experience everything it has to offer. I don’t want to be running on a treadmill while my nephew is playing in a soccer game. I don’t want to decline dinner invitations with friends, just so I won’t damage my figure. I refuse to allow my insecurities to hold me prisoner and keep me from living a balanced, full, happy life. Because, in the end, what will you and everyone else remember?  What will actually matter?   Jenah Sinclair

Now I am really making an effort to use diet and exercise as a way to make me feel better physically, not… as a way to look better physically. Usually my muscles become more tone and I shape up, but I will never have a “perfect” body – I have a life to live, desserts to eat, and, eventually, children to birth. I refuse to tiptoe around all sugar and carbs in hopes that I will have this perfect body, especially when it doesn’t even really exist.  Someone is always going to be thinner, tanner, taller, whatever; I am me and I have my own features that are all mine that I love, and I have some I don’t love. The biggest change for me is the acceptance of the features that I cannot change and realizing that the people in my life that truly love me don’t even see those flaws that I see.  Ashton Holland

One of the guest speakers made a statement that I turned into a motto that I will now live my life by.  She simply stated that we as people are born as nothing.  This may seem negative but, in fact, it is very positive because being nothing means that we can become whomever we decide to be.  Nothing in life is fixed. My statement is “I was born with nothing to give, but everything to gain.”  I am gaining my everything and that everything is the gift of self-awareness.  Kalan Thompson

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One response to “The Kids Are Alright Spring 2011”

  1. Emily

    The words of your students captured my heart. How fulfilling it is to read brilliant thoughts and realizations, all written by intelligent and powerful individuals with the potential to influence change. Reading these words has me smiling and treasuring the value of the Women’s and Gender Studies program that UNCC offers.

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