The Kids Are Alright Fall 2013

most essential SA lesson

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 and inspiration the way they did me.

One of my favorite lessons is when you heavily emphasized, “Your soul is your gift to the world.  Find what lights your fire.”  In college, there are so many pressures to do this and that while acing your classes, building your resume, and finding a tiny bit of time for a social life.  Once I started acknowledging that I need to pursue my passions and stop worrying about everything else, my life got a lot easier.  Fast forward a few months and here I am doing the things that I love; even though I am taking eighteen hours and working two jobs, I am enjoying every minute of it and finding new passions on the way.  It is funny how a simple reminder to pursue what you love can reduce stress, make you enjoy life more, and keep you grounded. ~ Olivia

There are three concepts I want to keep in mind as I continue my self-acceptance journey. (1) Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I don’t have to accept their opinions as my truth. (2)  Discussing bodies with others is so boring. There are so many other things to talk about than my body or someone else’s. (3) I want to focus on the feelings and signal my body gives me rather than how my body looks, especially according to popular culture. I feel that keeping these things in mind will protect me from getting my feelings hurt, aid me in feeling good about myself and discovering other things to invest my time in.  ~Brianna

For as long as I can remember, I have been walking this Earth worrying about what others thought of me; whether or not I was too fat, too dark, too quiet, too innocent.  I compared myself to each and every single female that crossed my path, and looked in the eyes of men to see what caught their attention.  I couldn’t figure out why my sister seemingly had the world at her feet. I couldn’t figure out what everyone had that I didn’t.  During the 20 years of my life, I have been searching for my happiness and my definition in everyone else.  I was searching for love and acceptance from people who didn’t know or care anything about me.  I now know that the main issue at hand was self-acceptance.  I needed to love and accept myself, and then come to terms that there is no single person that was meant to be like me.  My weight, my color, and my personality all make up the unique individual that I am.  ~Imani

My epiphany moment came when we talked about teaching people how to treat us. I had always thought that either I would put up with someone treating me poorly or that I would just cut them from my life. I never saw it as an option to not just tell someone to not speak to me a certain way, but to then tell them what was and was not appropriate. As I write this it seems so ridiculous that I never thought of this because it sounds like such a simple concept. I’ve used this for a couple of people in my life and it has started to improve most of those relationships. It seems to go the same way each time because as soon as I tell them that what they are saying isn’t acceptable they are surprised and that makes me realize how much I’ve allowed people to treat however they felt like. It’s definitely been great for my relationships and just for my own wellness to use this idea in my life.  ~Brittany

I want to be able to be a guiding force for those who are unsure, or not confident with themselves. I want to be able to help everyone see the beauty within themselves and realize that you live for you, and not for other people. Whenever someone makes a comment about their looks and appearance, I am quick to stop and correct them. I make sure that I tell every one of my friends and even people I don’t know, that they are beautiful. I don’t want anyone to go through life feeling as if they are not worthy of happiness and contentment. ~Kim

The biggest “aha” moment was when you taught us about what it means to truly appreciate one’s body.  I have heard that sentiment before but always interpreted it to mean that we should embrace our distinct and unique looks.  When you explained it as appreciating your body because it is your vehicle to the world, I understood that body appreciation is not limited to looks – in fact, that’s the smallest portion… Inevitably, I reminisced on the poignant memories I have experienced because of my body, such as holding my sweet niece for the first time, driving through beautiful country roads, learning to ski, and so much more.  ~Olivia

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