The Body Project

It clicked and for the first time in my life it stuck. I internalize a message so foreign, the opposite of which depleted me since I first started starving myself at 13, that I barely understand my comments that coincide, or even how I can exist without self-deprecating thoughts. I am the most critical of myself, as many others are. When it comes to the appearance ideal, self-comparison, and attempted assimilation, critical thoughts become detrimental. Even after having worked at length, I catch myself slipping into old habits. What’s different now is I have developed the tools to alter my mindset and plant my mind firmly back in reality. Given the immense power of critical recognition, admittance, and observation, frank and deep conversations can strike a profound accord, and that’s what the Body Project did for me.

The plaguing issue of body image is so frustrating as it is built in a system that is truly never satisfied. The appearance ideal is firmly rooted in fads from the thigh gap to a flat stomach to a big butt; it is impossible for women, especially, to ever be content with their natural form. The system is inherently set up to induce self hatred and dissatisfaction.

Further as women, the constant objects of the male gaze, living in a world overrun by male identification, we exist in competition rather than camaraderie. We are less equipped to call out systems such as main stream and social media that hyper-emphasize the necessity of conforming to unrealistic standards of beauty because we stand in opposition to each other. It’s commonplace to critique other women, point out flaws, compare ourselves, put others down to build ourselves up, become engrossed in envy.

In a similar fashion, the conversation surrounding beauty and self-confidence is rooted in external validation. We often rely on others, especially males, to tell us what is or is not sexy. We are incredibly influenced by the opinions of those around us, how is that ever going to lead to self-acceptance?

The Body Project seeks to reject this mentality and facilitate a conversation between women, building the skills to overcome (and aid others in overcoming) the consuming and unhealthy thoughts and practices concerning negative body image. Over the course of four sessions, Sophomore Sydney Rosh led two small discussion groups in an open and secure space to talk about the easily dismissed and unacknowledged yet incredibly common. In practicing the skills to stomp out hurtful language, backwards interactions, and painful self-views the Body Project pushed me forward in my own development. We discussed the essential: eating disorders, unhealthy relationships with exercise and food, unproductive self-hatred, and support for others.

It’s toxic and debilitating to live in a world where common struggles are swept under the carpet, where Amy Schumer is fat, where we see our clothes modeled only on the impossibly thin, where size 8 is considered plus size, where we compare our Instagram bikini pictures, where pornography is just a click away, where dress codes are constantly debated.

Worries regarding food and my body never leave my mind, don’t get me wrong. Yet the Body Project has aided me in identifying the ways to overcome consuming thoughts. Most importantly, living on my own and having to fend for myself, I need to take care of me. I have never in my life put my happiness first as I have never been able to accept myself. But how can we move forward when we can’t stop pulling ourselves back? How can we expect love from others when we don’t receive it from ourselves? We can’t. We simply can’t. Have the conversation with people, show your support, diminish debilitating language, encourage positive actions so that we as women can lead at take hold of our power.