Posted by Amber Charette '14
I remember looking at the long body-sized rectangular mirror that was attached to my sister's bedroom door sometime when I was in middle school and she was in high school. Cracked at the bottom with white tape placed over it, there was nothing particularly special about this mirror. What made it unique was what my sister wrote at the top of it with red lipstick. Encircled with a heart she had written, "You are so beautiful." When I first saw this, my head tilted to the right as my eyebrows formed an expression that had confused written all over it. All I thought was "why would she write on her mirror with lipstick?" Nonetheless, each time I walked past this mirror I stopped, even if just for a quick glance at it.
Now, as I reflect and focus on the topic of body image, I finally realize what the meaning of that mirror and its quote was: that you should recognize that you are beautiful and continue to remind yourself of that every day.
While I was too young at the time to realize how important of a symbol that mirror was, it only took a year before society taught me about the negative sides to body image. Between flipping through Seventeen magazine, Googling, watching reality television,and attending middle school (which is notoriously known as a core time of bullying), it hit me how critical American society can be of the human body, and what looks they have classified as "beautiful."
I can still recall an assignment I was given during an afterschool program to choose the part of my body that I liked the most. This made me so uncomfortable, and as I tried to look into the mirror and choose something I could feel my self-esteem melting into a puddle by my feet. I ended up choosing my hands, arguing to my program counselor that they were the only part of my body that I liked. Thankfully, in the years since, I have slowly but surely been able to regain my self-esteem towards my body by listening to those who love me, choosing good role models and not being afraid to challenge mainstream society's beliefs.
Regardless, I am not writing to tell everyone to shake out of society's views, as I realize how powerful they can be. I do hope, however, that people will work together through various means to break these views and to rebuild new and more realistic ones: those of acceptance, kindness, humbleness, confidence in oneself and acknowledgment that people-all people-are so beautiful.
I also realize that everyone interprets and views body image differently. With that said, I asked several Skidmore students their opinions of body image, and advice for others. Here are some of the things that they said:
-"One must remember that staying healthy and fit is very important not to meeting the societal expectation of being "slim" but to the welling being of the human" (Mohammed Almashhadani, '15).
-"Everyone looks different because nobody was meant to look exactly the same way...Body image is a tricky subject, but it's important to make sure that everyone loves their body for how it is, to accept their beauty and not feel pressured to look like what the media considers to be beautiful" (Janet Vidal, '14).
-"The less you try to be like others, the happier you will probably be with your body" (Michelle Mendia, '14).
-"[Body image] can have a huge impact on someone's sense of self-worth and confidence...I would tell [others] that the pictures in magazines, ads, etc. are totally edited and to never compare themselves to those...And maybe to think of things they like about their body and focus on those" (Emily Paull, '13).
-"I'd say that one of the main ways to fight negative body image is to be critical of the media and understand the insane amount of manipulation that goes into every image, and to treat your body with respect (i.e. proper diet and exercise as well as finding ways to dress your body in a way you love)" (Jessica Strasser, '14).