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Ways to Promote Body Positivity on Campus

With the last week of February being National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and in collaboration with Seeds of Hope, here are tips to improve your body positivity and also ways to promote body positivity on college campuses.

People living in today’s society, females more than males, tend to struggle with body positivity and develop an unhealthy body image. Your body image is not just what you think of yourself, but also how you feel when you look at yourself in the mirror or see yourself in a photo. These reflections evoke how you feel about your appearance, what you think about your body, and how you feel in your skin. It is vital to improve and increase your body image before anything else as it is the foundation as to why we think poorly of ourselves. Individuals with a negative body image have a greater chance of developing an eating disorder and/or suffer from depression, low self-esteem, and isolation.

Woman smiling

The Mirror, mirror study conducted by the Social Issues Research Centre found that among women, 80% of women eighteen and older are unhappy with what they see when they look in the mirror. The main focus of dissatisfaction for most women looking in the mirror is the size and shape of their bodies, particularly their hips, waists, and thighs. It is facts and statistics like this that inspired the body positivity social movement. This movement is rooted in the belief that all human beings, male and female, should have a positive body image, while at the same time, challenging how society presents and views the physical human body. Seeds of Hope, a service line specializing in treating eating disorders, states, “young people are battered by advertising and media with messages about what their bodies “should” look like. It’s a complicated world of mixed messages, even from their peers. Negative body image and low self-esteem are major risk factors for teens as they are developing their identities”. Without a doubt, college students are obsessed with social media because their ultimate goal is to grow their following while aiming to get the most likes on their photos.

Body positivity is a social movement that is rooted in the belief that all human beings, make and female, should have a positive body image, while at the same time, challenging the ways in which society presents and views the physical human body. Today, "young people are battered by advertising and media with messages about what their bodies "should" look like. It's a complicated world of mixed messages, even from their peers. Negative body image and low self-esteem are major risk factors for teens as they are developing their personal identities". (Seeds of Hope)

Instagram, for instance, is a platform where photographs are the focal point and put users in a situation where they compare themselves to the people they see on their feed. Society has created this “beauty standard” that we all compare ourselves to which makes us feel poorly about ourselves. It is in advertisements, fashion shows, social media, and just about everywhere else. However, in the past few years, women especially, have been rejecting those standards and celebrating their body and who they are as an individual.

Celina Timmerman-Care Free

What are Ways to Improve Your Body Image?

As a starting point, it is crucial to make sure that you have a healthy body image of yourself. Of course, I cannot tell you how to turn your negative thoughts into positive thoughts, but I can introduce you to healthier ways of looking at yourself. These are all suggestions that you can follow as you please, day by day, to work towards

Surround Yourself with Positive People

Having a strong support group is key. If you surround yourself with people that are positive and supportive, your mental health will improve, and your overall happiness will increase. These people are important because they will influence you to follow good habits rather than bad ones. Also, having a support group will give you people who can talk to you and help guide you during hard times rather than isolating yourself from the world.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Next time you are sitting on the couch watching television, reading a magazine, or scrolling through your endless social media feeds and find yourself comparing you to the photoshopped models, stop immediately after you catch yourself. You are your person and that is what makes you special and unique. Comparing yourself to others will only hurt you and lower your self-esteem. Be proud of who you are and acknowledge the beauty and power that you hold. Everyone has something they wish they could change about their body and wishing you had someone else’s freckles, curly hair, or smile takes away your uniqueness. Celebrate the features you have and accept your beauty.

Practice Self-Care

Life is hectic and often takes a toll on us. Balancing work, school, a social life, and free time is undoubtedly a stressful aspect of college life. There needs to be a balance between the four or else you will wear quickly yourself out. Set aside an amount of time to dedicate to each, but make sure to keep a slot open for a self-care session. Relax, rejuvenate, and take care of yourself because you deserve it. Do things that make you happy and make you feel good. Whether it is going for a long walk in nature or taking a trip to the spa for a massage, set aside time for your self-care. By doing things that make you happy, will feel make you feel good about yourself and motivate you to keep taking care of yourself. Soon enough, you will soon love yourself, both physically and mentally.

Meditate

A healthy connection between mind, body, and spirit helps with healthy mental health. We are spiritual beings living a human experience learning to live, learn and grow. Set some time aside when you wake up, in the middle of the day, or right before you go to bed to meditate and relax from what is going around you. Listen to your inner guidance and learn to love who you truly are through meditation daily. It’s a great way to check up on yourself and help your mind and body slow down during stressful times. (Seeds of Hope)

Three women talking and laughing on the wooden bench next to the tulip flower field

What are Ways to Spread Body Positivity on Campus?

Once you begin to practice some self-love, it is a good idea to promote body positivity to others. As we know, many people struggle from the lack of a positive body image but with the help of encouragement from others, it will help them begin the journey of loving themselves, too. College campuses are a big place and the ideas below are ways have the potential to make a huge positive difference with how people view themselves and their bodies.

Give Compliments

At some point, everyone received a compliment in their life, and we know how much of a difference it can make in not just our mood, but the quality of our day as well. When you see someone that has a cute outfit on, compliment them on their fashion sense. If you see a class member who dyed their hair, compliment their new look. However, do not solely compliment on physical aspects. There are endless things you can compliment someone on which makes it an easy task. If someone receives a compliment, they will likely make it a goal to give compliment someone else. It creates a line of compliment giving being passed down from person to person. The happier the person, the more they love and accept themselves.

Emulate Love and Positivity

This can be done just by smiling at someone as you walk by them on the way to class. You do not know what others are going through in their personal lives and the challenges that they are facing. Giving them a simple smile or wave can immensely help them and give them hope that their temporary storm will clear up. You can also tell your friends and family how much you love and appreciate them. The greater the amount of love flowing through the air, the happier people are and the more they love themselves. Having a positive campus community encourages students to love themselves and others, while at the same time, spreading positivity even further to the surrounding community. If body positivity is widely discussed and supported, even more people will likely join the social movement.

Hold Body Positive Events

On a lot of college campuses, it is common to hold a student fashion show that is dedicated to body positivity. These are meant for individuals to express what they love about their bodies but also talk about what those features do for them daily. For example, someone might say that their favorite part of their body is their legs because they allow them to walk outside and connect with nature. Another type of body positivity event that I see at West Chester University is when people set up a table at a popular location on campus with heavy traffic, ask people to look in a mirror, and say what they love about themselves. They state what they love about their body while looking at their reflection, which makes them talk directly to themselves. These are great examples of events that college campuses can hold because they make a great impact on how students look and feel about themselves in a meaningful manner.

Body positivity is important because countless other things are more important in life than obsessing over our bodies and what we look like. Our society has made a standard of how the female body should look: slim, toned, tanned, and beautiful. Although we have moved away from this untruthful standard, we still have a long way to go to in order to block it out. Media will continue to emphasize women that fit those qualifications and viewers will continue to look at the advertisements and feel discouraged about themselves. To combat these expectations, we have to practice bettering our body image and take steps to spread body positivity over our college campuses.