The Body Project

These past two weeks I was able to be apart of Pepperdine’s Body Project. 

The Body Project is a two-part session for young women looking to start a discussion about self-love and body image. It was moderated by a few undergraduate students who had run the course a handful of times. 

We sat in a circle and introduced ourselves, much like an AA meeting. 

I was met with the painful realization that all of these young women were dealing with the same insecurities and societal obstacles as I am. 

I will be honest, this was very difficult for me to do. 

I do not like to talk about my insecurities, because if you ask me to be vulnerable, I will. Oftentimes, that vulnerability makes people uncomfortable, no matter how forward thinking they are. You see, I am on the heavier side, that much is true. My whole life I have thought that it was something to try to hide, as if I could. Now, I am fighting a constant internal battle between thinking I am beautiful as is and despising the sight of myself. It’s a fine line to walk, considering there is a societal ideal that is ingrained in us as young children. The saddest part is that no one on this earth can obtain the ideal body figure. 

And that is the most important thing that I learned at the Body Project. 

The communication codes that everyone uses (friends, family, social media, etc.) only add to the great insecurity you may feel about yourself. 

The biggest harm is how people talk about themselves. It doesn’t seem like it, but what you say about yourself truly affects those around you. If your friend generally has clear skin but happens to have one single zit and proceeds to say, “Ugh, I’m breaking out. I look disgusting.”, how is that supposed to make you feel if you ACTUALLY have acne? Does that mean that she thinks you are repulsive because you obviously have a lot more than just one little zit? 

The same goes for how people talk about their body size. If a thinner person calls herself fat in a way that is meant to be self-deprecating, how does that make the person next to them feel who is objectively fatter? 

Photo by _Mxsh_ on Unsplash

The main point is that we should be cognizant of how we speak about ourselves, but also to be aware of our audiences. If you speak ill of yourself in front of a younger girl, then she is going to take note of it and project it on herself. 

Think of the power you can have just by talking about yourself in love. 

The Body Project also pointed out that women are generally complimented more about their physical appearance while men are complimented on their accomplishments. This fosters the idea that the physical appearance is what gives women value. While compliments on hair, outfits, thinness are nice to hear, they don’t always promote healthy ideals. One girl may have recently lost twenty pounds due to an unhealthy eating disorder, but someone else will see that and comment, “Wow, you look great. You’re so skinny!” Without knowing it, that person has just approved of her damaging behavior. 

We should learn to be a little more meaningful in our compliments. Tell someone something sincere about their personality. Congratulate women on their actual accomplishments, in the classroom or in their personal lives. A girl in my Body Project group was shocked because someone told her, “You look so healthy!” rather than something like, “Wow, you look skinny today.” 

I highly recommend anyone to actively participate in the Body Project. Though I believe that two sessions are much too short to fully heal yourself of the mental damage that has built up over two decades, The Body Project is a good place to start in order to get the conversation started. My biggest fear is that I was going to get into a room with stick thin or beautifully “slim thicc” girls who were only going to complain about how fat they were (and yes, I did feel that way at times), but I learned a lot about struggles other girls with other body types were going through. Some girls were ashamed of how short they were, others how tall they were. Some struggled with acne while others didn’t like the way their ears looked. The most shocking thing to me was that nearly every girl in the room claimed they dealt with a lot of insecurity about going to the beach because of body insecurity. 

The thing is that we, as young women, all deal with this sort of thing. 

We deserve more than we’ve been given. The Body Ideal is not real. 

I am still trying to find a place of healing and understanding for myself, but I am glad that I have finally decided to face the pain I’ve been feeling my whole life rather than burying it deep down into the subconscious.