Next week is the end of the semester for my body image students. They will turn in their process papers- a final paper where they capture the entire personal and intellectual journey they have gone through over the course of this class.
I will return their Beautiful You journals (for the first time ever, I used my own book in my class because even though it was hard for me to get over the awkwardness of it being the book I wrote, I wanted them to very intentionally begin the journey while having our class as support and with hopes that they’ll continue it on their own after we are done).
And then I will get up and deliver my lastlecture.lesson.workshop.experience.whatever you want to call it. When we are done, when they walk out the classroom, I am hoping that they each feel this burst in their chest that is exploding with possibility, that is no longer defeated by careless words or thoughts, by long held feelings of I can’t. I hope that they each walk out with a sense of peace, a sense of passion, a sense of purpose. As I prepare to draft those last words, create that last lesson, I have been thinking about what I want for them. Today, I am capturing that here in this open letter to my students.
If there is just one thing that I want you to walk away understanding after this semester, it is this: YOU are here ON PURPOSE.
Sometimes, life can feel so arbitrary, so happenstance, so accidental. I know that. I have felt that.
But I have also moved through that and what I can tell you for sure is that the world is filled with infinite needs. It is filled with challenges that need solving, schisms that need repairing, hopes that need unfurling. And you. You, my dear one, are one piece of that puzzle. But not just any piece. You are an essential piece.
You see, we are- each one of us- part of this world’s solutions. And the sooner we can become our own solution, the sooner we address and heal our own wounds, the sooner we get out of our own way, the sooner we can attend to the world’s needs. And very little feels better than living with an internal peace because there is a profound understanding that what you have and who you are is worthy to be given, you have discovered how you are meant to give it at this time, and you are doing it on purpose.
That is about as good as it gets, I promise you.
There were times where I thought that all I needed to be happy was to have just a little bit of a different body. I wasn’t asking for much. Some less unruly hair here. Just twenty pounds there. Then, then I could be happy.
Except happiness, as it turns out, isn’t an outside job. It’s an inside job. And once I did that- that internal work- I realized that having Salma Hayek hair wasn’t going to make a big difference in the work that I do, in the purpose I have, in how I do my part to solve the world’s pains.
I know for some of you that it has felt incredibly selfish to spend even one minute examining how you feel about yourself. What is this self-centered, narcissistic, navel-gazing non-sense? And, yet, here is what I know to be true. To be thoughtful about ourselves takes much less time than all that secret self-bashing we do in our brains and all that crazy war we wage on ourselves. To be thoughtful, also, is far more productive than any of that stuff. Because here is the thing: dedicate just 10 minutes a day to taking care of you, falling in love with you, sustaining you and what happens isn’t that you have ten less minutes to spare. What happens is that you have more energy, more focus, more determination, more clarity, more power, more passion, more purpose, more peace. Knowing you, befriending you, championing you doesn’t make you selfish. It actually tunes you into your power, making you much more of a force when it comes to tackling the world’s need that you’ve been called to address.
So, do the work on you first, dear one. So you can do the world’s work in a deep, long way for life.
You have been seen. You have been heard. And I can tell you that you have incredible worth and value. Admire it for a moment, assume its full power, and then…
Go tackle the world.