It is it the first day of body image class at my university and, as always, I’ll be ending class with this letter.
Yesterday, you looked in the mirror, and, instead of your inherent greatness, you saw flaws. You saw things you wanted to change and not everything that made you powerfully, wonderfully, uniquely you.
Last night, in a deep conversation with your friends, you had a powerful thought, the kind of thought that would have changed the whole conversation, maybe would have changed you, but you doubted yourself and so you swallowed it inside of you. Tucking it away, forcing it out of your mind, so that great big belief would not threaten your status quo in its hunger to get out.
This morning, you walked to class and compared your body to someone else’s. Your body, a body that has worked so hard for you, that has allowed you to experience every good thing you have known, a body that has kept you going through all the hard stuff, through all the difficulties that have been thrown at you.
And then you walked into our shared space, a space that I hope will become a sanctuary to you, a place that I hope will quiet your inner critic enough so you can see the fabric of which you are made, you can recognize your worth, you can embrace the idea that you are just fine as you physically are right at this moment- not just because that is true, which it is- but because you come to understand that what the world most needs from you is not your trappings but your longings made manifest.
If you yearn for art to be inspiring or children to feel loved or food to be breathtaking or houses to have souls or communities to have gardens or technology to be accessible or music to have your unique viewpoint or patients to have soulful care or records to be broken or whatever else it might be that speaks to your soul, I want that for you, too, and I want our space and time together, our journey, to be one that supports your recognition of your worth, sparks your awareness that the world needs you and your unique solutions and galvanizes you to embrace what you have to offer.
Today, you will tell 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 will say 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, and, maybe, just maybe, if you can muster the courage to say these words, because you knew when you saw those two words on the course guide that you wanted desperately to have a different relationship with your body and your soul.
And here is what I can promise you. I will do everything I can to see you, to hear you, to understand you, to help you to understand yourself, to empower you to see your greatness, to inspire you to understand that while you are lovely because you are uniquely you that it is more than just your loveliness we need—that we need your fire, your passion, your purpose. I will remind you that our bodies are ever changing and so to build a foundation of our worth on what we physically have to offer right this minute is to invite disruption over and over again. And I will implore you to understand that your soul will always lead you right, will always let you blossom, will always let you shine.
On the day you last walk out of our sanctuary, I hope that you 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.
I hope that you will be able to meet your eyes in the mirror and see purpose and clarity and passion and self-acceptance staring back, that you will treat your body like a guest of honor to your life because it has served you so well so far and you want to continue on that journey, and, ultimately, that you will not hesitate to give the world everything that you uniquely and powerfully have to offer.
Welcome. I am so glad you are here. I am honored to walk alongside you. I cannot wait to see where we are going. Let’s get started.