Positive Reflections Event Promotes Healthy Body Image
“You’re smart! You’re strong! You’re beautiful!”
“Storms don’t last forever! Stay hopeful.”
“Life gives you the strength to see what you are made of.”
“You put the ‘u’ in beautiful.”
Students shared hundreds of creative, inspirational messages during the Positive Reflections event, which aimed to promote healthy self-image.
Student volunteers from Ms. Alyssa Waugh’s Effective Writing class and Dr. Megan Lloyd’s Macho Men and Unruly Women liberal arts seminar teamed up to hold the women’s studies event on November 1. They encouraged their peers to write uplifting notes on Post-its, which they displayed around campus. They also placed dry erase markers in restrooms so students could write messages on the mirrors.
The idea for the project began when Waugh read about a group of high school art students who painted positive messages on bathroom mirrors. She also noticed that several of her female students submitted personal narratives about unhealthy relationships. Others recalled being harassed for their clothing, including religious and cultural attire and apparel that others considered “too revealing.”
“At some point, those two things clicked together, the positive messages and all these stories of people who could use them. So I talked to some of my students about it, and they were excited,” Waugh explained.
Waugh and her students started discussing body image in class, and students soon stepped forward to promote positivity. The volunteers distributed supplies in the library, Campus Center, Mulligan, and Hafey-Marian and encouraged their classmates to write inspiring messages.
Freshman Alexa Conti collected Post-it notes in the Campus Center. “Most college students get really stressed out, and maybe a few little positive messages might help them and make them feel better about their day [or] themselves. Anything that can help in such a simple way might as well be done,” she said.
“There’s a lot of people in this world who need positive vibes and positive things said to them,” noted sophomore Gianna Jannuzzi, who gathered messages in Mulligan.
Even after the event ended, the Post-its remained on display.
“We didn’t expect the Post-Its to travel too far around campus or for every single person to want to do it. I like to think it reached the person that really needed to hear something like that,” Waugh said.
In the restrooms, students caught their reflections in the mirror, surrounded a colorful explosion of encouraging messages. Many added messages of their own.
“The bathroom is a place where you go to compose yourself or just put your game face back on. We’ve all heard that person crying in the stall next to you, and we’ve all been that person trying to hide in the bathroom,” Waugh pointed out.
The positive power won’t fade when the markers are wiped away. Later this month, the Positive Reflections organizers will select which messages to paint on the mirrors so they become permanent fixtures in the restrooms.
They hope to continue the project in other ways as well. Some of the student volunteers are currently making posters featuring historic women who were valued for their intelligence rather than their bodies.
They also hope to get more men involved and add positive messages to their restrooms.
“It’s mostly dominated by women, but some guys comment during that [class] discussion too, that they feel the pressure to have a perfect body or a perfect look,” Waugh noted.
For anyone struggling with body image, Waugh would point them toward a popular quote: “Looking pretty is not the currency you must pay to exist in the world.”
“We can spend time and energy trying to ‘fix’ what we perceive is ‘wrong’ with us and shed tears for what we can’t ‘fix,’ or we can learn to love and accept ourselves exactly the way we are,” she said.
Student artists who are interested in volunteering to paint the mirrors can contact Alyssa Waugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.