an open letter to my body image students on our last day of class

anne lamott

I still remember how you walked in.

A few of you excited, some of you skeptical, most of you tired and trying to figure out if taking a three hour class on a Friday morning was a good idea.  “I’ll give her this class period,” you thought.  “She can audition for the chance to get to wake me on Friday mornings,” you decided.

And then something happened.

I asked you to introduce yourself, to tell me why you were here.  And while most of you didn’t want to say “I am here because of me, I am here because I don’t want to feel this way about myself anymore,” there was a light in each one of your eyes as we went around the room.  Lights so bright, so real, so insistent, that I knew just the right people had found this little corner from which I had issued an invitation.  I knew we were going to really learn from each other, that we were going to challenge one another, that we would laugh together, that we would all, in the end, feel like it was time well spent, that we would recharge and inspire one another.

Back then, you may have started your mornings with a derisive glance in the mirror, with a shunning of yourself.

Now, I hope that when you look in the mirror, you see what makes you powerfully, wonderfully, uniquely you.  On the outside, yes, but, even more importantly, on the inside.  I hope you see your humor and grace and inherent kindness lighting their way out of you.  I hope you see your magic because that is what I have seen every single Friday this semester.

I’ve seen the way you come in, hopeful and hungry, ready for the world to have greater meaning than what our bodies look like.  And I have seen you come into knowing that you have so much more to offer the world than your physical vessel.  I have seen you find your voice, no longer tucking words and ideas into yourself, but giving them a place in the world, to make a difference to you, to make a difference to someone else.  I have seen you get uncomfortable with the status quo and your role in maintaining it.  I have seen you become kinder- to others, yes, and to yourself- because you know there is no competition, that each of our journeys is so personal that it could never be a race and that every single journey is unending.  There is no destination; it is all journey.  We always get to grow. 

Most of all, I have seen you come into your own understanding that you have something to offer this world, that this world needs you and your unique solutions and point of view.

I have seen you dare to answer the call into your own greatness.    

On that first day of class, you told me your name, your major, your graduation year, your hometown, the last great book you read, and why you chose to take this class.  You said you needed Body Image class for your Women’s and Gender Studies minor, for your art major, for your public health concentration, because it fit into your schedule.  You maybe rolled your eyes at me and my instance that you are here on purpose, that this world needs the solutions you offer, at my belief that a poor body image isn’t really rooted in our body but in something much deeper, a greater unease that we must set right.

Today, you will walk out of the little sanctuary that we built together through truth telling, kindness, and patience, but, before you go, I will ask of you one last thing.  I will give you last assignment.

When you walk out of here, do so with your eyes up, wide open, ready to recognize and greet those who approach you not just because you know that other souls should be seen but also because you understand that to hide your soul from us is to deny the world of one of its greatest gifts- you. 

Meet your eyes in the mirror every day and forget about whether or not there’s a new sun spot or crease or pimple.  Instead, focus on the purpose and clarity and passion staring back at you, keep company with self-acceptance, and treat your body like a guest of honor to the party you are hosting because it is your vehicle to this amazing life, it is the tool you use to deliver your goodness into the world. 

Know that I believe in you.  I am so glad you were here.  I will miss you and hold you close as you walk into a world that needs everything that you uniquely and powerfully have to offer.

You are loved.  You are beautiful.  And there is infinite possibility ahead.  Get started.  

Want to read the letter I wrote to my students for our first day of class?  Check it out here.

Here are past end of semester letters to my students:

Radiate Love  (Spring 2013)

An open letter to my students (Fall 2012)


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