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Kirsten Haglund’s Message of Self-Love and Body Positivity

The crowd gathered in a circle in front of the dimly lit Green Hall steps as keynote speaker Kirsten Haglund shared her story of recovery.  Her message was tailor-made for the young women that attended the candlelight vigil, and while everyone’s journey on the road to self-love is unique, nobody was alone on this particular evening.  

This Wednesday, Ms. Haglund spoke to students at Delta Phi Epsilon’s annual vigil held for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).  Haglund herself suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager when she was training to be a ballet dancer.  “The goal posts kept moving,” Haglund said of the immense pressure she placed on herself.  After seeking treatment, Haglund went on to win the Miss America pageant in 2008.  Winning Miss America solidified Haglund’s recovery process, as she gained confidence and learned to embrace her voice. 

Ever since then, Haglund has used her platform to empower those around her.  As an advocate for body positivity, she frequently appears on television to speak about issues pertaining to women.  She is also a Community Relations Specialist for Timberline Knolls, a residential treatment center for women suffering from eating disorders.  On top of all of this, she founded the Kirsten Haglund Foundation which provides financial aid to families with loved ones seeking treatment for an eating disorder.  

Haglund reminded students that being authentically yourself is enough.  A simple message that is too often forgot.  Being compassionate, looking out for each other, and never giving up on yourself are three principles Haglund lives by, and she encourages others to do the same. 

On a typical day, Haglund can be found working on her foundation, hosting her podcast, making a television appearance or practicing yoga.  Haglund, role model herself, looks up to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, and body image activist Ashley Graham.   

VH: How do you remain positive and strong in your message amidst all the recent stories in the news?

KH: “You have to redirect your focus constantly.  It’s all about mental dialogue. If you’re going to make any change, you have to stay positive and redirect your focus on what you can do right now.  You can’t change the whole world as one person, but you can speak positively or make small changes in your circle of friends.”

VH: What milestone would you like to achieve in the future?

KH: “I want to write a book, several actually, about women and body image.  I want to have children at some point, and I want to live in Europe.  London is my favorite city in the world.”

VH: What piece of advice would you give to men and women struggling to accept themselves?

KH: “Don’t put pressure on yourself to accept yourself. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes there’s undue pressure to love yourself exactly how you are.  Sometimes we want to grow in certain areas, or sometimes you didn’t study as hard as you knew you could have, or you messed up in some way, we all mess up.  Some days I wake up and I don’t feel great but that’s life!  And that’s okay. Accepting the variance of life and feelings about yourself makes your highs just as high, but your valleys not so low.”

VH: Lastly, what do you hope people came away with after hearing you speak tonight?

KH: “Just that they can breathe more easily, and feel a little less pressured and a little less stressed.  And that they’re able to look at other women not as competition but as connections, and relationships.”

A moment of silence was held at the end of Ms. Haglund’s speech for those suffering from eating disorders.  Candles were passed around, each complete with a handwritten note detailing another woman’s definition of beauty.  This was a time to reflect on Ms. Haglund’s speech, and how to move forward with more love for ourselves, and for the people around us.  

Victoria is a senior at The College of New Jersey and a features editor for HCTCNJ.  She is majoring in Journalism and Professional Writing, and minoring in Marketing & Communications.   
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