Empowering women through body positivity

Claudia Espy

“Why do I look like that?”

“Why can’t my stomach be flatter?”

“Why are my thighs so big?”

“Ugh! Why am I so ugly?”


I never had to face these body image issues until I got to college. I was happy and content with how I looked, and the worrying feelings and concerns about what food I was fueling my body with never really crossed my mind. I lived a balanced lifestyle, exercised regularly, and had a healthy relationship with food.  


In comparison to women my age, that is RARE. It is rare because Body Dysmorphia is a common problem many women face. It is a dangerously growing problem within society that is very prevalent but often neglected. 


To be clear: I am not an expert, I am solely a girl who has faced these issues and done some research. If you need to receive professional help please contact Duke CAPS at 919-660-1000 or reach out to the Women’s Center at 919-684-3897. You are not alone and you deserve to have help. 


Body Dysmorphia is “a mental health disorder in which you can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that appears minor or can't be seen by others'' (Mayo Clinic par. 1). 


Although, this disorder only affects 1 in 50 people, women everywhere suffer from low body confidence.. 


“80% of women say the images of women on television and in movies, fashion magazines, and advertising makes them feel insecure.”

“42% of girls first through third grades want to be thinner.”


Now read those statistics again. 


The very fact that young girls in the first, second and third grades are overly concerned with their body image is highly disturbing. Why are these girls being taught to “fit” a certain beauty threshold, or eat a certain way. These girls are children just entering into society, just beginning their lives, and most importantly just beginning their education. Yet, from the beginning of their lives, they are being educated false information, which deeply manifests prevented challenges later in life.


But what even is a“healthy” relationship with food….“welcoming all foods with no restrictions, seeing the value in food beyond calories, and remembering that your value as a human isn't dictated by the food you eat.”


Why is this something so many fail to grasp? Why have we lost touch with what is a survival tool? Something that is meant to be so natural? Why can we not listen to our body and eat what we want, and know when we are full? 


Women scientifically contain a higher amount of fat cells compared to men, fluctuating hormones (specifically ones that crave sweets), have high emotions (emotional eating), and slow metabolisms (don’t burn calories as easily or fast).


We have the overbearing pressure from society, social media, and our communities. Western society teaches us that we are not supposed to love our bodies and encourages one diet fad after another fueling the mistrust between you and the relationship with your own body. Corporations have created entire industries, empires, out of making women feel bad about their bodies. 


Our bodies weren’t put on this earth to live up to standards. Our bodies were put on this earth to create relationships, live life, be happy, enjoy food, laugh, smile, love, and do all the great things our body has the capacity to do. 


Although I am not perfect, I have grown a lot with my relationship with my body, more positively (or at least striving to). I am striving to become OKAY and more CONFIDENT in my own skin, stretch marks, cellulite, and “fat” rolls. These aspects of the human body I have just mentioned are entirely natural. We have been taught to view them as ugly and as things to get rid of or hide. 

I am not here to lecture you. I am not an expert on body image.  I am not here to claim that I have my life figured out and that I will always have a positive relationship with my body I still question my relationship with food.

I often state and “think” a lot about positive things, yet never seem to carry every one out. I have setbacks. BUT, I am getting better and that is something to be proud of. And if you aren’t on the right track and you feel as if you are buried in that hole, now is the time to crawl yourself out of it. 


Last semester whenever I felt discouraged, homesick, or down, I began writing encouraging things on sticky notes.


“Hi beautiful”

“You got this! Keep your head up”

“Get yourself up”

“You are okay”

It was those words, those sticky notes that allowed me to feel peace, get myself out of bed, and manage to move on with my day. 


I taped them all over my walls, on the ceiling (I would see them right when I woke up) and on my mirror. These little things brought me light and confidence. I believe challenging a society that encourages and profits off of your lack of confidence is the best way to live a fulfilled and meaningful life for yourself. Instead of viewing my body with self hatred, I will try and view it as the vessel that carries me through life regardless of physical appearance. I encourage you to do the same.


I encourage you to write yourself a sticky note, love yourself, compliment others, and most importantly have grace with yourself.