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.
It dawned on me that while people do in fact experience moments or thoughts of discontent with their bodies and image as a whole, it is not and should not be okay to feel that way. I realized that society has conditioned us to search for flaws in our physical and emotional being, and to essentially change who we are to fit the “norm” and “ideal” manufactured by companies and industries looking to make money. We are told we should love our hair, skin, and personalities for what they are- but fed propaganda that tells us otherwise. The beauty industry churns out ads that tell us “sure, you’re pretty, but if you use X skincare and makeup you’ll be beautiful and everyone will want you!” Realizing this is a reality and not an abstract idea was absolutely infuriating and disheartening. I am a self-proclaimed feminist, and feel as though I have a positive body image- yet I still feed into the cycle of buying expensive products to conform to the manufactured “ideal woman.” I examined my own motives for buying into that image- and I’ve found that I spend much less money on the latest hair products, skin care, and ignore fad diets more than ever. I evolved my thinking from an individual perspective to more of a collective one, and spend less time nit picking at things I don’t like about myself. I instead spend time picking apart the negative feelings I have about my body, and reconfiguring them into a positive way. I’ve conditioned myself to be more accepting of my body and my personality, and am unapologetic. I make an effort to project that onto others; I no longer laugh when people make fat jokes, or comment on someone else’s body. I correct my friends when they make negative comments about their body, and I try to encourage them to evaluate why they feel the way they do. Megan
One thing I really love about myself, and it is something I have had to learn to do, is I say what I mean. Women tend to beat around the bush when it comes to men in fear of saying something that is to upfront for them and will cause them to run away. I don’t care if they run. My body is not your privilege, and it never was. What happened to me wasn’t theirs to take. My body isn’t anyone’s but my own, meaning I dictate what it does, where it goes, and if it is with anyone, who. Jordyn
When someone compliments you, you have the chance to bask in the light, and accept it without saying anything. When someone makes a negative comment about their appearance, you have the chance to help bring them up and let them know that what everyone else sees is in fact beauty. When you place your negative self-views on others, you can potentially hurt them for a lifetime… It is pertinent that we know how to correctly compliment others, help keep the beauty remarks flowing, and believe in ourselves from day one. Caroline