As a freshman in college, one may find it quite difficult to find their “people.” For me, it was no different. It was the first time that I had set foot on America and it was also the first time that I was present in a community that was so accepting of its members. I grew up surrounded by the “thin ideal.” Simply put, you had to have fair skin, be just the right amount of curvy with sleek straight hair and pearly whites. I was repeatedly reminded of my flaws and spent a fair amount of time struggling to accept my body. Eventually, that got into the way of my relationships with my friends and family because we were all victims of this supposed thin ideal and failed to recognize the individuality that we all encompassed.
I started feeling more comfortable in my own skin here at Bryn Mawr because I stopped hearing comments regarding how much weight I gained since the last time individual X saw me. I let my walls come down and managed to connect with my inner self for the first time ever. I was getting acquainted with a version of myself beneath all those layers. However, it wasn’t until a cold February weekend with ten of the kindest faces that I finally started to master self-acceptance.
The Bryn Mawr Body Project has been Assistant Athletic Trainer Laura Kemper’s “baby project” for the past three years, and is comprised of approximately thirty peer leaders. An email from her seeking applications for peer leaders for the Body Project served as the key to my new world. I submitted my application and was initially fairly nervous because I had just put that uncomfortable aspect of my being on paper. I never felt so exposed before. The day I heard back from the Body Image Council, I was over the moon. My story was finally heard by someone and they were willing to give me a chance.
Pictured – Peer leader training, 2018
The peer leader training was divided into two extensive workshops that lasted for a weekend. Ten of us were divided into three groups that took turns facilitating each workshop scenario. We talked about the media’s portrayal of an individual’s body and how it affected us and younger generations. We let everyone else get a glimpse of the insecurities that shaped our personalities. We thought of ways to overcome statements that promoted fat talk, and lastly, we spoke of the many ways in which our own bodies fascinate us. I found myself being able to breathe oh so steadily underneath the safety of Laura, the peer-leaders and the other facilitators. I never felt so empowered before; it was extremely rewarding to see that there were people who thought the same way I did, who realized that a change was necessary if we are to become a more inclusive community, and most importantly, who appreciated my sense of humor!
Our first very official workshop was presented in Bryn Mawr’s 2018 Community Day of Learning. We were armed with our custom-made t-shirts and were ready to change stereotypical damaging notions of the body one step at a time. I found the experience nerve-racking yet humbling because it was the first time that I had to present myself to a group of people who were not the other peer leaders. Our mini workshop was a success and in the end I couldn’t help but admire the strong army of individuals who were in this fight with me. I knew that with them by my side, I could be anyone I wished to be and could choose to do whatever I wanted to do.
Pictured: The peer leaders during 2018 CDL
The Body Project’s spring workshop is coming soon – stay tuned! We will also be hosting various events around campus to give everyone an open platform to speak about body image and self-esteem issues. I am so glad that I participated in this program because it changed how I view myself. It helped me believe that despite race, skin and gender, we are all uniquely beautiful and deserve to be reminded of that every single day!