Going to college can be an exciting yet intense experience. People tell you that you get to redefine yourself into the best possible version of you. No one knows your background; you’re free to dress how you want, do what you want, and become whom you want. Independence and responsibility are right at your fingertips. But sometimes the social aspects of college can outweigh the academic challenges. All of the new people, independence, and responsibility may result in wanting to fit in more than ever.
Some students come into college with pre-identified body image issues, and some come in and develop them. There can be pressure to look a certain way, weigh a certain amount, or even eat certain things. Each person can have body image issues for different reasons, but what’s the same is that many college students are struggling.
As I’ve noticed in my past year at college, many girls are constantly at war with themselves. They measure their self worth as the size of their waist, the number on the scale, or the comparison between them and other girls. Everyday conversations include: “Oh my god I look so fat in that picture,” “I haven’t gone to the gym yet so I’ll eat later,” or “I wish I looked like her.” In many girls, I’ve noticed bad habits in attempt to conform to social beauty standards. Girls have politely refused food that they wanted because they didn’t feel that they deserved it, counted calories and then went to the gym to work off a certain amount, pointed out areas of their body that they wish they could change, or tell self depreciating jokes that really seem like a cry for help.
So what makes college students so susceptible to body image issues? Well for starters, college students have unlimited access to a cafeteria that most likely doesn’t have the healthiest options. Also, you run into and maybe even befriend those people who are workout and fitness gurus, and it may make you feel like you aren’t trying hard enough in comparison to them. College is a time to find your identity, and if you don’t feel comfortable with how you look, body image issues are often a result.
For those suffering with body image issues, or know someone who may be, there are some things that can help. From personal experience and struggling friends, I can honestly say that a strong support system is very important. Although some of us like to be alone when we’re coping, having your friends, family, or SO there when you’re hurting can be really helpful. Admitting to these issues and being consciously aware that putting yourself down is not an option anymore is a great place to start. Surround yourself with people who want to live happy and healthy, and that may help you develop the same habits. Remember that everyone has insecurities and flaws, but that doesn’t make you fat, gross, or not good enough. When you look in the mirror, instead of finding things you don’t like about yourself or wish you could change, remind yourself of the parts of you that make you feel beautiful.