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.
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.