Learning to Love Yourself in College

There are so many concerns when starting college: you worry about your classes, potential friends you’re going to make, possibly roommates, and your appearance. If you’re concerned about the way you look, you’re not alone.

The National Organization of Women’s annual Love Your Body Day campaign is on Oct. 20 and serves as a great reminder to learn to love yourself during college.  

When I started college, I was obsessed over my looks. I wanted a woman’s body, a body that I could be proud of; the threat of the freshman 15 terrified me and made me overcompensate to avoid it at all costs. I would take the extra-long routes to my classes to get more steps in, I watched everything that I ate and worked out almost every day of the week. Reflecting back, however, the freshman 15 wasn’t necessarily a threat, but more of an opportunity to watch my body change as I became an adult.

Knowing that I’m not the only one who has concerns with body image in college, I found it helpful to look into the reasons why I struggled to be happy with my body. When thinking about body image, we mostly think of weight, shape, or size, but that’s only a fraction of true body image. Everything about our physical appearance contributes to our body image like our hair, facial features, and even how you act as a result of how you feel about your appearance.

It’s common for people to tell you that the way you look doesn’t matter, but the truth is that it matters to you. Our body image can be either positive or negative. People who have a positive body image are likely to have higher self-esteem and confidence than those who don’t. Likewise, those with negative body image are more likely to develop mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, and unhealthy habits such as extreme diets and/or exercise routines.

One of the largest contributors to negative body image is the unrealistic body standards portrayed in the media, as well as bullying and teasing from the people around us. 

Learning how to love myself was the best, yet the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I had to stop being so hard on myself and change my perception of my body. It’s crucial to remember that change does not happen overnight, it’s made by small steps every day and being consistent. Here are a few ways that you can help improve your own body image regardless of who you are:

  1. Acknowledge all the accomplishments you’ve made throughout your life. You’re amazing!
  2. Write down all the qualities, physical or personal attributes, that you love about yourself. Do you love your hair? Do you love how kind you are? Do you admire your intelligence? Focus on the positive aspects.
  3. Compliment others! When you compliment someone else, you feel good about yourself, and this contributes to your own body image.
  4. Find what makes you feel good about yourself. For instance, if you love to exercise that’s great! But, do it because it makes you feel good and keeps you healthy, not to alter your body.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone struggles with their body image at some point in life, there’s no shame in needing some help developing a positive body image.

If you would like to discuss your body image or relationship with food with a Behavioral Health Specialist, contact Eagle Nutrition Services and ask about their psychological services. 

About the Writer

Katherine Gauthier is a dietetic student with the hopes of working as an outpatient dietitian. She loves helping people feel good about themselves and advocates for people with disabilities. She personally struggles with both body image and a disability but finds the silver lining in everyday situations.