The Kids Are Alright Fall 2014

but our souls

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 give you hope and inspiration the way they did me.  

I once believed that eyes were always burning a hole in the back of my head; that people were constantly concerned with the way I looked, or the way I presented myself. I never had faith in who I was, or who I wanted to be. Fortunately, my experience in this course has opened my eyes to reality. A reality where people aren’t constantly watching my every move, one that has given me the strength to look up when I walk and face the world. You once said in lecture that we are constantly worried about being judged by others, but the truth is, people don’t judge us the way we judge ourselves. That one concept not only changed the way I view others, but the way I view myself, because it made me question who the real suspect is in this battle of self-image…me. I’m my greatest obstacle, but I’m also my greatest success.


I had an “aha” moment when you said, “You teach others how you want to be treated”. It sounds so simple but it is so true. That never occurred to me before. I always thought you couldn’t control how others treated you, just how you react to them. Now I know that you can set the tone for how people treat you before they even do anything. You show others how to treat you and even give them permission by what you allow. For example, if someone cheats on you but you are in denial about it and continue to stay with them, you are showing them that it’s ok to cheat on you again. While I am all about forgiveness, there comes a point where you have to stand up and look out for yourself. 
Going into this class, I had a basic understanding that body image was tied to our personal perceptions and how we feel about our bodies. What I did not know was that SO many people struggle with being happy with their bodies. I also never thought about how impactful the media, advertising and the fashion industry can be for body size. Working at a gym, I see people walk through the door every single day that hate their bodies and are trying to change who they are and how they look. I knew this class would help me to help others. So when someone says “I want to lose 10 pounds” I now think about the emotion behind this desire, where this stems from and the potential insecurities that go along with it. I am able to see these statements as opportunities to help them love themselves at every size.  I thoroughly love my job at the gym and the work environment, but I feel a greater sense or calling and responsibility to make people who come to “lose weight,” “get a 6 pack” or “slim down” love themselves and realize that weight loss or change will NOT complete them. Our outward appearances don’t complete us, but our inner most feelings and esteems do. They have to love who they are no matter what, and if they won’t think that way on their own then I will help them to!


I think I need to forgive myself in order to be my best self. I tend to beat myself up over past mistakes, thus staying in the past and unable to move forward. Because I don’t forgive myself, I direct a lot of anger and regret inwards. To heal and love myself despite the mistakes I have made, forgiveness is key. I’ve heard you can’t love someone until you love yourself and I think the same is true with forgiveness.

With all I have picked up throughout the course my body image has blossomed. I now understand my flaws highlight my beauties. It is really powerful how knowledge, introspection, and some love can jumpstart my self-esteem. I’ve noticed that I don’t tolerate sexist, racist, and negative body image commentary from those in my life. I perceive my body as healthy and strong, which gets me to feel beautiful, then leads me to respect myself and have higher aspirations. Finally my new body image has  lead me to express my thoughts more profoundly, hold my head up higher and project my voice louder in my classes.I know that my future holds big decision and more stressors. So I need to learn how to balance the good and bad things in my life in a way that won’t consume me.


With this realization and newfound appreciation for what makes me unique, I’ve been able to positively influence my body image. Instead of criticizing every inch of my appearance, I praise it. I don’t take my legs for granted, for they support me and allow me the miracle of mobility. I don’t take my stomach for granted, for it keeps me full and speaks to me when I am in need of nutrients. I don’t take my strong arms or hands for granted, for they allow me to turn the pages of my favorite books and hold the hands of those I love. My body is no longer a haunted house, rather it has become a temple; a place of worship for what makes me uniquely me. I love that I have scars that trace the history of my body. I love my button nose because I can smell the seasons changing. I love that I can finally love the things that once brought me shame.


My body is not I. My body is a vessel that holds my soul and I need to appreciate it, and give thanks to it everyday for giving me life. I am a soul, but I have a body.

~ Katie

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