a letter to my body image students on the last day of class


On the first day of class, you were skeptical.  Tired.  Bored even.  But then as you started to share, started to tell us your name, your major, your hometown, and your favorite food, you loosened up, you opened yourself up a little, you laughed with one another.

I love chitlins, one of you said.  And others needed an explanation.

I love taco salads, someone else shared and several of you called out restaurant  recommendations.

Shrimp. Shrimp. Shrimp.  So many of you said and there were nods of recognition and laughter across the classroom.

Brussel sprouts.    Silence.

It may have seemed that all we were doing was performing the first day of class ritual of introducing yourself.  You might have even thought this was the first and last time anyone would even hear your name in this space.  But you were not just sharing your majors at that time.  You were inviting each other in.  You were building connections.  You were beginning to communicate to one another:  I see you.  I hear you.  I understand.  I will support you.

I see you.  I hear you.  I understand.  I will support you.

Such simple phrases but, in the end, they really represent most everything we want as people.  What we want, what we hunger for, really, is to be known.

Because there is nothing quite like being known is there?  There is nothing like finding your person, your people, even, a place where you can go and just be, sharing what feels like your ugly truths and finding out that they are not ugly.  Nobody flinched.  They simply exist as one part of the life that has built you.  You have nothing to prove.  You do not need to earn worth or understanding.  It simply comes because you exist, because you offer it, because you have found- for a moment in time- some of your people. 

So many of you talked in your final process paper about how this classroom felt.   And I want you to know this one truth:  this classroom only felt that way because YOU made it feel that way.  You made it feel like it was a safe place to ask the hard question or to challenge a thought or to share your experience.   You are the reason people felt seen, heard, understood, supported, and known in here.

For too long, we have been sold a bag of goods that told us that the best way to be known is by our bodies.  And that if we tamed our bodies, if we made them into the ideal that we are shown, then we finally deserve to be known.

What you all did this semester was turn that lie on its head.  Because it is not just the images themselves that we are fed that are lies.  The whole concept is a lie.  We do not know by seeing.  We know by experiencing.  And we reveal ourselves in our willingness to become.

Every semester, I try to put my finger on what it is that made a class unique, what it is that class has to offer.  And for you all what I unequivocally see is this: You have a profound sense of justice.  You have a profound hunger for truth.  You have a heightened ability to see the humanity of others.   And now, after months of walking together, it seems you are willing to see your own humanity.

I see you.  I hear you.  I understand.   I will support you.

Since January, you have willingly given that grace to one another.  Today, I want to press you to keep offering that to the world.  But there’s something else, too.  I want you, every day, to do the really radical thing and see, hear, understand and support your very own self.

On the first day of class, I shared a letter with you and in it, I said that I hoped that on the last day of class, you would leave this space with your eyes up, 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.

See your purpose and clarity and passion and self-acceptance stare back.

Treat your body like a guest of honor to your life because it has served you well so far.

Do not hesitate to give the world everything that you uniquely and powerfully have to offer. 

I am so glad you were here.  I was honored to walk alongside you.  You have places to go and things to do.  I cannot wait to see the fireworks.

At the end of each semester, I write my students a letter that is unique to their class.  This was the letter for my body image class this semester.

Want to read some past letters?

Answer the call into your own greatness 

Radiate Love 

Do the world’s work 

And here is the letter I share with them on the first day of school.  

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