At the end of each semester, my body image students write a process paper where they synthesize their learning- both personal and academic- for the semester. These papers are always a delight to read and there is so much wisdom in them that I just have to share a fraction of it (with my students’ permission, of course) with you. Here, some wise words from my students this semester. May they buoy and give you hope the way they did me.
In order to be my best self, I must take better care of my body. In the beginning of the semester I considered looking as flawless as possible as self-care. I thought I needed to put more effort into my image rather than my health. But I noticed that better health creates a better image. Perfect hair, cute outfits, and clear skin do not make the best me. The best me comes from resting my body, avoiding harmful substances, reducing stress, and having a peaceful mind. I can incorporate these things into my life through exercising, continuing to avoid alcohol and smoking, creating a personal stress relieving activity, and being positive. ~ Alexis
My way of thinking has matured. I look at my body image as a process and not a project…. a project is an assignment with a project completion date, and my body image is a process that will require a lifetime of maintenance… When I have a challenging day, I immediately start fresh the next day instead of delaying it until the next week or month. Going forward I will continue to work on having a positive attitude towards my body image. ~Terry
Now that I have taken the time to know myself; my strengths, flaws, and what made me who I am today, it has brought me a better understanding of my reality. I am happier with myself and my life. I value other people’s opinions of myself, but I don’t let it run my life like I use to. I feel more confident; I acknowledge that I am working hard, I look up when I walk, I am proud of my body even with the flaws, I understand that the past is just the past, and, though it is a part of me, it doesn’t shape me, and that I have a lot to like about myself and my life. I must continue to work on myself internally; such as my feelings about the past, feelings of anxiety about the future, and work on feelings of confidence. It is something I need to continue to work on so that I can become that confident positive person that I strive for. There are a couple of things that I love about myself; one is that I am a mom, two is that I work hard, and three I am working on finding out. ~Kelly
Throughout the course of this class, I feel as if one of the most important concepts I learned was to protect my mind. I learned this through the media fast. So much of what goes into our mind every single day is objectifying women and giving the notion that women are expected to be perfect. “Perfect” has slowly come to be a woman who is five feet ten inches tall and wears a size zero pants. If I allow myself to look at these images as if they are real, I will slowly feel terrible about my self-esteem. I now know that these images are not real and these women are rare. The average woman is not well represented in the media. Through this full understanding, I have learned to reject the medias idea of perfection and accept myself for the way I am. I have also learned to protect my mind from monitoring the music I listen to or changing the channel on television commercials. ~Kirsten
My “aha” moment in this class came from realizing the reason as to why I didn’t like certain things about my body. What image was I trying to live up to? Who said something negatively about me? Through my new understanding of the way that pictures are completely photo shopped and that those who say something about you are really saying something about themselves, I have been able to address the causes of my insecurity. Through this knowledge my mind has developed enough to know that I am the one who sets the tone for my body, not another person and definitely not another image. ~Kirsten
One conversation that has truthfully touched my heart and stayed with me is when we talked about how our bodies are like vessels. For a while, I was having trouble separating the physical aspects of my body from the emotional and mental. I felt that my body was me and since I was unhappy with it, then I was not content with myself overall. From that discussion, I have been focusing on believing that I am defined by my personality, thoughts, passion, and heart, not this physical body that I have. It was such an eye-opening experiencing when that finally clicked with me and I realized in full what it meant. Now I can truly appreciate myself for the things about me that are not physical such as my intelligence, sense of humor, or thoughtfulness for others. I take more pride in my accomplishments in school, work, or life in general rather than compliments about how I look. Because I am continuing to base my self-worth on these aspects of my personal image, I have become more confident and seen my self-esteem grow. ~Megan